First of all, God does not cause evil. Evil is a result of two major forces: The first force is a being named Satan. There is a spiritual being who is the enemy of mankind. He is malevolent, very powerful, and he wants to destroy God, so he seeks to destroy men and women, who are made in the image of God (see Genesis 1:26). Much of the trouble that is in the world is a direct result of the evil that Satan himself causes.
The second source of evil is the human heart. God knows that there is a great deal of evil lurking in men’s hearts. Because of the evil in their hearts, they hurt one another; and we have war, crime, injustice, racism, and all sorts of pain and heartbreak.
There is evil, then, because of Satan and because of man’s nature–and evil has a tendency to multiply itself. The more evil men there are, the more society as a whole begins to take on an evil nature. If God did not give men the chance to be evil, there would be no freedom. What would happen if every time a man cursed God his tongue rotted out? God could do that, but then He would be ruling the universe through fear. God is not a dictator. He wants men to choose to love and serve Him, and to do what is good. The other side of that choice is that men may decide not to serve God, and to do what is evil. Giving man the freedom to choose between good and evil has been God’s policy since He created the first man, Adam.
Adam was what we call the “federal head” of mankind. Just as a decision by the Prime Minister of our country can have an impact upon all the country’s citizens, so the decision that Adam made affects all of humankind. We are all tainted by his original sin. When Adam disobeyed God, death came not only to humanity but also to the animals, the plants, and the earth as a whole. From that moment on, man has had to sweat and slave and strain to survive. The fall of Adam introduced pain and suffering into the world, as Genesis 3 details.
A few short generations after Adam, the Bible records that men had given themselves up almost entirely to evil (see Genesis 6:5). That illustrates how fast evil spreads and how it progresses from generation to generation. The human race is linked together in such a way that we are able to draw upon the accumulated wisdom and blessings of those who have lived before us, but we also receive an inheritance from their curses and their evil.
In the beginning, Adam was morally in neutral. He was able to choose to sin–and he was able to choose not to sin. Adam’s sin predisposed all of his descendants toward evil. Therefore, we all have a tendency that pulls us toward sin.
Although we have a predisposition toward sin and evil, we can turn away from sin and turn toward God. God wants us to resist evil. He is willing to help us in the battle. But it is a hard one. Even Jesus Christ Himself was genuinely tempted to sin. It is indeed regrettable that there is evil in the world. The real news, though, is that there is a way to overcome evil. And that way is through the Son of God–Jesus Christ.