I have been searching for a story I read about God and the Devil watching the average life of a charcter, John Smith, and seeing if he sins or not. I remember something about John Smith lying to his wife, taking the secretary to lunch and some other events like that.Please help, I've searched for years!

  • How many years ago did you read it? Commented Nov 26, 2013 at 13:24
  • Try to remember a single phrase from the story and search for it in Google between quotes "like this."
    – Rag
    Commented Nov 30, 2013 at 5:12
  • I recall a short story collection named Virtual Unrealities from Alfred Bester that has some stories about the devil...check it
    – Ginger
    Commented Apr 24, 2014 at 19:33

2 Answers 2


The story is "The Contest" by Robert J. Sawyer--God ("the leader of the Party in Power") and the devil choose the most average human they can find and stake everything on the outcome of his life in order to avoid having to fight it out over every single soul.

"It's getting too much for me," said the leader of the Party in Power, his voice thundering through the skies. "I propose a simple contest, winner take all."

They settle on John Smith:

John Smith was, of course, the perfect choice. He was of average height, average weight, of average intellect and income. Even his name was average.

Who lies to his wife:

Returning to his office ten minutes late, Smith settled to his work. His secretary buzzed him to say his wife was on the phone. "Tell her I'm in a meeting," Smith commanded. "Three zip," said D.

And takes his secretary to lunch, after which he leaves a generous tip:

"Not so fast," interposed the leader of the Opposition, D. "Look into his mind for his motive. The magnitude of his tip is intended to impress the buxom secretary he is dining with. His wife, I suspect, would not approve. The point is mine."

The story has been published in Iterations, a collection of Sawyer's short fiction, but I first read it in 100 Great Fantasy Short Short Stories, edited by Asimov, Carr, and Greenberg.


It almost sounds like "The Screwtape Letters", by C. S. Lewis. Although God isn't one of the characters seen (it's written as a correspondence between an elder and younger demon) it is about observing and influencing an ordinary man into committing sins.

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