But when her owners saw that their hope of gain was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the rulers. Acts 16:19
It’s painful to watch someone travel down a road of evil and self-destruction. Particularly when that someone struggles in a way I don’t understand, I just shake my head. Why would you do that? That’s so stupid.
We all have evil thoughts, behaviors, and actions though. Like Paul (Romans 7:15), we all have those things we know to be wrong, but which we do anyway. Why? Why do we engage in behaviors that we know to be self-destructive? Why does the addict continue to use, despite knowing what he’s doing to himself and his loved ones? Why does the overweight diabetic continue to eat junk food?
The attraction of evil is that it tastes so good. Whether it makes sense to anyone else, we engage in self-destructive behaviors because we find great reward it them. As we develop a habit – an addiction – that behavior eventually controls us and we begin to sacrifice ourselves and others for it. In our evil, we don’t just hurt ourselves. We hurt those closest to us.
If the thing is taken away then, we experience loss and pain. This is what happened in today’s passage. In the story, Paul and Silas encountered a slave girl possessed by a spirit which gave her some ability to predict the future. Her owners used the girl for their own financial gain. When Paul cast the demon out, the slave masters were enraged as they lost their source of profit.
It’s hard for us to understand that kind of evil, until we look at our own dark behaviors. We pursue evil for a reason – because we’re selfish and because we find immediate gratification in it. The problem with evil, is that the pleasure quickly fades, leaving a bitter aftertaste. The only way we know how to feel good again, is to repeat the behavior. It’s the nature of evil to enslave us as we destroy ourselves and those closest to us.
Following God’s will is the exact opposite experience. Though it requires some sacrifice up front – surrendering our way – when we follow him, we reap a joy that doesn’t fade into misery. If we desire to know authentic life, hope, and peace, we must daily do what it takes to abandon our appetite for evil to pursue God and his path for us.