Is Something Evil Only If It Harms Others?
“Evil is only evil because it harms others.” That’s a common mantra in our age. Evil is defined as an idea or a behavior that infringes upon others. It’s a type of negative consequentialism. Thus, morality is centered on minimizing harm to others. And this line of thinking conditions how we all think of evil. You see it in Libertarianism, a political party that says “all Americans should be free to live their lives and pursue their interests as they see fit as long as they do no harm to another.” And it’s behind the widespread acceptance of so-called gay marriage in this country. So this “Do what you want — just don’t hurt anyone else” mantra is alive and well in America. But how does Scripture define evil, exactly? The topic was part of Pastor John’s recent trip to Holland. Here’s a clip of what he said.
Saving faith is a coming. This is not physical — I’m not walking anywhere, because he’s in heaven. I’m coming spiritually. I’m moving in my heart. I’m reaching out, I’m embracing, and I’m coming to Jesus to find the thirst of my soul — the longings of my soul, the achings of my soul — satisfied in him. That’s faith. Which is why faith is such a powerful thing to change your life and why so many people are not changed because they don’t have faith — that faith. We’ve turned faith into such an intellectual thing. It has no power and, therefore, so many parts of the Bible don’t make any sense.
If you are a Christian, whether you have used these words or not doesn’t matter to me. But if you are a Christian, your heart and your soul have come to Jesus and embraced him as the satisfaction of your thirst and your hunger. That’s what it means to be a Christian, to have saving faith.
What Evil Really Is
To find your superior satisfaction anywhere else but in God is the essence of evil. The essence of evil, all evil — what makes evil really evil — is that it always involves finding more pleasure in something other than God. Let’s go to Jeremiah 2:12–13: “Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the Lord, for my people have committed two evils.” What are those evils?
- “They have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters.”
- “[They have] hewed out [dug out] cisterns [wells] for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.”
That’s an amazing definition of evil, isn’t it? It goes right to the heart of every evil. I mean, pick an evil. We’re so humanistic, we’re so man-centered that we think real evil is when you hurt somebody. That’s not the real evil. The real evil if you hurt somebody is that they’re in the image of God. Don’t you touch God! Evil has to do with God. What makes evil evil is this: Here he is, and he’s in this room, and he’s offering himself right now as the fountain of living water to every one of you. “I am a never-ending fountain of all-satisfying water.” And if you put your tongue on that fountain and say, “Let me taste you, God — let me taste,” and you say, “I don’t like it; I’m going to dig a well,” you are evil.
Pick an evil person in history. That’s what you are, if you taste God and turn away from the Creator of the universe, who is freely offering this to you at the cost of the life of his Son. So, I want you to know what evil is. Evil is tasting God and preferring something else. And the reason the world is in the condition it’s in is because Adam and Eve committed that evil. And we’ve all inherited it, and we’re born loving other things more than God.
What Do You Desire?
It might be good to read what Adam and Eve did. This is Genesis 3:6: “When the woman saw that the tree was good for food” — it’s going to be delicious — “and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise” — wiser than God. It’s as if we are saying, “I can make my own decisions, thank you. You can get out of here and leave me alone because I’ve got wisdom now.” “She took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.” Good for food. Delight to the eyes. Desired to make one wise.
Here’s God, the fountain of living water. Here’s the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And they look and they say, “See you later, God. I want the tree.” That’s what all of us have done — all of us. Every temptation in your life is that temptation: Is he worth it? Is he precious? Is he beautiful? Is the fountain flowing? Am I drinking? Am I being satisfied by God? Or is the world constantly conquering me? That’s one reason why you should pursue joy in God: because it is the essence of evil not to.