Dirt Devils and the Appearance of Evil

ddlogoSitting on a table in my bedroom is one of those ultra chic Dirt Devil Kones that was given to me as a gift after I had expressed my fondness for it at a department store. It is pretty cool, but it has an annoying light that stays on for as long as you have the vacuum plugged into its base. So I have to make sure it’s not connected. Oh, and I really don’t use it.

Anyway, a new believer recently asked me if it was evil for a Christian to own a Dirt Devil. His inquiry had nothing to do with the fact that I owned one – he has no idea. But he was very sincere. He wondered if owning such a brand was “marketing the devil.” 

I sympathize with that kind of sensitivity. I believe that all Christians are called to be careful to please God in every area of life. We are to abhor the evil and cling to the good. But there has to be a point in which our standards enter into the arena of ridiculous. I’d hate to live life with the Pharisaic attitude that everything is unclean and unworthy of my acceptance while I make sure that I tithe from my spice rack. Things ought to be considered, but should ever tying be so super-analyzed? I mean, if we begin to try to find every minutia of godlessness in every kind of product, we’d be forced to throw it all away.

I realize, though, that this isn’t just a problem with new believers. Seasoned Christians can oftentimes make rash decisions but they attempt to back them up scripturally. I want to make sure to say on the onset here that I’m not opposed at all to anybody’s personal standards for living. The problem comes when those standards are imposed on others and used as a basis for judgment. One of the most popular verses from the Bible to support a hyper-sensitive position on personal holiness is:

1 Thessalonians 5:22 Abstain from all appearance of evil.

The argument made from this verse is that we ought never do anything that appears as though it is evil. Does that mean the Bible says I can’t own a Dirt Devil vacuum cleaner?

Now I realize that not everyone who believes in that interpretation of I Thessalonian 5:22 necessarily goes so far as to say Christians can’t own Dirt Devils. Or eat deviled eggs. Or Devil Dogs. I’m sure those cases are few

devil_dogs_sm1and far between. But I am writing this from a bit of experience as well. Not only did I receive the question about the vacuum brand, but I recall a time in which one family refused to refer to devil’s food cake by its real name. I’ve also sat through many a sermon in which going to the movies and being alone with a member of the opposite gender were wrong because of the “appearance of evil” that each emitted. 

What? You’re not against Hollywood? And you think unmarried couples should spend time alone with no restriction?

No, hold on. Please keep reading.

In keeping with the title of the blog, I’m determined to return to a biblical basis for everything I do. I’ve stated before that one of the greatest epiphanies I’ve ever experienced was the exhortation to justify my beliefs and actions with the Bible. And the question here is, does the Bible teach that I should abstain from every single thing that might cause someone to think I’m doing evil?

The answer should lie in our interpretation of I Thessalonians 5:22. Most versions read something like:

I Thessalonians 5:22 Abstain from every form of evil. (ESV)

The KJV translation is not wrong. “Appearance” is a suitable translation for the Greek word eidos, which carries the idea of “form, shape, sight, fashion” (Vine’s). In this verse it is not used in semblance but reality. It has the sense of class or kind (Robertson). It means “visible form, outward show” (Milligan). So while appearance is a true English rendering of the Greek word, it must be noted that it is not the appearance of doing evil but the very appearance of evil itself. In other words, when evil appears, get away! The modern rendering of “form of evil” seems to communicate that more accurately.

I Thessalonians 5:22 does not teach us that I should avoid being seen as if I was doing something evil. It isn’t a matter of living my life in such fear as to what people think of me. It is not a proof text that looms over me if I attend a movie theater or video store, check out the magazine rack, or offer a female co-worker a ride home. I am not abstaining from those things because I think they will communicate evil.

The context of the passage leads us to believe that verse 22 has more to do with preaching. We’re told not to despise it, and then to prove all things, and then to abstain from the appearance of evil. So as I prove all things I hear by the word of God, I equally shun the things that are opposed to it. In any event, I Thessalonians 5:22 has nothing to do with my hardly-used Dirt Devil.

That being said, let’s finish with two things that need to be answered after all this. 151_deviled_eggs_p27

1. There is enough biblical reason to have high standards of holiness.

I Peter 1:15 But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation;
16 Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.

I am exhorted to live a holy life in the light of God’s holiness. Now that’s enough motivation to last me my whole life!

2. My appearance does matter.

Romans 14:16 Let not then your good be evil spoken of:

In the context of the stronger/weaker brother, Paul admonished the Romans to be careful in their conduct, especially in such a diverse church. The church at Rome consisted of all kinds of people, and they brought with them different views about holidays and meats and such. Interestingly, Paul was not inspired to “set the record straight once and for all” by simply declaring what meats and what days were appropriate and not. Instead, he allowed each to have his own opinion and be cautious as to how they conduct their personal standards. In those issues, Christians have liberty. But such liberty is not to be used in a way that people would speak evil of it, and in doing so bring reproach on the holy name of Christ and His church.

I Timothy 4:12 Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.

In short, you’re being watched! Other Christians are looking to you as an example. So make sure your conduct is appropriate in the way your talk, the way your act, in your love and giving, in your spiritual life, in your personal faith, and in your standards of holiness. That’s enough to be cautious about Hollywood, no? That’s also plenty of reason to set up standards – such as not being alone with a non-relative opposite gender person – in just that one verse, I think. Be an example in purity? I better protect that one. One wrong move and it’s over. 

See, it’s not all about what people can accuse you of; but your own walk with the Lord that could be at stake.  

Matthew 5:16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

Oh, and by the way, lost people are watching, too. And though they might not care about whether or not you drive a car that is owned by a company that is tied to a charity that supports the gay agenda, they are looking at your life – and every facet of it – to see what kind of a change the Lord has made. Let’s make sure what they see is something that would bring glory to God in heaven!

Holiness comes from God down to us, not the other way around. And though I have every reason to desire holiness in my life, I am not bound to being overly sensitive about what people might think to accuse me of. The little things that sometimes Christians make a big deal of don’t determine whether or not I am holy. On the contrary, my holiness will take care of those little things. So staying away from the movie theater has nothing to do with “people might think I’m going to watch something bad.” But my caution about the movie theater has everything to do with a biblical desire to be holy in all manner of life. And let’s face it, few movies that come out are helping me to do that. Take time to be holy, but do it because of your love for God, not because of an overreaction to what people might think.


6 comments so far

  1. breadandsham on

    Does this mean that I can start eating deviled eggs again!?!

  2. DT on

    yeah. . .if you like that sorta thing

  3. DT on

    In addition. . .just read on a web site today that someone thinks it’s a sin to purchase a bottle of sparkling grape juice/apple cider with the foil top that looks like alcohol. Someone might see you. Yikes!

    Anyone else hear of things like this feel free to chime in. . .

  4. Dan Hodge on

    Growing up in a church with grandfathers who were pastors and a father who worked in the church and I never even knew until I was at a Memorial Day picnic when I was twenty years old that to call them “deviled eggs” was a problem. I never even thought that would ever have caused someone to think that I was an insincere Christian.

    I guess if you don’t want to hurt some weaker brother, don’t bring devil’s food cake to the church dinner!

  5. TJ on

    I got one for you…
    My dad was a youth pastor for 28 years. He developed this pet peeve about IBC Root Beer bottles. When they don’t have a label, from a distance, well you get the idea. Although, I don’t think it was an actual ‘conviction’ as much as it was annoyance with the guys in the youth group who would order them while on youth group activities and act like they were drunk in the restaurant.

  6. DT on

    No doubt some will misread or read into what I said and think I’m writing against people setting up barriers in their lives to protect them. I hope I communicated otherwise. I do think that a youth pastor has a right to get angry at his teens if they try to act drunk and such. The Bible says fools make a mockery of sin.

    The issue of alcohol itself is an entirely different topic. But let’s just realize that our Lord did not go out of His way to avoid being accused of being a drunk.

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