What is Evil

by Aaron

Last Sunday we started a new series, which is actually part two of a series we did last year, called What in the World. In this part of the series, I’ll be addressing questions you still had about the Bible. Someone asked about Abraham and Isaac, both patriarchs of the Hebrews’ faith in God, lying about their wives being their sisters and God still blessing them in the end. I got around to the point that the question understands God, blessing, and righteousness incorrectly, because God cannot and does not only bless “good” people because (technically) there aren’t any. God must take bad people and change them, redeem them, and restore them.
I emphasized that we are evil and God Himself is the one that is good. I had a couple people ask me about why I say we are evil…and ask if I was overstating our condition. The short answer is “no,” I am not overstating my case. I also believe that unless we can come to understand the true heinousness of the sinful nature in us, we will forever have a losing battle between pride and humbleness thinking that we are “not that bad.” Romans 6:6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.
We always want to compare ourselves to others, and when we hear the word “evil,” we tend to think of child molesters or the Geoffrey Dahmers of the world. 2 Corinthian 10:12 But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.

We want to compare ourselves to others or our own standard and conclude we aren’t “that bad,” but the only person we truly should compare ourselves to is Jesus. When we see ourselves in light of His goodness, we are evil. In The Grace and Truth Paradox, Randy Alcorn says this: “I’d imagined the distance between Dodd (a child molester and murderer) and me as the difference between the South and North poles. But when you consider God’s viewpoint from light-years away, that distance is negligible. In my standing before a holy God apart from Christ…I am Dodd…Unless we come to grips with the fact that we’re of precisely the same stock—fallen humanity—as Dodd and Hitler and Stalin, we’ll never appreciate Christ’s grace.” Human standards of morality have been proven to waver over the course of history, and yet God’s standard of absolute perfection has never changed.

The Hebrew word for evil (ra) is bigger than just “sin.” Evil comes from a root that meant “to spoil” or to break in pieces, like a vase that falls on the floor. It conveys the idea of something that was once priceless being made worthless. The definition of evil is what the human race has become because of sin. Some people have a hard time even coming to the grips with the fact that we all have sinned (Romans 3:23). If we have sinned, then we are broken (no longer priceless, and just like everyone else in the world). If we are broken, that means we need someone to mend us, save us, and restore us again.
Evil is also defined as what is unpleasant, disagreeable, and offensive. Have you ever been disagreeable or offensive? (If you are married, just ask your spouse.) One Bible dictionary says that the word evil “binds together the evil deed and its consequences.” In the New Testament, the words for evil are kakos and ponēros, and they mean, respectively, the quality of evil in its essential character…but they can also mean its hurtful effects or influence. The Bible dictionary I quoted above states, “Much physical evil is due to moral evil: suffering and sin are not necessarily connected in individual cases, but human selfishness and sin explain much of the world’s ills.”
If we become a people who think our sin (past, present, and future) is not evil because it’s not as bad as someone like Geoffery Dahmer, we will diminish the glorious triumph of the cross of Christ. When we don’t take our own sin that seriously, we will begin to wonder why God finds it so offensive. When we don’t see the depth of our own pride and how it leads us into self-centered thinking that justifies its own depravity, we will judge others who we don’t think are put together as well as we are. When we think we are “not that bad,” we will wonder why God could ever bless someone else when they have been caught in a lie or sin, because we deem them to be unworthy. We will look around us and begin to make our own delineation of good and evil that elevates our own judgment above God’s, and question why God would even save sinners (meaning everyone else). We will become the Pharisees Jesus so harshly criticized for their hypocrisy.
Evil is real and it has a name…its name is Aaron (that’s me)….and its name is _________ (your name here). Why did God bless Abraham and Isaac when they lied? God only and always blesses messed up people because of the grace He lavishes upon us, as unworthy and evil as we are. He alone is good and transforms us into His loved children…taking something broken, and restoring it into something beautiful. The beauty of understanding the cross and grace is understanding the truth about ourselves Romans 3:22-24 “For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”…this is true, but the Scriptures do not end there. Paul goes on to say, “…and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus…”
We are blessed, restored, redeemed, and saved because our God is good. None of these truths, however, can be properly appreciated without a sobering understanding of sin.