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Good, Evil, and God

“The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and bore grain, then the tares became evident also. The slaves of the landowner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ And he said to them, ‘An enemy has done this!’ The slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?’ But he said, ‘No, for while you are gathering up the tares you may uproot the wheat with them. Allow both to grow together until the harvest.’”  (Matt 13:24-30)

I have written in the past about answers to the oft asked question, “Why does a good, loving God allow so much evil to happen in our world?” The simple answer for me is found in Romans 5: “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin. And so death spread to all men, because all sinned.” God didn’t introduce sin and death in to the world, and so God is not to blame for its existence or its consequences.

That being said, what I want to address here is a deeper question concerning why and how good and evil exist together in this world, and what part did God have in allowing, and even opening the door to it? Unpacking the parable above from Matthew 13 helps us to answer this question. It begins by declaring God [the “man” in the parable] sowed “good seed” in this world. When He made Adam and Eve, they were perfect in every respect. After creating His crown jewel God declared, “It is good!” No sin or evil was in them, or any part of His creation. As such, there was no consequence for sin or evil either.

Ah, but then the first of a constant lineage of fatal events occured because “His men were sleeping!” I have also written often about the original sin of Adam and the curse of his progeny ever since, namely abandonment of his post [“sleeping”]. Before Eve was created Adam received the law from God – the one and only law at the time, which was to refrain from eating of one solitary tree in the garden. It was Adam’s charge to keep the law, thereby defending the entirety of creation from sin and evil. He had obviously shared this command with Eve, as was evident in her response to the serpent before he deceived her. But Adam slept at his post as Eve was deceived, for the Bible tells us he was “with her as she ate.”

This curse can be traced down through biblical history: something I have written extensively about and won’t go in to further here, other than to point out Jesus’ words to His likewise sleeping disciples in another garden that preceded tragedy: “Why are you sleeping while the Son of Man is betrayed in to the hands of sinners” (Matt. 26)? This was not only an observation, but a prophecy. From Adam’s transgression until today, where the consequences are becoming even more obvious, Jesus’ men still sleep while His Gospel message is being betrayed in to the hands of sinners. Today’s Adams and Eves are still being deceived because Adam sleeps, abandons, and is apathetic toward his high calling of leadership in the body of Christ.

So now, the good and the evil [the “wheat and the tares”] grow up together in our world. And as it was in the parable today His servants ask, “Why, O Lord, is it that you sowed good seed and yet there are all these tares [“How does a good God allow all of this evil?”]?” As Romans 5 and the parable both declare God responds, “It was not I, but an enemy who did this!” This answers the question as to how evil was introduced into the world.

The answer to the question as to why good and evil are allowed to exist together is found in the next verse, where His servants ask if the owner of the field would want them to remove the tares. He responds, “No, allow them to grow together until the harvest, for if you take all evil out of the world you would have to take the good with it.”

God is the God of love. The Bible tells us the greatest of the gifts of God is love, the greatest of all commandments is to love God and others, and that it will be not only by our words but our fruit born in love for others we will be ultimately judged by. There is one absolute prerequisite to the existence of love: free-will. God had to create man with free will. Otherwise His entire reason for creating us, which is that love relationship, would have been DOA.

What else is also a matter of free will if not evil? In Isaiah 14, evil began with God’s most beautiful, majestic angel making a choice – engaging his free will. Likewise, Adam and Eve both made a choice in Genesis 3 to reject God’s command and eat of the one tree in the garden they were forbidden. This, I believe, is why in the parable God tells His servants to leave the wheat and the tares together. You cannot allow free will for good and reject free will when it is employed for evil. Free will is free will, and by its very definition it requires choice – choice cannot be restrained in any way. If you try to remove poor choices from good ones the existence of choice would itself, by definition, cease.

In Genesis 2 we read, “Out of the ground the Lord God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food, the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” In the opening paragraphs I mentioned God allowing, and even helping to bring about, good and evil existing together in this world. Why would God plant such a tree in the garden knowing, as He surely did seeing all of time in a moment, the chaos and “evil” it would surely result in? Why then would He specifically point it out to Adam and Eve as forbidden, knowing for the same reasons what the result of that would be?

If you want a child to do something, what do you tell him to do? Stay away from it! I sell real estate, and sometimes people will leave personal items locked up in a closet so those looking at it will not have access to them. What becomes the room of greatest interest when others are looking at the home? That one! We always want what we can’t have. We always want to know the unknowable. God created us with that desire as well, so He knew not only creating that tree, but pointing it out as forbidden would almost insure the fall. Regardless, God knew without personal choice there would be no free will, and without free will there would be no love.

I believe God, for the sake of love that overrode every other concern, had to not only allow but be a party to the existence of good and evil living together in this world. Think of the pain He must have felt as He was creating that most dangerous of all trees, knowing of the suffering it would bring not just to His creation but to Him – to His Son who He knew would have to pay the ultimate price? Nonetheless, He knew this had to be if the relationship He desired above all else would be possible. Good and evil must co-exist, and we could not even define one without the existence of the other. If there were no forces of darkness, we would not see God shine so brightly.

Why are good and evil allowed to co-exist in God’s world? Because for the sake of love they must. So next time you find yourself focusing on all the evil and sadness in the world take the advice of Paul, knowing evil in the world is a critical element that defines the goodness of God, “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things” (Phil. 4:9). It’s one more choice we make that is a part of the precious free will God has given us since the beginning, that we might love Him fully.

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