Evil has to start somewhere

Quickly, in your mind, make a list of the most evil things you’ve heard people do. I know I think of rape or of molestation. Of mothers who neglect their children, children who neglect their parents. Murder.

Have you ever wondered how someone — another living, breathing person like you — could do something so wrong? So evil? What leads a person to do evil in the first place?

When I was younger, I formed this idea that some people were just evil. They were just bad. The world was black and white. You have good people, and you have bad people. And those bad people become the villains of stories. But as I’ve gotten older, and as I’ve learned how to create really excellent villains for stories, I have learned that the world isn’t really black and white when it comes to people.

Some of the most powerful bad guys that have ever been written were good guys who fell and later returned. I mean, think about Darth Vader. Some of the most amazing good guys are heroes with dark, tragic pasts. Think about Batman. And that’s just in fiction, but fiction is a reflection of real life. Even if what happens in fiction (space ships flying around, traveling faster than light, etc) could never happen, the themes of every story usually already have.

People aren’t all good and all bad. They’re neither. They’re just people, and you can’t lump them into groups announcing that one is a good guy and the other is a bad guy.

But what causes someone to do evil? And I’m not just talking like stealing candy from a store or breaking curfew. I’m talking about evil.

I think the verse today might hold the answer to that.

 22 If you plan to do evil, you will be lost;
      if you plan to do good, you will receive unfailing love and faithfulness.

 So I know I have never planned to kill anyone. But I have planned how I could cheat on a math test and get away with it. I know others who have planned how to break rules and not be punished. People plan to do things that are wrong all the time, even if it’s just how to accomplish less at work and still look like you’re working hard.

It may not necessarily be evil, but it isn’t good.

But haven’t you ever wondered what planning to do things that are wrong does to your conscience? We human beings are very good at rationalizing. Personally, I’m very good at this. I know when I was planning how to cheat on my math assignments (yes, I actually did this, and I still feel really bad about it because I recognize now how foolish it was), I rationalized it telling myself that I would never use math and that I wasn’t learning it well enough to implement it since it never seemed to matter how much I studied. I took all the moral objections I had to doing what I knew was wrong, and I made up reasons to ensure that none of them mattered.

What about people who lie at work? Or people who steal from others? If you plan how you’re going to do it and how you’re going to get away with it, doesn’t it work the same way? If you’re a follower of Christ, you know it’s wrong. But the results of these actions will provide you with something that you want. So you make up reasons why it’s okay for you to do wrong.

How do we know that people like Timothy McVeigh didn’t start out the same way? Or Ted Bundy? Or Dennis Rader? These people did truly awful, evil things. But they weren’t born immediately planning how to kill people or blow people up. It had to start somewhere.

The Bible says that if you plan to do evil, you will be lost. But it also says in the same verse that planning to do good results in “unfailing love and faithfulness.”

I think I like those options better. Would you rather plan to do something that’s wrong and receive the temporary benefit of your ill-gotten rewards for a season (because the consequences will always catch up with you) or would you rather plan to do something that’s good and receive good things that will last in return?

Doing what’s wrong always seems easier, but if you figure the consequences of your actions into the mix, it’s more trouble than it’s worth. To me, it’s better to do what’s right, even if it seems harder, because the eventual rewards outweigh any sacrifice you think you’re making now. To me, it’s a no brainer.