Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
It is a simple thing to feel overwhelmed by the tide of contrary thinking out there. The digital age, for all the good it can do, brings home rather more of the cacophony than I would like. Interestingly, cacophony includes the root word used in this morning’s verse and rendered evil in English. The instruction in this morning’s verse comes in two parts.
First, that I not be overcome (νικάω) by evil (κακός). The idea of being overcome (νικάω) might also be rendered conquered and the instruction be that I not allow myself to b conquered by evil. To add more color to it, the concept of evil (κακός) is fraught with meaning. The word can also mean of a bad nature – not such as it ought to be; of a mode of thinking, feeling, acting – base, wrong, wicked; troublesome, injurious, pernicious, destructive, baneful. So it is that I should not allow myself to be conquered by wrong-headed thinking or feelings that are contrary to the truth of things or bad behaviors or just plain destructive and injurious things in general. While this is good instruction, it wants an alternative. Thankfully, that alternative is the next piece of instruction.
Second, I am instructed to overcome (νικάω) evil (κακός) with good (ἀγαθός). In order to not be conquered by evil (κακός), I must conquer it with good (ἀγαθός). The word translated good can also mean of good constitution or nature; useful, salutary; good, pleasant, agreeable, joyful, happy; excellent, distinguished; upright, honorable. I am to conquer bad-natured things with good-natured things — thoughts, actions, words, and so on. I am to overcome wrong with upright; wicked with good; troublesome with pleasant; pernicious with honorable. Paul gives a similar instruction to the church at Philippi (Philippians 4:6-8).
What I am to do with this morning’s verse is pretty straightforward: I am to overcome; to conquer evil with good.