See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. (Ephesians 5:15–17—NKJV)

There are certain words that have passed out of the realm of public debate. One of them is the word “evil.” Its disuse is certainly not because the world is any less dangerous, or because people have finally gotten the better of their base nature, or because Satan has been neutered. When was the last time you heard anyone use the word in common conversation? When was the last time it was uttered by one of your political leaders?

I believe it is not used for several reasons. First, the notion of a perfect, good, and sovereign God has been voted out of our society. Second, our society has become “feminized” to such a degree that the word is seen as unkind and passé. Second, it has become impolitic to pass judgment on anyone’s character because “plausible” excuses have multiplied. Finally, our society has become so desensitized by the constant barrage of human misery, carnage, and soulless thought that labeling any part of it as “evil” seems futile. The flooding rise of evil nations, of evil people, and of evil deeds comes from evil thoughts, from evil hearts, spawned of the Evil One.

The task at hand, for every genuine believer, is to recognize evil so that it may be either shunned, or engaged in battle and defeated—wherever it is found. A visit to the dictionary quickly restores your right to resurrect the use of this word. Evil is “morally wrong, immoral, wicked; injurious, harmful; bad conduct or character; harmful and malicious intentions and actions.”

Since our passage enjoins believers to live according to wisdom in evil days, it would behoove every believer to learn to recognize evil. Review the previous context to our passage in verses 8 through 14. Also remember Ephesians 6:13: “Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” Every believer must learn to recognize evil and stand his ground against it, both in himself and in others. In Matthew 7:15–20 our Lord states, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles?” Evil is discerned by certain characteristic qualities that never can produce the fruit of the Holy Spirit (all goodness, righteousness and truth—Ephesians 5:9).

What does evil look like? First, Evil always claims that real truth is evil (Isaiah 5:20, Luke 6:22). Second, Evil is a pretender. Truth never has to pretend, Evil always does. Satan transforms himself into an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14). Third, Evil hates the light of truth for it exposes the depraved nature of Evil. John 3:19–20 reads, “And this is the condemnation that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.” Fourth, Evil is paired with the fruit of selfish greed, as illustrated by 1 Timothy 6:3–10: “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil….” Fifth, Evil uses power, not for noble causes, but for personal, ambitious, base, and ignoble whims and desires (Galatians 5:19–26). Evil will always fail to produce the Fruit of the Spirit. Sixth, Evil’s desire to pass its maliciousness off as good will always be betrayed by its words, if you listen carefully and you listen long enough. The tongue cannot be controlled and evil will spew forth its filth when it can no longer be contained (James 3:1–12, Luke 6:43–45). Seventh, Evil always takes advantage of ignorance (Proverbs 7:6–27). Lastly, Evil cannot respect God or the marred image of God in any man; therefore the common courtesy of telling the unvarnished truth is, by and large, beyond the capacity of Evil. There is little wonder to this phenomenon since Satan is the father of evil as well as all unregenerate individuals (man in his natural state). He is a liar and murderer (John 8:44). Evildoers and evil-thinkers cannot extend dignity or yield to the universal and enviable human rights granted by the Creator. Evil will not abide any rivals. Now you know what Evil truly looks like.

The only cure for evil is to crush it, as God does when He rescues His own from sin (Matthew 21:44) and when He judges evil (2 Timothy 4:18). He will not be fooled. Do not allow yourself to be fooled by evil either. God gives you your spiritual armor for a reason. Practice recognizing evil and use the descriptive label of evil as God does. Trust and obey.