Vine’s: “labour, toil, denotes evil that causes labour, pain, sorrow, malignant evil.”
Thayer’s: “1. Full of labors, annoyances, hardships… 2. Bad, of a bad nature or condition… b. in an ethical sense, evil, wicked, bad.”
Wherever there is evil, there is pain and sorrow. Though the one perpetrating the wickedness may be rejoicing, others are not. And, truth be told, the sinner is often in the quiet and isolated times filled with pain. It makes sense then that we strive to avoid evil.
Evil ultimately is the work of the devil. He is described in the Bible as the “wicked one,” poneros (Matt. 13:19). He is the one that tempted the first couple and continues to do so today. Satan’s goal is to bring hardship, pain, and sorrow on God’s creation, namely man.
The way the devil gets to us is through the heart (Heb. 3:12). It is out of the heart that wickedness comes, “murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies” (Matt. 15:19). It is manifest in three basic ways; thoughts (Matt. 9:4), words (Matt. 5:11), deeds (Jn. 3:19). When any of these is in our life, we are condemned before God.
What makes something evil? Take the example of Israel offering insufficient sacrifices to God. In Malachi 1:8, God told the people their sacrifices were “evil” because they did not offer what He commanded. They were the right people, doing the right thing, at the right place, and at the right time. The only thing that differed, as far as noted in the account, was they did not offer the right type of animals. The people departed from God’s word. That’s what made their actions evil.
When our thoughts, words, or deeds transgress the Gospel of Christ, they are evil. This can be so even though we think we are doing something acceptable. Jesus told the parable of the talents of money to give us an idea about the judgment (Matt. 25:14-30). The one-talent servant explained his action of burying the talent in terms of faithfully serving his master (Matt. 25:24, 25). His master had another view of it. He said, “You wicked (poneros) and lazy servant…” (Matt. 25:26). This servant was cast “into outer darkness.” Our thoughts, words, and deeds need to adhere to the law of Christ lest we be cast into outer darkness.
God commands us to “abhor evil” (Rom. 12:9). We should not find pleasure in it, laugh at it or with it, condone it, embrace it, or get comfortable with it. Wickedness ought to disgust us.
God has given us the ability to combat evil; His armor (Eph. 6:10-18). When we put it on, we can withstand the “evil day” and “quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one” (Eph. 6:13, 16). As we utilize the armor given by God, including His word, we will gain strength to resist sin and develop an attitude of abhorrence toward it.