See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil

It is said that the original meaning of the proverb “See no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil” is that one should avoid involvement in all evil. But over time, the phrase has come to describe the idea of turning a blind eye to wrong or ignoring bad behavior by pretending not to see or hear it.  It is this meaning about which we now speak.

While it is true that we cannot “right every wrong,” can Christians turn a blind eye to wrongs and evil?  What does the Bible say?

If sinned against

In Matthew 18:15, Jesus taught His disciples that if a brother sins against you, you should first go to him for the purpose to restore him.  Wrong has been done, and children of God cannot just ignore it or pretend it does not exist.  Ignoring it accomplishes nothing toward your reconciliation and his restoration to God.

If persecuted

When you are spitefully used or persecuted, Jesus did not say pretend it did not happen.  Jesus said there’s something for you to do, and that something is not retaliation.  Jesus said pray for them (Matthew 5:44b).

If your brother is overtaken

If your brother is overtaken in a trespass, we are not simply to ignore the sin and his condition in that sin.  Instead, “you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted” (Galatians 6:1).  Duty and love compels us to act.

In relation to works of darkness

Paul instructs, “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them” (Ephesians 5:11).  Certainly to have no participation in evil requires recognizing and identifying the evil.  And going a step further, Paul instructs saints to expose or reprove the evil, and this is accomplished in both our words and in our living.  We’re not to turn a blind eye to the evil works of darkness. 

Idolatry & false worship

When Paul came to Athens, he saw that the city was given over to idols.  He did not pretend the evil did not exist.  Instead, his spirit was provoked within him – he was bothered – and so he reasoned in both the synagogue and the marketplace and even spoke publicly at Mars Hill about their idolatry (Acts 17:16-34).  Instead of pretending we know nothing about it, we should be willing to reason with people involved in false worship.

If someone is suffering

In the parable of the good Samaritan (Luke 10), a man fell among thieves, was stripped of his clothing and wounded, and left half dead.  Two men saw the man’s pitiful condition but passed by on the other side.  But the Samaritan man did the needful and cared for the injured man.  He did not ignore him, and he is commended.  Jesus teaches us that we must be neighbor to those who are in need.  We must not pretend we do not see evil or the results of it.

There are many other examples.  Let us be reminded that Christians are to be neither blind to wrongs nor simply spectators to evil.  God calls upon His people to be active, not quiet and indifferent.

                         -Larry Jones