Christian Living

Spiritual Life

What Does Evil Look Like?

Some things seem to automatically conjure up feelings of fear, revulsion, and warning. Take snakes, for example. For most people, snakes almost always invoke a sense of evil and danger. I personally don’t like snakes. They simply creep me out. If you were to ask me, there are plenty of good reasons: their beady little eyes, their stealth, undetectable movement, slippery smooth skin (yes, I know, scales)… they’re sneaky, move sideways, and almost always appear ready to pounce on an unsuspecting victim. But if creepy and dangerous are all that it takes to be evil, why not sharks, spiders or even skunks for that matter?

I believe the answer goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden. Satan, after rebelling against God and being thrown out of heaven, chose the serpent as his disguise. As a result, thousands of years later, we still associate snakes with evil in its purest form.

I was recently reading the book of James when I suddenly saw snakes in a whole new light – and the image that came to mind was uglier than the one just described. In James 3, James is urging Christians to recognize the importance of controlling what comes out of our mouths. He describes the human tongue as

“...restless and evil, full of deadly poison.” (James 3:8)

But it gets even worse:

“Sometimes [the tongue] praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God.” (James 3:9)

Have you ever done that? I know I have.

“And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth.” (James 3:10a)

The moment I read that verse, an image of a snake’s dual-pronged tongue immediately flashed through my mind. The NLT (New Living Translation) Study Notes describes improper speech this way: “gossiping, putting others down, bragging, manipulating, false teaching, exaggerating, complaining, flattering, and lying.” And goodness knows how many times we speak without even recognizing our hidden, less than admirable, motives.

It’s so easy to picture evil as being heinous, sharp fanged, and full of lethal poison. Yet, when Satan, still furious for being thrown from heaven, approached Adam and Eve disguised as a serpent, neither were afraid. Nonetheless, what appeared to be an innocent encounter set in motion both the most disastrous and glorious chain of events in human history. How did Satan do it? Not with weapons, sorcery, or violence. No pitch forks, ferocious hissing, or magic tricks. All Satan needed was one small, but greatly underestimated, tool—a tongue. With it, Satan was able to tempt his unsuspecting victims with one simple question,

“Did God really say…” (Genesis 3:1b)

As Christians, we certainly make every effort to guard ourselves from obvious forms of evil. Murder, adultery, stealing… Yet, we often fail to recognize that what comes out of our own mouths is just as capable of inflicting pain, injury…and yes, even death.

“For whatever is in your heart determines what you say…for from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander.” (Matthew 12:34, Matthew 15:18-19)

How do we protect ourselves from “gossiping, putting others down, bragging, manipulating, false teaching, exaggerating, complaining, flattering, and lying?” The Bible says that above all else,

“Guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” (Proverbs 4:23)

And how do we guard our heart? By being ever mindful of what God really did say and prepared to wield the mighty power of His word against Satan and his schemes,

“I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” (Psalm 119:11)

© 2012 Shadia Hrichi. Used with permission.

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