So here’s a lesson in becoming street-smart. It comes from Jesus. And it centers on a question with which the religious establishment (the Pharisees) and the political leaders (the Herodians) tried to trap Jesus. The question? “Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” (Matthew 22:17). If Jesus said yes, the Pharisees, who were looking out for Israel’s interests, would denounce him as disloyal to their country. If Jesus said no, the Herodians, who supported Roman rule, would denounce him as a traitor to Rome and seek his execution. It seemed they had him in a Catch-22 situation—no matter what he said, he was doomed. Or was he? This entire event gives us several lessons in evil, Satan, our fallen world, and how we can survive with the street-smarts of Jesus. Hear the lessons well.
Evil’s Position Is Always Uncomfortable.
Evil can’t stand to be in the presence of good, and it certainly can’t tolerate the persistence of good. It must do all it can to destroy the goodness around it. Why? Because goodness shames evil. It exposes evil for what it is, and by doing so it threatens evil’s very existence. You see, the holiness of God tolerates only that which is holy, and that excludes evil. Holiness cannot keep company with evil, and even if it could, evil could not stand in the light of holiness. That’s why Jesus was so disturbing to the Pharisees and the Herodians. And that’s why Jesus may be so disturbing to you.
Christians are essentially telling the world, “You’re headed toward death and destruction. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, and there is no way to get to the Father except through him. Evil will try to deceive you, but don’t listen. If you do, you’ll crash and burn.”
Evil’s Hatred Is Unified.
Look at Matthew 22:15-16. It shows that the Pharisees and the Herodians united in their attempt to trap Jesus. But these two groups couldn’t have been further apart in their loyalties and ideologies. The Pharisees were the religiously orthodox of their day, and they felt that they should have nothing to do with Rome. The Herodians, on the other hand, were a political party, and they were committed to supporting Rome. These groups didn’t communicate to each other, socialize, or do anything together. They despised each other, but they joined forces once—when they agreed to stop Jesus.
The world is hardly unified in anything, except in its hatred of us. Have you ever noticed that? So don’t be surprised if you’re singled out as a target because of your faith. A street-smart Christian knows that the forces of evil may hate one another, but they hate us and what we stand for even more.
Evil’s Nature Is Underhanded.
I’m not big on conspiracy theories (you can find a conspiracy around every corner if you look hard enough and twist the facts well enough), but I do believe that evil is planned. Satan, with a lot of help from his friends, is a master planner.
A street-smart Christian knows that evil is planned. Drugs are not just something to do at a Saturday night party. Prostitution isn’t just two consenting adults having a good time. Evil is organized and it’s dangerous.
Evil’s Motive Is Ulterior.
Take a look at Matthew 22:16 and the way the leaders approached Jesus. They tried to take him off-guard with flattery. Flattery is the most dangerous arrow in the enemy’s quiver.
A while back, a group approached me to do motivational speaking. They said that I was wonderful and the best speaker they had ever heard. Then they started talking about the great amount of money I would make if I would consent. If it wasn’t for my friend and mentor, Fred Smith, I probably would have fallen and accepted their offer. When I told him about the proposal, Fred said, “Steve, that’s the dumbest thing I have ever heard. God called you to teach the Bible.”
Christian, when they start telling you how wonderful, beautiful or brilliant you are, watch out for the kicker. Believe me, it will come. It’s the MO of evil.
Evil’s Patience Is Undying.
Jesus gave an insightful answer to the question posed by the Pharisees and the Herodians. It was so good, in fact, that “when they heard [it], they were amazed. So they left him and went away” (verse 22). It seemed that Jesus had dealt a death-blow to the opposition. But he didn’t. We see later on in Matthew that Judas, one of Jesus’ closest followers, betrayed him and set him up for execution.
Have you ever seen those horror movies that seem to end with the monster’s death? Just when you think the monster’s down for good, he suddenly comes back to life and sets out to wreak havoc again. That is evil’s way. The way of evil in the world and in our heart is that it, like the possum, frequently plays dead until we turn our back, then it rises up and gets us from behind. A street-smart Christian will remember that.
Evil’s Defeat Is Unconditional.
No matter how sneaky, how conniving or how resilient evil is, it will meet its match. Evil will go down for the final count and never raise its ugly head again. God made this quite clear: “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels’” (Matthew 25:41).
God always wins. Evil has no existence on its own. Like a parasite, it can only survive by trying to suck the lifeblood out of goodness, light and love. The very existence of evil depends on the existence of good, even ultimate Good.
Someday, however, God will discard evil forever. Just make sure before that happens that you haven’t chosen the wrong side. A street-smart Christian knows the difference and has made the right choice.
Time to Draw Away
Read Proverbs 2 & 2 Peter 2
Are you aware of the evil influences in your life? Can you pinpoint something or someone who is trying to lead you away from what’s true and right? Take an honest inventory of your thoughts, words, actions and relationships. Then turn it all over to God who is sovereign, loves you deeply and has covered you with his grace.