If An Evil Person Does a Good Thing, Is It Good or Evil?

Green snake wrapped around a branch symbolizing evil

“Whoever is not with me is against me.”

“Whoever is not against us is for us.”

Jesus made both of these statements, and they aren’t different ways of saying the same thing.

The first, from Matthew 12:20, restricts the number of people who are for Jesus to those who are with him. If you aren’t specifically for Jesus, you’re against him—even if you are unaware of it.

The second, from Mark 9:24, enlarges up the number of people who are for Jesus. As long as you aren’t specifically against him, you are for him—even if you are unaware of it.

They aren’t saying the same thing. But Jesus said both of them.

So what’s up? Here’s what I think.

In Matthew 12 the religious leaders accuse Jesus of being demon-possessed. That’s how he is able to do perform miracles.

Jesus tells them that makes no sense.

Demons don’t do good things, they do evil things.

They don’t heal people, they afflict people; they don’t cast each other out of people, they help each other possess people.

I did a good thing, so they can’t be with me. They are against me.

If you were with me, you’d applaud me. But you don’t. So you aren’t with me.

You are with them, the demons. Those who aren’t with me are against me.

Because evil is evil, and you don’t have to be a demon to do evil. You can be an Israelite. A Temple Leader.

You can even be a Christian.

Church history is full of times when Christians did evil things.

Religious affiliation doesn’t matter. Evil is evil.

In Mark 9 the disciples point out a guy who was casting out demons in Jesus’ name and said, “He’s not one of us. He has no right to use your name. Our name.

“He’s not a Christian.”

Okay, they don’t really say that last one, but you get the point.

I’ve actually heard Christians say that only Christians can truly do good things.

If an atheist does a good thing, it’s a bad thing because it makes it seem that you can be an atheist and still be a good person, and the only way to be a good person is to be a Christian.

Applauding an atheist for doing a good thing is applauding atheism, and no good Christian would do that.

The same applies to any other religion. A Muslim doing a good thing is a bad thing because it makes it seem that Islam is a viable alternative to Christianity, and it’s not.

To applaud a good thing done by a Muslim is to applaud Islam, and that’s a bad thing.

I’ve even heard Christians say that about each other. If a liberal Christian does a good thing, that’s a bad thing because it makes it seem as if being a liberal Christian is a viable alternative, and it’s not.

And I’ve heard liberal Christians say the same about conservative Christians.

Good things done by the wrong people are bad things and we should stop them. That’s what the disciples are saying. This guy is casting out demons, and he’s not one of us. He says he is, but he’s not, so let’s stop him.

And Jesus says, “Are you kidding me?” Okay, again, not his exact words, but it’s a face-slapper nonetheless.

Casting out demons is a good thing.


A good thing is a good thing no matter who does it.

Religious affiliation doesn’t matter.

Non-religious affiliation doesn’t matter.

So maybe Jesus is saying the same thing.

Good is good, and Jesus is for it.

Evil is evil, and Jesus is against it.

Jesus is for “bad” people doing good things because in that moment they want the same things he wants.

Jesus is against “good” people doing bad things because in that moment they don’t want the same things he wants.

Good is good and evil is evil.

No matter who does it.

Photo by Tirza van Dijk on Unsplash

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