To do evil is like sport to a fool, but a man of understanding has wisdom. (Proverbs 10:23, NKJV)
People take pride in sporting accomplishments, whether their own, or those of their favorite teams. An example of this is “March Madness,” the annual NCAA college basketball tournament, which is down to the Final Four this weekend. Fans are passionate about their favorite team, joyful in victory and dejected in defeat. Sometimes, fans mock and deride the opposing team as they support their own. When it comes to doing evil, many people act the same way. They delight in the pleasure, joy and excitement of sin. They deride the suggestion that their sin is harmful. But, it is foolish to take a dismissive attitude toward evil. On the other hand, wisdom directs the person of understanding to see the danger of doing what is sinful. The wise person knows the end to which evil brings those who practice it, and turns away from it. “For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil” (Eccl. 12:14). God’s warning is clear: Do not make sport of sin. Only the fool does that.
19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise prophecies. 21 Test all things; hold fast what is good. 22 Abstain from every form of evil. (1 Thessalonians 5:19–22, NKJV)
The Holy Spirit guided the apostles of Christ into all truth by revealing to them the mind of God and giving to them the inspiration to speak it and write it (Jno. 16:13-15; 1 Cor. 2:10-13; 2 Pet. 1:20-21). We rejoice in the Spirit’s work and His word. We will not stifle the Holy Spirit’s word and work by minimizing the divine blessings we have as a result His work. Neither will we hold God’s prophecies in contempt. We are strengthened by knowing the Spirit’s prophecies are fulfilled in Jesus Christ (Acts 3:22-26). The Spirit expects us to test all things by the word He gave us. Consequently, we can cling to good things and refrain from evil in every form it takes. Christians do not refuse the Spirit and the word He gave us. Instead, we walk in the Spirit, are led by the Spirit and live in the Spirit by letting His word define and direct our lives (Gal. 5:16, 18, 25).
13 But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, 15 and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 3:13–15, NKJV)
Christ’s apostle reminds Timothy of the nature of evil men and the error they spread; they grow worse and worse. Evil does not remain dormant; it is active, decomposing truth and trust in it. Impostors are evil, deceiving people with their false doctrines as they contort the gospel of Christ (Gal. 1:6-7). In striking contrast to the decaying nature of evil deceivers, the Holy Scriptures give us a stable, reliable and unfailing guide to “salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” The Old Testament law is a tutor to bring souls to Christ, as it did Timothy (Gal. 3:24). Now, salvation is fully revealed and obtained in the gospel of Christ (Gal. 3:25-29). Let us commit ourselves to be guided by the teachings of the Scriptures to avoid the growing deceptions of error and sin.
20 Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:20–21, NKJV)
The Holy Spirit inspired Paul to use Proverbs 25:21-22 to teach Christians to give place to the Lord’s vengeance against those who do them wrong. This counterintuitive counsel is a hallmark of the “wisdom from above,” and is in striking contrast to the (foolish) wisdom that is “earthly, sensual, demonic” (Jas. 3:13-18). God calls on us to rise above the thinking of the world. Such commands challenge our faith and keep us focused on eternity instead of the immediate satisfaction of personal revenge. Jesus said to “love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you” (Matt. 5:44). Evil never overcomes evil. Good is more powerful than evil. Honor the power of good by doing good to those who are not good to you. By doing so, Christian show themselves to be “sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil” (Lk. 6:35).
1 Lord, who may abide in Your tabernacle? Who may dwell in Your holy hill? … 4 In whose eyes a vile person is despised, but he honors those who fear the Lord; He who swears to his own hurt and does not change; (Psalm 15:1, 4, NKJV)
As we learn “who may abide” in the restful care and fellowship of the Lord, verse 4 teaches us it is the person who hates evil and loves good (Amos 5:14-15). His moral standard is based on reverence for God and disdain for what is vile. The regard he has for others is not based on whether they are rich or poor, prince or pauper. He exults in those who honor God while he refuses to respect what is morally corrupt. Sin is despicable to him; he is repulsed by what is vile (just as God is, Psa. 11:5). And, like God, he respects those who hold the Almighty in reverential awe. A good measure of our honor for what is good is the degree to which we also despise what is wicked in God’s sight. In a world that called evil good and good evil, God knows the difference (Isa. 5:20). So does the person whom He allows to abide with Him.
19 Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:19–21, NKJV)
How very different this counsel is from that of the worldly-minded. Revenge is glamorized in movies, YouTube videos and just about every medium that exists. Self-vindication, not divine-vindication, is the impulse of the selfish and self-centered. Christians shun retaliation against evil as their personal “right” and responsibility. Instead, Christians overcome evil by continuing to do good things for those who are not good to them. This does not mean we are unconcerned with justice. It means we know that true, lasting justice will be exacted by the Lord God. He is perfect in knowledge, righteousness, wisdom and might. We much prefer for God to deal with the evil-doers. We know that when He does, it is always fair, just and complete. Do not fret over evil-doers; trust the Lord to right every wrong by and by. In the meantime, you overcome evil with good.
43 For a good tree does not bear bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. 44 For every tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush. 45 A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. (Luke 6:43–45, NKJV)
A good tree is free of defects that would cause it to produce bad fruit. Likewise, a good person has a treasure of good things in his or her heart that produce good things. Just as surely as a bad tree cannot bear good fruit, a heart with a treasure of bad (evil) things will not produce what is good. These are the words of Jesus, whose heart was only and always a treasure house of good things. He gives us a basis by which to know our hearts. Bad words out of the mouth shows bad (evil) things in your heart. If your words and actions are good in God’s sight, your good heart is being revealed. Test your words and actions today by what Jesus said. And, should you find bad things, then repent so your heart will have a treasure of good things from which to speak and act (Acts 17:30; 8:22).