Appearance of evil

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

This verse is often used to discourage Christians from doing anything that might appear sinful to another person. For example, going to movies is discouraged because someone seeing you go into the movie house might assume you are going to watch the R-rated movie rather than the G-rated movie. Also, drinking root beer from a brown bottle tucked inside a paper bag is discouraged because someone might think you are drinking beer. These are some of the things I’ve heard this verse used to discourage.

I’ve also often heard there is a distinction between the words evil and wicked. Wicked is sin, but evil is sin with harm’s intent. In other words, all sin is wicked, but it is only evil when you intend to harm another. If I get angry and throw a plate against a wall, that is wicked. If I get angry and throw the plate at the person who raised my ire, that is evil. I’m not going to debate that distinction here, but I want to apply that distinction to the verse above. If evil really means sin with harm’s intent, then the verse above cannot be used to discourage movie house attendance or root beer drinking, because those activities are not done with the intent to harm someone. If we are to be consistent in our theology, then we cannot teach the distinction between wicked and evil and also use the verse above to discourage activities based on how someone may perceive them. That would be inconsistent and confusing.

For a better understanding of what the verse really means, read The Real Meaning of 1 Thessalonians 5:22.

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One Response to “Appearance of evil”


  1. I have been able to put a lot of former IFB views into proper perspective, but this one verse I really do struggle with. I will certainly have to read Bob’s blog when I get a chance.


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