Question: "Why is ‘the devil made me do it’ not a valid excuse?"
Answer: The first instance of “the devil made me do it” used as an excuse was in the Garden of Eden. Eve says, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate” (Genesis 3:13). Her excuse did not get her off the hook (verse 16), and it won’t help us much, either.
Yes, the devil and his demons tempt us to sin (Genesis 3; Luke 4; 1 Peter 5:8). But “the devil made me do it” is far too often used to excuse our own bad choices. Except in an instance of demon possession, the devil cannot make us do anything. The devil is absolutely worthy of blame for much of the evil in the world, but using the devil as a scapegoat for our own sinful choices is counterproductive to achieving victory over sin.
Demon possession is a condition in which a demon or demons have complete control over a person. Demon possession involves demons actually inhabiting a person and controlling his or her actions (see Mark 9:22). Christians cannot be demon possessed. The indwelling Holy Spirit will not allow it (Romans 8:9; Ephesians 5:18). Therefore, the devil and his demons cannot control a believer. They cannot make us do anything involuntarily. So, rather than blame the devil, we need to look at ourselves.
James 1:4 declares, “Each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire” (emphasis added). Why do we sin? We sin because we are sinners. We are plagued by and infected with sin (Romans 3:10-23). While demonic oppression and influence are real, the primary problem is our sinful natures. “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these” (Galatians 5:19-21). Notice, it’s the “works of the flesh” in this list, not the works of the devil.
As Christians, we have the indwelling Holy Spirit to help us overcome sin (1 John 4:4). We have everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). If we sin, we have no excuse. We cannot blame the devil. We cannot blame our circumstances. We can only blame ourselves. And, until we recognize that the problem resides within us (Romans 7:20), we will never arrive at the solution.
It may sound harsh to tell someone that the problem is himself and his own choices. But it’s no harsher than a doctor telling a patient to quit smoking and that the tobacco company is not to blame for his poor health. To find a cure, you have to start with a correct diagnosis and then move to the correct treatment. The correct diagnosis is sin. The treatment is to submit to God and obey His Word. God can enable us to achieve victory over sin (Romans 7:24-25; 1 John 5:3-5).
If you are a Christian and you commit a sin, the devil did not make you do it. He may have tempted you to do it. He may have even influenced you to do it. But he did not make you do it. You still had a choice. God never allows you to be tempted beyond your ability to withstand, and He always provides a way of escape (1 Corinthians 10:13). A Christian saying “the devil made me do it” is denying the truth of 1 John 4:4, “Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.”
Here are some articles that may help in the spiritual battles we all face:
How can I overcome sin in my Christian life?
What is the key to victory when struggling with sin?