The Expository Files

Weapons or Wickedness


In the New King James version of the Bible the word "wicked" occurs 342 times. One occurrence of this word is in 2 Peter 2:7, where we are told that Lot was "oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked." In that verse there is the "adjective athesmos" and "it means lawless men" (p.#447, Word Meanings In The New Testament, Ralph Earle). Abbott-Smith says that it is used "especially of those who violate the law of nature and conscience," (p.#11, A Manual Greek Lexicon of the New Testament). The same word is used only one other time in the New Testament, also in 2 Peter. Near the end of the epistle he warns us: "beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked," (2 Pet. 3:17). Vines quotes Moulton and Milligan regarding this use of athesmos: "An instance of the use of the word is found in the papyri, where a father breaks off his daughter's engagement because he learnt that her fiancÚ was giving himself over to lawless deeds," (p.#215, Vines). I believe it would be useful for us to use the word more today. It describes some recent and disturbing current events. The problem we are seeing is not weapons, but wickedness.

The murders at Littleton, Colorado and more recently in Ft. Worth were acts of wickedness, and I was pleased to hear our Governor state the matter plainly when he said: "We can pass laws, but there needs to be a higher law. And that is love your neighbor like you'd like to be loved yourself." He said "All these incidents raise all kinds of questions about our culture. We're dealing with a situation where there's a wave of hatred passing through America." In other comments he used the terms "wicked" and "evil."

At about the same time the Governor was speaking, US Attorney General Janet Reno was blaming guns and promoting the urgent legislation of even more laws (this the same week that violators of gun laws were pardoned by the Administration she works for; the FLAN terrorists!). It occurs to me that the problem is sin not guns; wickedness not inadequate legislation; evil in individuals, not "society." And we would do well to use the terms when discussing such crimes.

If guns cause murders , and should therefore be eliminated, let us apply that same reasoning consistently. Let us argue that pens cause forgery; crow bars cause break-ins; telephones cause obscene phone calls and computers cause pornography on the Internet!

The simple truth is, we need to see the wicked people who use these instruments and identify them as the problem, not the instruments they use. This is the Biblical view. In all of the murders, rapes, crimes and injustice reported in the Bible, there is never an emphasis on the existence of the instruments or weapons used. God said to Cain, "What have you done," (Gen. 4:10); the account does not mention the weapon used. A few chapters later, God made it clear that murdering is a serious crime and must be punished (Gen. 9:6). One of the Ten Commandments said, "You shall not murder," (Ex. 20:13). This is quoted in Matt. 19:18; Luke 19:20 and Rom. 13:9. In the New Testament, Jesus legislated against murder - but back of the act, He legislated against the malice that caused it (Matt. 5:22). In all of this, no mention is made of the evil instruments or weapons. Rather, the evil persons; the wicked and selfish attitudes of malice and hatred. That's the problem. And regardless of how men see the problem and respond to it, God will deal with it in His time. We can be sure of that. Meantime, let us give heed: "...Beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked."

"A man that does not know how to be shaken to his heart's core with indignation over things evil is either a fungus or a wicked man." (H. W. Beecher)

By Warren E. Berkley
The Final Page
From Expository Files 6.10; October 1999