The Heart Of “EVIL,” An Essay On Evil Study No. 190
Hebrews 5:13-14, “For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.”
Here we have another scripture we have read many times, yet may have failed to latch onto the meaning and intent.
A baby is brought up by his parents to develop physically and mentally. Why? To be able to cope with life when he has “grown up,” and is ready to face the world with all its trials and temptations. And so it is that, while he is maturing, he is fed on “milk.” Spiritually speaking that “milk” is the instruction in righteousness we receive by the word, primarily the law. And, of course, we are unskillful at that point as we have not yet applied what we have learned as children. We are still using (being brought up on) milk and have not yet had our metal tested.
Exercised (verse 14) refers to the Greek games whereby an athlete becomes strong as he uses the physical and mental skills, “milk” he was fed as a child. The analogy here is that we are to become spiritually fortified by utilizing what we learned “as a child.” Even so, we continue to learn and grow and sharpen our skills as adults, as we exercise our “senses.” Those “senses” are our perception and judgments: but perception and judgments of what? Of good and evil; not our own perception of good and evil but based on God’s word. That’s what got Adam and Eve in trouble.
I believe we all have some concept of what is good; but, do you know what is evil?
“If you don’t know your enemy, you can’t defeat it. If you don’t know your allies you can’t be victorious” (author unknown).
So let’s learn about our enemy. It seems more than coincidence that the last four letters of the word devil are “e-v-i-l.” Look for the attributes of Satan as we unmask evil.
“All My Sons” is a play written by Arthur Miller, and I wish to expose evil’s dynamics as it was developed in the play’s plot line. It is not a soap opera, nor a “religious” play, but was an excellent portrayal of evil in motion. I would highly recommend it. A local playhouse presented it, and when it was over the audience left the theater in absolute silence.
Have you ever personally known a truly evil person? About 50% of you probably would answer yes. Let me entice you by saying, you probably have known one, but didn’t know it. With that, let’s consider the story points.
Genesis 6:5, “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”
Jeremiah 17:9-10, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.”
From the preceding verses three things can be deduced: (1) It is hard to discern the true intents and motives of the heart, (2) Man’s heart is intrinsically evil, (3) God can see it.
Here is a cute but very poignant story that says it all.
(Don’t be a Slave)
In his book, Will Daylight Come? Robert Heffler pens this moving illustration.
There was a little boy visiting his grandparents on their farm. And he was given a slingshot to play with out in the woods. He practiced in the woods, but he could never hit the target. And getting a little discouraged; he headed back to dinner. As he was walking back he saw Grandma’s pet duck.
Just out of impulse, he let the slingshot fly, hit the duck square in the head, and killed it. He was shocked and grieved. In a panic, he hid the dead duck in the woodpile, only to see his sister watching. Sally had seen it all, but she said nothing. After lunch that day Grandma said, “Sally, let’s wash the dishes.” But Sally said, “Grandma, Johnny told me he wanted to help in the kitchen.” Then she whispered to him, “Remember the duck?”
So Johnny did the dishes. Later that day, Grandpa asked if the children wanted to go fishing and Grandma said, “I’m sorry but I need Sally to help make supper.” But Sally just smiled and said, “Well that’s all right because Johnny told me he wanted to help.” She whispered again, “Remember the duck?”
So Sally went fishing and Johnny stayed to help.
After several days of Johnny doing both his chores and Sally’s, he finally couldn’t stand it any longer. He came to Grandma and confessed that he had killed the duck. Grandma knelt down, gave him a hug, and said, “Sweetheart, I know. You see I was standing at the window and I saw the whole thing. But because I love you, I forgave you. I was just wondering how long you would let Sally make a slave of you.”
Thought for the day: whatever is in your past, whatever you have done and the enemy keeps throwing it up in your face (lying, debt, fear, hatred, anger, unforgivingness, bitterness, etc.), whatever it is, you need to know that Jesus Christ was standing at the window and He saw the whole thing. He wants you to know that He loves you and that you are forgiven. He is just wondering how long you will let the enemy make a slave of you. The great thing about God, is that He not only forgives you, but He forgets.
Remember, Jesus is at the window.
Kids often to try to sneak a cookie, but won’t admit it unless they are caught with their hand in the cookie jar. Unless we are caught red-handed, it’s easy to hide evil. Consider this: adults can hide things much better because they’ve had years of practice. No wonder David said: “Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from secret faults,” Psalm 19:12.
Hiding evil has gone a step farther today; to denial. As Isaiah said: “The shew of their countenance doth witness against them; and they declare their sin as Sodom, they hide it not. Woe unto their soul! for they have rewarded evil unto themselves,” Isaiah 3:9.
Matthew 3:9, “And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.”
Matthew 26:61, “And said, This fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days.”
Jesus saying He was able to destroy the temple, was as important to the Jews as His saying He could rebuild it. It was their place of safety. They put their faith in the temple and their lineage, therefore they felt almost anything they did in God’s name was justified.
Now all these things were written for our edification. We “keep” the Sabbath (we meet a few hours but what do we do the rest of the day?), we don’t eat unclean foods (do we even bother to read labels anymore?), we have the law (do we read it?). It’s easier to think we are righteous, than to make sure. A bad tree cannot bear good fruit even if it looks good on the outside. Measuring yourself against the law is the only way to ensure righteousness. And that is the antithesis of evil.
Proverbs 30:20 puts it in a very pointed way. “Such is the way of an adulterous woman; she eateth, and wipeth her mouth, and saith, I have done no wickedness.” We love to think we are so good, righteous. It’s natural for man to be narcissistic. (Narcissus was a son of a Greek God, who, seeing his own reflection in a pool of water, fell in love with himself.) The watchword is: “Let he who stands take heed [look out] lest he fall,” I Corinthians 10:12. That phrase, take heed, is used 55 times in scripture. It implies we stand constantly in a precarious position; on the edge of the cliff. Be aware of what is going on without and within.
Evil can hide and usually does. Satan even appears as an angel of light. Notice Isaiah 5:20, “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” Evil masquerades as good, all around us. It is often hidden in confusion and “God is not the author of confusion.”
In his book, People of the Lie, Dr. M. Scott Peck tells of a lady (p. 67) who related after she met an evil person, it was “as if I’d suddenly lost my ability to think.” He says that this reaction is appropriate because lies confuse. Hence he calls evil people the “People of the Lie.” They are “deceiving others as they build upon their own deception.”
Where do you find evil people? Martin Buber says: “Since the primary motive of the evil is disguise, one of the places evil people are most likely to be found is within the Church. What better way to conceal one’s evil from oneself, as well as from others, than to be a deacon or some other highly visible form of Christian within our culture? — I mean that people tend to gravitate toward piety only for the disguise and concealment it can offer them.”
Then, using Martin Buber’s proven information, we may also expect to find evil people in other philanthropic organizations. And indeed we do. Shall we then hate these evildoers? Indeed, we should pity them and pray for them, but use maximum caution, watch out, take heed in contact with them as they can be extremely dangerous.
“The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance,” II Peter 3:9.
God hates evil, but Ezekiel’s passage reflects His attitude. “Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?” Ezekiel 33:11.
What is evil?
Look at John 8:44, “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.” We know what Satan lied about! He told Eve, “Thou shalt not surely die.” But sin equals transgression of the law, and the soul that sins, it shall die (repeated twice in Ezekiel). Remember? Evil is in his name.
Consider this: “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil,” Matthew 6:13. Let us not be brought to or yield to temptation. A. Clark and Finis Dake explain that “lead” is the aorist subjunctive, which usually forbids an action not in progress and commands it not be started. It would be a contradiction for God to have us pray: “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation,” Matthew 26:41, and then lead us into temptation Himself. As it is written “God tempts no man,” James 1:13.
Evil often means “worthless,” and what is more worthless than a lie?
M. Scott Peck, in his book, People of the Lie, says that we understand little of evil from a psychological or a religious point of view, but his book is a good first effort. It will help you to understand and recognize evil. Here are a few of his observations:
1. “It is not their sins per se that characterize evil people, rather it is the subtlety and consistency of their sins,” p. 69. (Emphasis mine throughout.)
2. “Since I distinguish between evil people and ordinary criminals, I also obviously make the distinction between evil as a personality characteristic and evil deeds. In other words, evil deeds do not an evil person make. Otherwise we should all be evil, because we all do evil things,” p. 70.
3. “The poor in spirit do not commit evil. Evil is not committed by people who feel uncertain about their righteousness. The evil in this world is committed by the spiritual fat cats, by the Pharisees of our day, the self-righteous who think they are without sin, because they are unwilling to suffer the discomfort of significant self-examination. Unpleasant though it may be, the sense of personal sin is precisely what keeps our sin from getting out of hand. It is quite painful at times, but it is a very great blessing, because it is our one and only effective safeguard against our own proclivity for evil,” p. 72.
Story point: Evil is . . .
I would encourage you to see the play, “All My Sons,” if you have the opportunity. (Points below are reviewed in The People of the Lie.) You will recognize all the previous points in the play along with the following marks of evil.
1. Evil is scapegoating: “A predominate characteristic, however, of the behavior of those I call evil, is scapegoating. Because in their hearts they consider themselves above reproach, they must lash out at anyone who does reproach them.” Evil is demonstrated by putting the blame you deserve on someone else, p. 73.
2. Evil is laziness; not doing what needs to be done or what must be done. Dr. Peck discusses this topic on page 240.
3. Evil is greed, p. 72. Let’s note what scripture has to say on this topic. Read Deuteronomy 15:1-11. Notice especially verse 5, “Only if thou carefully hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe to do all these commandments which I command thee this day.” How many commandments and how much law must we keep? ALL! It is important that that statement is nestled among an admonition to give. Read verses 7-11 again and focus on verse 9, “Beware that there be not a thought in thy wicked [evil] heart.” It is required to be generous and assist others.
4. Evil is pride, p. 75. Narcissism is a form of pride and is discussed throughout Dr. Peck’s book.
Evil is many things. It begins in the absence of good and absence of truth and all the points mentioned, but it can only flower if it is hidden, concealed, in the dark. For evil cannot live in the light.
A rather startling revelation is that evil comes in threes: Eve saw that the tree was (1) good for food, (2) pleasant to eyes (3) desired to make one wise. The iniquity of Sodom was pride, fullness of bread, and abundance of idleness, Ezekiel 16:49. Compare these characteristics to the ancient Romans — and us today. Are we not arrogant, overfed, and unconcerned? The traits of the world are three: “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world,” I John 2:16. Jesus was denied three times by Peter. Jesus was tempted three times: stones to bread, showed temple, kingdoms of this world.
Evil grows. Here is the progression of evil thought:
1. An evil thought enters the mind (conscious or unconscious).
2. If entertained long enough, it can be justified.
3. When justified, it can be spoken.
4. If spoken often enough, it becomes acceptable to believe.
5. When acceptable to believe, it becomes approved to teach.
6. As it is taught, it becomes truth.
7. When the evil is truth, the truth becomes a lie, Romans 1:25.
Or as Adolph Hitler said: “Tell a lie big enough, and often enough, and it will become accepted as the truth.” And he was a propaganda master.
So where do we go from here? What do we do?
The opposite of love is not hate, it is fear. The opposite of evil is not only good, it is truth. A good place to start is, let’s stop lying, to others, and to ourselves. As someone put it, let’s truth it. Here are some pointers to keep you from the evil way:
1. Humility — humble thyself before God. Arrogance and pride prevent escape from evil.
2. Accept His reproof, correction, and instruction. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,” II Timothy 3:16. His word is truth — His word is at once a spotlight, and an antidote for evil.
3. Obey His law, all of it, as perfectly as you can and you are blessed, Psalm 1:1-2. David said he loved the law. If you break the law you are cursed and evil is at the door.
4. Maintain your relationship with God. Ecclesiastes 3:11-12, “He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also He hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end. [He has to reveal Himself to us to show us His way — as opposed to the world’s way.] I know that there is no good in them, but for a man to rejoice, and to do good in his life.”
Please think on this as Solomon summarizes on whole matter.
Ecclesiastes 12:13-14, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.”
— written by Steven J. Kieler W