Good and evil: what’s the difference?

Judges 10:6 “The people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and served the Baals and the Ashtaroth, the gods of Syria, the gods of Sidon, the gods of Moab, the gods of the Ammonites, and the gods of the Philistines. And they forsook the Lord and did not serve Him.”

How do you differentiate good from evil? What’s the standard against which you measure such things?  More importantly, how do you view yourself?  Do you view yourself as “good” or at least “as good as the next guy?” What’s your reference point?

It is important to note that in the Bible’s description of evil, such as in the verse above, it speaks of what is “evil in the sight of the Lord.” “Evil” in this sense was a description of the nation of Israel time after time in the book of Judges.  Yet, they were very religious throughout this time.  As the verse above tells us, they were involved in religious practices of service. The problem was that they served gods other than the God of the Bible.  While they were very busy with religious things, in all of it they failed to serve Him. 

In the New Testament we have a similar description of religious people in John’s vision of the church at Laodicea.  Jesus’ message to this church was as follows: “I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.”  This group of people called themselves a church. They were involved in “works,” service, if you will.  But their service was displeasing in God’s sight.  While they viewed themselves in such good terms that they believed that they needed nothing, Jesus rebuked them for being blind to their great need.  They viewed themselves as “rich.” They viewed themselves as “prosperous.”  Isn’t it interesting that so many churches today, like the church at Laodicea, would have us believe that prosperity in material things is a sign of spiritual blessing?  In so doing, these “churches” demonstrate that the god they are serving is the same as the idols of this world, for didn’t Jesus say, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money” (Matthew 6:24). 

You see, a focus on wealth, prosperity, money, however you want to look at it, is a focus on the very same things that the unbelieving world is so focused on.  People who don’t know God view money as the ultimate answer to the problems of life. It’s where their trust lies. It is an idol, and because of that, such a “service” whether it be in the name of religion or not, is nothing more than “evil in the sight of the Lord.” 

May our faith be in God and not in things. May the Lord open our eyes to what it looks like to truly serve Him rather than serve the gods of this world.  And may He help us to “not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of (our) mind, that by testing (we) may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2).

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