The Nature of Evil
The Nature of
In view of the recent tragic events that unfolded on Tuesday morning, September 11th, 2001, I thought it would be helpful to go back and see what the Bible says about the nature of evil.
Evil Does Exist
In the United States of America we have enjoyed for the last couple of decades a wonderful period of peace, yet tranquility can lull us to sleep. Life can become so peaceful and prosperous that we can deceive ourselves into thinking that sin and Satan are almost mythical. The recent horror reminded us that, “Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:7). Such an event also reminded us that there are people who are fully given to evil, “For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (2 Timothy 3:3).
Evil Is Deceptive
“Lest any one of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13); “And they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will” (2 Timothy 2:26). The hijackers and those who support and praise their actions are people who are hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. When God told Paul to go to the Gentiles and preach, “to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God” (Acts 26:18), maybe we never realized how evil that darkness can be.
Evil Thrives In Sinful Hatred
The Hebrew writer warned, “Take care, brethren, lest there should be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart, in falling away from the living God” (Hebrews 3:12). It seems to me that such an evil and unbelieving heart happens when a human being allows themselves to be consumed by hatred and bitterness instead of gratitude and appreciation. For these hijackers to kill innocent human beings, commit suicide, and ignore so many outcries from their own consciences, they had to be consumed by sinful anger. Such selfish and irrational hatred is the fertile soil in which the devil’s dominion grows and spreads (Romans 1:29 “being filled with all….”; Galatians 5:20; Titus 3:3; James 4:1-2; Proverbs 10:12 “Hatred stirs up strife”). When we read and hear about how such extremists hate Americans, we can clearly understand David’s feelings in Psalm 25 when he wrote, “And they hate me with violent hatred” (25:19).
Evil Is Persistent
We certainly see this with Satan, when he is described as prowling about seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). We also see this in Romans 1:30, in the expression, “inventors of evil”. Evil is not only persistent, but it can be fanatical and have an absolutely blind and unquestioned following. The sacrifices that people are willing to make for evil are nothing short of amazing. That evil men were willing to hijack planes and then fly them into skyscrapers is shocking, yet in the past people have sacrificed their children for false causes and false gods (1 Kings 18:28; 2 Kings 3:27). Let us remember early Christians suffered at the hands of people who were equally fanatic (Acts 7:54,57).
Evil is Clever yet Foolish
This week many have been surprised at the cleverness and resourcefulness of those who committed these cowardly acts, yet we should not be surprised that evil men are able to plan and execute their plans (Proverbs 1:10-19). In fact, God brought the Tower of Babel to an end precisely because of the fact that men united in an evil purpose can do monstrous things (Genesis 11:6). Yet, someone has noted that evil men are taken by surprise when good men are clever. Jesus told His disciples, “Be shrewd as serpents, and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16).
Evil Underestimates Good
One commentator last week made the excellent point that evil and mad men in the past have always underestimated democracies. Such men as Hitler, and other mad men, typically view democracies as slow, lazy, soft, and filled with uncommitted people. Even modern mad men, such as terrorists, argue that the democracies of the world are weak and will give up easily. I find in the Scriptures that the devil makes the same mistake concerning God’s people. When asked about Job, the devil argued,“Does Job fear God for nothing? Hast Thou not made a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side? Thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But put forth Thy hand now and touch all that he has; and he will surely curse Thee to Thy face” (Job 1:9-11). Satan argued that if Job fell upon hard times that Job would immediately abandon God. Modern day terrorists make the same assumption. When Job did not curse God or abandon him, Satan then argued, “Skin for skin! Yes, all that a man has he will give for his life” (Job 2:4). Satan argues that Job was willing to part with property and children, because Job was so selfish that he viewed those as outward and exchangeable. The devil claims Job has willingly traded the lives (skins) of his animals and offspring in order to preserve his own personal welfare, that is, to save his own neck. Yet again, Satan was wrong (Job 2:9-10). The example of Job is refreshing, for there are many cynical people in the world who argue that no man or woman really serves God from the pure motivation of love. Evil men made the same mistake concerning the early Christians. Many evil authorities of the time believed that such a rag-tag band of uneducated men could be easily intimidated and frightened (Acts 4:13-18).
Evil does Overplay Its Hand
With regard to their downfall, madmen in the past have typically been their own worst enemy. Hitler invaded Russia and made other decisions, which undermined the power and effectiveness of Nazi Germany. I really believe that without the tragic events of last Tuesday, modern governments would still be dragging their feet with regard to dealing with terrorists. If such terrorists would have been content with bombings on a small scale, governments would have remained grid locked, but the attack upon so many innocent people and the horrific plan that was executed has galvanized not only one nation but also many nations against these people. The devil made the same mistake. Instead of allowing Jesus to live a long life and die of natural causes, the devil used Judas and others to bring about the crucifixion of Jesus (John 13:2). Yet such was a huge mistake as far as the powers of evil are concerned, for the death of Jesus and His resurrection brought true salvation to the world and released many from Satan’s stranglehold (Hebrews 2:14-15).
Evil does have Blind Spots
In the news we have heard a lot about the resourcefulness of such terrorists, their planning, patience, dedication, network of associates, far-reaching influence, their many followers, and so on. Such news can seem discouraging as we contemplate the ability to bring such evildoers to justice. Yet the world has seen many evil empires come and go, and many of them were viewed as invincible. The Edomites lived in a very hostile and rugged land, and yet God brought them to justice. God brought this nation low, even though themselves and others viewed them as immune from attack, “The arrogance of your heart has deceived you, you who live in the clefts of the rock, in the loftiness of your dwelling place, who say in your heart, ‘Who will bring me down to earth?’ Though you build high like the eagle, though you set your nest among the stars, from there I will bring you down, declares the Lord” (Obadiah 1:3-4). Once a person starts on a path that departs from God, all the secular wisdom, cunning, and craft in the world cannot keep them from making mistakes and miscalculations. Jeremiah noted, “Behold they have rejected the word of the Lord, and what kind of wisdom do they have?” (Jeremiah 8:9). Paul reminded Timothy that people who set out to do evil typically end up deceiving themselves in the process, “But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived” (2 Timothy 3:13). Earlier in the chapter we find this statement concerning people who are termed as “brutal”,“hold to a form of godliness” (2 Timothy 3:5). This might sound confusing how anyone who is brutal could be religious, yet it appears that many of these hijackers believed that they were serving God. They used religion as a cloak for their own selfishness and hate. Like many who went before them, they appeal to some religion to justify their hate toward a certain race or people. People who have a definite sinful agenda and then seek to twist and pervert some religion to endorse their agenda. How anyone could think that God would endorse killing innocent people, including innocent women and children tells us that these terrorists have definite blind spots in their thinking. This is one reason why most mad men end up being destroyed and caught in their own net (1 Corinthians 3:19-20). Such terrorists often look upon the United States as being decadent. We do have our sins, but killing innocent people is decadent as well.
Pride goes before a Fall
“Before destruction the heart of man is haughty, but humility goes before honor” (Proverbs 18:12). They very fact that these terrorists left such a paper trail of evidence seems to suggest that they wanted all the world to know who they were. Yet such an act of pride has only betrayed their fellow associates. Evil and arrogance are often linked together, (2 Timothy 3:2; Romans 1:30).
I believe that we do see God’s mercy and grace even in this tragedy. First, not all the planes hit their intended targets. Secondly, even after the Twin Towers were hit they remained standing for another 40 minutes, which saved many lives. The death toll, which is shocking, could have been much higher. In order to battle this evil, the people in this nation need to examine their own lives, for God may have allowed such a tragedy in order to humble our own nation and bring us to repentance (Jeremiah 18:7-8). Before we seek to root out this evil, let us make sure that we are right with God ourselves (Isaiah 1:16-20). God has in the past used evil nations to punish His people (Habakkuk 1:5-11). Such evil nations were used as a tool in God’s hand, and they were completely unaware they were being used for such a purpose (Isaiah 10:5-7). Let us remember that while these evil men have their own agenda, God has His plan that includes every nation and every human being, let us make sure that we are on God’s page and not our own.
Mark Dunagan/Beaverton Church of Christ/503-644-9017