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The Knowledge Of Good and Evil

The tree of the knowledge of good and evil..
Good and evil are symbolized by a tree in the Genesis story.

For God knows that when you eat of [the tree of the knowledge of good and evil], your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil. (Genesis 3:5)

To know good from evil is a great responsibility. God doesn’t hold lions or bears accountable for their actions, but he scrutinizes every single thing a human being says and does.

I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak.

matthew 12:36

So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.

James 4:17

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 6:23

The Pain Of Evil And Malice

The consequences of natural disasters, diseases, weather, and accidents can be devastating, but there is no pain quite like the pain we experience when someone else intentionally damages us. Evil is a kind of insult to injury. Imagine if a hurricane or blizzard or virus expressed malice while it was attacking us!

We have all intentionally damaged others at some point in our lives. Maybe it was in a big and glaring way, or maybe it was more subtle. Maybe we were the aggressors, or maybe we were acting out of a spirit of resentment in response to some perceived insult or injustice.

The truth is every time we gossip and bully and speak evil about people, we damage God’s creation. Every time we intentionally inflict pain, with an edgy or vulgar or sarcastic word, we damage God’s creation. Let alone the most egregious forms of evil, like lying, cheating, stealing, abusing, and outright violence!

An “evil” person, in common parlance, is someone who routinely and intentionally hurts other people. A “good” person, in common parlance, is someone who routinely and intentionally shows other people love.

We should be grieved when we reflect on the evil present in the world, and the evil present in our hearts. Whenever we do evil, we not only hurt each other, we hurt the heart of God.

The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.

Genesis 6:6

Sometimes we think our more private sins like lust, only harm ourselves, but that is a misconception. Lust makes us more selfish and self-centered. It undermines our ability to form loving relationships with others, starting with the Creator. Lust, and other private sins like it, harm others, but they also harms ourselves; both we and others deserve to be treated with dignity.

How To Heal From Evil

Love is the antidote to evil. Whenever we choose love, we bring creation a little closer back to paradise lost.

But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

Matthew 5:44-45

For more, see the complete archive of articles on integrity.

An intellectually curious millennial passionate about seeing people make healthy, informed choices about the moral direction of their lives. When I’m not reading or writing, I enjoy hiking, web-making, learning foreign languages, and watching live sports. Alumnus of Georgetown University (B.S.) and The Ohio State University (M.A.).

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