How does God view those who return evil for good?
Returning evil for evil is a natural response for most men. God requires a higher standard of his children, commanding us not even to return evil for evil (1 Thess. 5:15).
In fact, we are commanded to return good for evil even to our enemies (Matt. 5:44-45), and in so doing, overcome evil with good (Rom. 12:21).
On the other hand there are those whose hearts are ready to return evil for good. The Lord warns those who return evil for good that “evil shall not depart from his house” (Pro. 17:13).
Another kind of heart feels fully justified in speaking evil of what they do not understand (2 Pet. 2:12). The Jews in Ephesus believed they were fully justified in teaching the Law, but they did not understand either what they said or what they affirmed (1 Tim. 1:7).
Still others speak evil of God’s favored and anointed. David was plagued with this kind of people. “False witnesses did rise up; they laid to my charge things that I knew not. 12 They rewarded me evil for good to the spoiling of my soul” (Psa. 35:11).
David, on the other hand genuinely loved the souls and testified that “…when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth: I humbled my soul with fasting and my prayer returned into my own bosom.” David further testified:
14 I behaved myself as though he had been my friend or brother: I bowed down heavily, as one that mourneth for his mother. 15 But in mine adversity they rejoiced, and gathered themselves together: yea, the abjects gathered themselves together against me, and I knew it not; they did tear me, and ceased not: 16 With hypocritical mockers in feasts, they gnashed upon me with their teeth (Psa. 35:14-16).
Though we may think that David had an easy and prosperous life in killing Goliath and winning all the battles, nevertheless, he testified that many spoke against him.
For the mouth of the wicked and the mouth of the deceitful are opened against me: they have spoken against me with a lying tongue. 3 They compassed me about also with words of hatred; and fought against me without a cause. 4 For my love they are my adversaries: but I give myself unto prayer. 5 And they have rewarded me evil for good, and hatred for my love. 6 Set thou a wicked man over him: and let Satan stand at his right hand. 7 When he shall be judged, let him be condemned: and let his prayer become sin (Psa. 109:2-7).
David comforted himself by his faith in God. First he describes those who love evil and then declares God’s judgment on those same souls.
Thy tongue deviseth mischiefs; like a sharp rasor, working deceitfully. 3 Thou lovest evil more than good; and lying rather than to speak righteousness. Selah. 4 Thou lovest all devouring words, O thou deceitful tongue. 5 God shall likewise destroy thee for ever, he shall take thee away, and pluck thee out of thy dwelling place, and root thee out of the land of the living. Selah” (Psa. 52:2-5).
The prophet Isaiah warned those who perverted judgment. “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! 21 Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight” (Isa. 5:20-21).
Is it possible to know the real hearts of these people? Jesus declared:
Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? 17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit (Matt. 7:16-18).
God promises to judge us by our words.
36 But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. 37 For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned” (Matt. 12:36-37).
He encourages us to turn away from evil to do good and promises: “For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile: 11 Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it” (1 Pet. 3:10-11).
He warns us that those who hate cover their hatred with good words.
24 He that hateth dissembleth with his lips, and layeth up deceit within him;
25 When he speaketh fair, believe him not: for there are seven abominations in his heart.
26 Whose hatred is covered by deceit, his wickedness shall be shewed before the whole congregation. (Proverbs 26:24-26)
Again our Heavenly Father warns us about gossips. Those who flatter us are likely to be the same ones who are speaking perverse things behind our backs.
19 He that goeth about as a talebearer revealeth secrets: therefore meddle not with him that flattereth with his lips (Proverbs 20:19).
What should we be doing?
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: 16 Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ” (1 Pet. 3:15-16).
If we are truly pleasing to God, we will have a tongue that is choice silver. “The tongue of the just is as choice silver: the heart of the wicked is little worth. 21 The lips of the righteous feed many: but fools die for want of wisdom” (Pro. 10:20-21).
We should never be like the person whose tongue is like the piercings of a sword. “There is that speaketh like the piercings of a sword: but the tongue of the wise is health. 19 The lip of truth shall be established for ever: but a lying tongue is but for a moment” (Pro. 12:18-19).
Do we want to have a wholesome tongue? “A wholesome tongue is a tree of life: but perverseness therein is a breach in the spirit” (Pro. 15:4). “Whoso keepeth his mouth and his tongue keepeth his soul from troubles. 24 Proud and haughty scorner is his name, who dealeth in proud wrath” (Pro. 21:23-24). “For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile” (1 Pet. 3:10).
Articles and Books by Beth Johnson