If you were asked what is the source of evil, what would you say?
Perhaps some people would say that evil simply exists––and that mankind is merely presented with the choice to do good or ill. Others perhaps would say that evil results from specific people, such as dictators or tyrants, who have given themselves over to wickedness––and in their wickedness they spread their evil thinking and their evil works. Yet perhaps others would attribute evil to something supernatural––to some type of demon, known as the Devil or Satan.
But where do you fall?
The prophet Jeremiah has an unequivocal answer to the question:
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” Jeremiah 17:9 ESV
It would be difficult to pen anymore more unambiguous. Just consider the import of Jeremiah’s words: the heart of deceitful above everything. There is nothing worse than the human heart. Indeed, with the clarity of Jeremiah’s statement, what else could be the source of evil?
And yet, Scripture does not simply leave us with the testimony of Jeremiah. Instead, it confirms Jeremiah’s message. The Lord Jesus, when speaking to his disciples, made a similar declaration. Consider again where the Lord places the blame for sin:
“For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” Mark 7:21-23
What is the origin of all of these wicked things? The Lord places the responsibility with the exact same thing as Jeremiah: the human heart. Everything that is wicked has its source in the heart.
At the same time, did you notice what was missing from both quotations? Both quotations are extremely straightforward––wickedness comes from the heart––and yet neither of them mention what one might expect them to mention.
Neither of them mention anything about the Devil. Neither of them mention Satan. Instead, everything is placed at the feet of mankind’s deceitful nature. Again, in another passage, the apostle James essentially eliminates the need for a Devil in his explanation of temptation and sin:
“But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” James 1:14-15
It is our own desire that lures and entices us––our own thoughts coming from our own deceitful hearts. That is how we are tempted. Once again, this explanation of sin and evil doesn’t say anything about Satan.
And so what does that mean as far as our understanding of evil and our understanding of sin? What does that mean as far as our understanding of the Devil?
Perhaps it means that Scripture teaches something slightly different about human nature––and slightly different about a supernatural Satan and tempter––than we may have initially thought.
Lord willing, as we proceed through these posts, we’ll uncover the Biblical source of evil, and in doing so, understand much more about both our God and His plan for this world.
- Jason Hensley