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A Heart for Evil

To a heart for God

Proverbs 6:16, 18

16 These six things the Lord hates,
Yes, seven are an abomination to Him:

18 A heart that devises wicked plans,
Feet that are swift in running to evil,

Proverbs 26:23

23 Fervent lips with a wicked heart
Are like earthenware covered with silver dross.


One of the most popular entertainment genres in America and in western culture is that of “True Crime.” Now, TV, movies and books on murder mysteries have been a classic staple for generations. Edgar Allan Poe, Agatha Christie, and Tony Hillerman only name a few. Then, of course, are silver screen adaptations where Perry Mason, Matlock, and Angela Lansbury’s Jessica Fletcher crack the toughest of cases, and all within 50 minutes–to allow for commercial breaks.

In more recent years, the rise of shows like “C.S.I. Crime Scene Investigation” follows “real life” style investigations that have memory in books like “Helter Skelter” and Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood.” These works expose both the detailed work of law enforcement investigation, and also explore the twisted mind and motives of a killer. 

People cannot seem to get enough of gazing into the darkness of a mind bent on evil.

It is no surprise, then, that the highest-watched new series on the digital streaming channel Netflix for 2022 is “Monster: the Jeffrey Dahmer Story.” This ten-episode series is still ongoing, and boasts a record 196 million viewers.

For perspective, that is over half the population of the United States or the equivalent of the combined populations of England, Germany, and France. 

That’s a lot of people interested in a dramatization of the gruesome acts of a serial killer.

Now, all of that is simply to ask this: why is mankind so fascinated with “the evil that men do?” This phrase comes from William Shakespeare–another writer who also fascinated his audiences with murder and mayhem. In the insightful words of Julius Caesar’s Marc Antony: 

The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.–Julius Caesar, act 3, scene 2

Evil does pervade our sin-darkened world, and yet the average person seems to believe that evil is something that other people do, not them. The modern social imaginary that “all people are basically good,” is challenged by the existence of evil-hearted men like Adolph Hitler, Charles Manson, and Jeffrey Dahmer. Deep down, people are aware that a fine line separates monsters like these, and the average “good person.” 

In the words of Clarence Darrow: 

Everybody is a potential murderer. I’ve never killed anyone, but I frequently get satisfaction reading the obituary notices.-Clarence Darrow

Modern platitudes of basic goodness sound a lot like a bit of nervous “whistling past the graveyard” when the human heart is truly under scrutiny. 

Do you follow True Crime or read murder mysteries? I do not, but perhaps you do–and understand the fascination with them. For the believer, however, you understand the true nature of fallen man and the curse of original sin that each of us carries around in the corners of our hearts [Romans 3:23]. 

Solomon knows this and reminds his young pupils frequently of their own and all people’s capability for unspeakable evil. He warns you in practical ways how to avoid it, but also reminds you of the dire consequences of allowing your evil heart to steer your soul. This is included in the “seven abominations” that God hates:

16 These six things the Lord hates,
Yes, seven are an abomination to Him:

18 A heart that devises wicked plans,
Feet that are swift in running to evil,–Proverbs 6:16,18

What is a heart that “devises wicked plans?” Your first instinct is usually to recall a Hitler, a Dahmer, or even a supervillain such as Auric Goldfinger: “No Mr. Bond, I expect you to die.” No, a heart bent on wicked plans is, quite simply, a heart that is driven by selfishness. 

God knows this about you and all people. He makes this the focus of the very first commandment: You shall have no other Gods before me… From this commandment flow all the others, even the “Greatest Commandment” of Jesus: 

37 Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”–Matthew 22:37-40

Adam and Eve are driven by this selfish desire in the garden when they listened to the lies of the serpent. Generations later, this sin had grown like a tangle of kudzu vines to cover the earth:

Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.– Genesis 6:5 

True to Solomon’s words, God sends the flood to destroy those whose thoughts were bent only on evil, sparing only Noah and his family. 

The prophets spend lives in agony, exile, or at the very least endure the mocking of a people who do not care for righteousness but lived only to pursue their own desires. As the prophet Jeremiah laments:

9 “The heart is deceitful above all things,
And desperately wicked;
Who can know it?– Jeremiah 17:9

Finally, God sends His greatest prophet, His own Son, to call His people to obedience and faithfulness. Jesus continuously debates and spars with the very religious leaders who should be calling their own people to righteousness. But He knows their hearts are not focused on God:

18 But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. 19 For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. 20 These are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.”–Matt 15:18-20

All of their ceremonial laws, rules, and traditions can not replace a heart of evil for a heart for God.

Solomon perhaps glances at the stone water pot from which he and his pupils refresh themselves during long study sessions. The shiny glaze catches the Judean sun slanting through a window and he is brought to mind an illustration:

23 Fervent lips with a wicked heart
Are like earthenware covered with silver dross.–Proverbs 26:23

This “silver dross” is none other than the lead oxide produced when silver is refined. This byproduct, though not a precious metal, nevertheless is useful as a glaze for pottery. Its shine may dazzle, but it only protects and hides the dullness of the clay or stone beneath. Unlike silver, it has no real value.

Solomon gives this image to his son and the other young learners in his charge. Smooth words and impressive deeds may deceive, but underneath the heart that is dead in sin will only turn to dust and pass away.

Are you caught in a life that is focused on impressing others or paying lip service to God? It is easy to avoid dealing with besetting sins or even facing the truth of your self-focused life, when you live in a world that so readily enables you to gloss over them with simply “being a good person.”

David saw this. Though the anointed king, and a “man after God’s own heart,” he sinned greatly, and could not run from his guilt. He cried out in a psalm:

10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.

11 Do not cast me away from Your presence,
And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.–Psalm 51:10-11

David, in the depths of his sin, remembers that in order to change he does not need to have a “me day” or boost his self-esteem–he needs a clean heart. A heart that can only be purified by God’s forgiveness. [Enjoy this excellent song based on Psalm 51, by Rend Collective.]

This, then is how you keep from having a heart that devises wicked plans and is bent on evil. By being renewed in Christ and by remembering God. As Paul commands in Romans 12:

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.–Romans 12:2 

Sinclair Ferguson captures this well in a little book called “A Heart for God.” In it he reminds you that remembering God and seeking to live for Him is the only way to defeat the evil of the sinful self: 

The man or woman who has a heart for God will be someone who is determined to remember the Lord.–Ferguson

What does it meant to “remember the Lord?” It is simply calling on Him in prayer, and seeking Him in His Word. As God commands Joshua:

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.–Joshua 1:8 

In this life, you regularly seek to know and even master many things–from an artistic talent to simply knowing all the features on your new smartphone. If knowing God is the key to life and salvation, how readily do you seek Him out and strive to know and grow your knowledge of scripture? 

Like Frances Brook wrote in her 1907 hymn, “My Goal is God Himself” (beautifully performed here by Mark Giacobbe):

My goal is God Himself, not joy, nor peace,
Nor even blessing, but Himself, my God;
’Tis His to lead me there—not mine, but His—
At any cost, dear Lord, by any road.–Frances Brook

The joy of this should color all of your thoughts and days. Ferguson also says:

Knowing God is your single greatest privilege as a Christian.–Ferguson


It takes a bit of discipline but you can start simple, like thinking beyond yourself and on things that are good. Here, Paul exhorts:

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.–Philippians 4:8

This seems elementary, but Pastor William Still recognizes this simple activity as a sign of a spiritually mature heart:

A sign of spiritual maturity is that we are thinking a majority of thoughts in His presence.–William Still

Having a heart for God, instead of a heart for evil, means seeking Him with all of your means. Like the sonnet of Irish poet John Donne: 

Batter my heart, three-person'd God, for you 
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend; 
That I may rise and stand, o'erthrow me, and bend 
Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new. 
I, like an usurp'd town to another due, 
Labor to admit you, but oh, to no end; 
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend, 
But is captiv'd, and proves weak or untrue. 
Yet dearly I love you, and would be lov'd fain, 
But am betroth'd unto your enemy; 
Divorce me, untie or break that knot again, 
Take me to you, imprison me, for I, 
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free, 
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.–John Donne (1572-1631) 

Your heart is a city occupied by a foreign army, you long for liberation from a heart filled with evil desires. That freedom comes through a siege of love from Christ, and a struggle of daily discipline to follow Him. Your pledge should be that of 13th century bishop, Richard of Chichester:

Day by day, dear Lord of Thee, three things I pray:
To see thee more clearly,
To love thee more dearly,
To follow thee more
nearly.–Richard of Chichester 

Day by day, a heart of evil is tuned to become a heart for God.



The Monday—Friday DEEPs are written by Mike Slay and this Saturday Deep is written by Matt Richardson. To subscribe to all the DEEPs click here:

The weekly study guides, which include the Monday–Friday devotionals plus related questions for discussion or meditation, are available for download here:

Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.

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