If, according to God’s kingdom dynamics, the ways of God are antithetical to the ways of man, then God must consider evil to be good for man.
Evil did not just happen, God created it. He says:
“That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none beside me. I am the LORD, and there is none else. I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.” (Isaiah 45:6-7).
Evil is not of essence. Evil is created. The good God is the creator of evil. Therefore, evil is subject to good. Evil is subject to God’s divine purposes. Solomon says:
“The LORD has made all for Himself, yes, even the wicked for the day of doom.” (Proverbs 16:4).
Jesus says evil is necessary in the life of a man: “Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:34).
This means the man who is not confronted with evil is at a disadvantage and cannot develop into a perfect man. God will not shortchange us in the amount of evil we will have to face but will make sure that we have just the right amount that we need.
Jesus’ principle about the necessity of evil is also linked to others that point to God’s safeguards in our lives. Paul says:
“No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13).
This means God, and not sin, is the determinant of providence. When Jesus’ disciples saw a man who had been blind from birth, they asked Jesus:
“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered: “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.” (John 9:2-3).
In effect, we cannot draw any definitive conclusions about the righteousness of a man from anything that happens to him in this life. Bad things will happen to good people and good things will happen to bad people and vice-versa.
Jesus’ theology undermines the classical basis we have for thanksgiving. We usually give thanks because something good happens to us or because we escape something bad. But in this, we are mistaken. God does not favour us by saving us from calamity. Neither does He punish us by allowing us to suffer.
Both the disciples of Jesus and “the Jews” believed that the man was born blind because of some sin, either that of the man or his parents. But no! Jesus’ answer indicates that regardless of the circumstances that occur at birth or in any other situation, God does not interfere either to bless or curse.
There was some physiological reason why the man was born blind. But God does not discriminate, not even because of gross immorality, either to correct a condition or to cause it apart from the normal operation of the divine laws of nature.
But Jesus, who intended to heal the man by a miracle (in this special case He did interfere), gave a reason for it: “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.” (John 9:3).
God is responsible
Inevitably, God is responsible for all the evil in the world. If God does not require evil, it would not exist. If He does not require evil, He would not create it. Thus, Amos asks rhetorically:
“Will a lion roar in the forest, when he has no prey? Will a young lion cry out of his den, if he has caught nothing? Will a bird fall into a snare on the earth, where there is no trap for it? Will a snare spring up from the earth, if it has caught nothing at all? If a trumpet is blown in a city, will not the people be afraid? If there is calamity in a city, will not the LORD have done it?” (Amos 3:4-6).
Indeed, God is behind everything. David says to God: “I was mute, I did not open my mouth, because it was You who did it. Remove Your plague from me; I am consumed by the blow of Your hand.” (Psalm 39:9-10).
Purpose of evil
Moses says to Israel: “I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live.” (Deuteronomy 30:19).
It is God Himself, and not an enemy, that has set good and evil before us. He does this, not for our injury, but for our benefit.
Without evil, we would have no appreciation for good things. Without evil, there would be no salvation. Without sickness, there would be no healing.
Immediately after His baptism, the Holy Spirit handed over Jesus to Satan. Jesus had to overcome him by trusting in God and in His word. Thus, evil is meant to be overcome. It is like running a steeplechase or hurdles race. Evil constitute the obstacles in our way that must be surmounted.
An overcomer must have things to overcome. Evil is the mountain or hill before us. Jesus says: “He who overcomes will inherit all things, and I will be his God and he will be My son.” (Revelation 21:7).
But evil cannot be overcome with evil. Evil must be overcome with good. (Romans 12:21). Thereby, evil provides a testing ground for righteousness. Evil is designed to provoke righteousness.
Jesus says: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” (Matthew 5:8).
God uses the afflictions of the devil to purify our heart. This is what happened with Job. After undergoing the ordeal that God orchestrated, Job’s eyes were opened and, for the first time, he saw clearly “the invisible attributes of God.” (Romans 1:20). He said to God: “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You. Therefore, I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:5-6).
Because evil is beneficial in measured doses, Jesus does not restrain Satan from prevailing against Peter. Instead, He tells him that the lessons learnt from the experience will enable him to strengthen his colleagues:
“The Lord said, ‘Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.” (Luke 22:31-32).
Jesus then told all his disciples that the devil’s testing is divinely designed to identify those who will be given the crown of life:
“The devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.” (Revelation 2:10).
God also uses the devil’s testing as a tool of righteousness. This was Paul’s experience who was also handed over to the devil. He says: “One of Satan’s angels was sent to make me suffer terribly, so that I would not feel too proud.” (2 Corinthians 12:7).
In similar fashion, Paul also hands over sinners to the devil for their good. He writes to the Corinthians about an adulterous man: “You must then hand that man over to Satan. His body will be destroyed, but his spirit will be saved when the Lord Jesus returns.” (1 Corinthians 5:5).
He also writes to Timothy: “Two of them are Hymenaeus and Alexander. I have given these men over to the power of Satan, so they will learn not to oppose God.” (1 Timothy 1:20).
Accordingly, Habakkuk, who had complained about God’s inclination to allow evil to flourish unrestrained, finally realises that God uses the devil and his evil works for good, disciplinary, and corrective purposes. He exclaims at last: “O LORD, you have appointed them for judgment; O Rock, you have marked them for correction.” (Habakkuk 1:12).
Even if God kills us, we will not die. He will raise us from the dead. Even when God brings calamity, it is for righteous reasons. As Daniel observes:
“The LORD has kept the disaster in mind, and brought it upon us; for the LORD our God is righteous in all the works which He does, though we have not obeyed His voice.” (Daniel 9:14).
“This is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all.“ )1 John 1:5)
In God, there is no duality of right and wrong, or good and evil. Everything that God is, and everything that God does, is good and right. It is only in man that we have an interplay of the negative and the positive.
Because God is good, evil can never destroy the good. Evil can only destroy evil. Because God is good, evil can never triumph over good. Therefore, God gives us this reassurance:
“Behold, I have created the smith that blows the coals in the fire, and that brings forth an instrument for his work; and I have created the waster to destroy. No weapon that is formed against you shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against you in judgment you shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is of me, says the LORD.” (Isaiah 54:16-17).
Since all things proceed from God. All things operate through Him. And all things will be reconciled in Him. Then, even evil will end up as good because God is goodness.
“For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever!” (Romans 11:36).