Of course, there are simplistic answers to these questions. Many people think that evil happens because “certain other people” are just born evil, and choose to do it. And quickly following that assertion is the claim that if we get rid of “those people,” then evil will go away with them.
But what do we say if one of “those people” is our beloved and exalted king?
In the first reading, King David, who is the epitome of the rightful use of power, succumbs to lust. Death of innocents quickly follows. In short, King David performs one evil act after another as he schemes to cover up an initial transgression with other transgressions even more hideous than the first. Can you hear that little voice inside you that says, “Yes, but I wouldn’t call it evil, per se. This is King David we’re talking about. Sin? Yes. Evil? Well, we’ve all lusted in one way or another, so to say that King David did evil with his initial act would basically say that we all do evil when we give in to lustful thoughts . . . ”
Indeed! Perhaps a more correct view of evil is that it perpetuates itself among humanity because it is an innate part of being human. With free choice comes the capability of succumbing to temptation, and therefore to doing evil. And that is true for ALL of us. Not “certain other people.”
So once we are past the idea that evil is like a diseased organ that can be removed from our presence through a simple surgical procedure, we can get to the real matter: we all harbor a capability to do evil, and the more we deny it, the more vulnerable we are to it.
How many of us REALLY know the evil that results from our sins? We never really get to see how each of our sins plays out. I’m afraid I don’t want to know. Perhaps denial is not the unwillingness to admit that we are sinners, but is instead our unwillingness to acknowledge the evil that results from our sins.
And the paradox that comes with human nature is that those who have the most power have the capability of doing the most evil. As we strive to climb the ladder of success, we actually increase our capability of doing greater evil. When I sin, people don’t die (at least I don’t think they do); when King David sins, people do.
Perhaps that is why, in the Gospel reading, Jesus compares the Kingdom of God to a mustard seed, which begins small and “becomes the largest of plants.” Perhaps He is giving us a model of benevolent leadership, where those in power put forth “large branches, so that birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.”
As two of those “birds of the sky” dwelling within the protection of King David, Bathsheba and her husband, Uriah, deserved better. Better than King David? That puts things into perspective, doesn’t it? Thank goodness that Lent is right around the corner!
Collaborative Ministry Office Guestbook