Sometimes, Choosing the Lesser of Two Evils is the Right Thing to Do

These are perilous times, and we’ve got difficult choices to make.

By Matt Barber Published on August 14, 2016

You may have seen the meme come across your social media feeds. It’s a quote by the fiery preacher and great 19th-century theologian Charles Spurgeon: “Of two evils, choose neither.”

I get it. I love reading old Spurgeon sermons and very much appreciate his godly wisdom. I’ve actually posted this quote on my own social media and felt pretty stinkin’ self-righteous about it.

Then it occurred to me. Is it really that simple? Is “choosing neither of two evils” always the right choice? Is it always the wise choice? Is it always the moral choice? What if, God forbid, something like this happened: Let’s say that devout Muslims capture you and your family, hold a gun to your head and say, “You have one of two choices: We will either behead your children, or, alternatively, we will cut off your foot, patch you up and send you hobbling along your way. Choose one. If you refuse to choose, we will choose for you.”

That’s evil. Both choices are evil. Would you “choose the lesser of two evils,” or, as Spurgeon suggests, would you “choose neither,” thereby sealing your fate and that of your children?

“But that’s an unfair analogy!” you say.

OK, I disagree, but let’s try another one.

“Imagine our two families are miles from land in a sinking boat,” writes pastor John Barber (no relation) at The Aquila Report. “Suddenly, out of the mist, come two boats to save us. One is captained by an adulterer; the other is captained by a thief. Which boat will you get into? You say, ‘Neither one. I’m waiting for the evangelical boat which is captained by a devout Christian who will end abortion.’ I say, ‘You’re kidding, right?’ You reply, ‘Both these guys are reprobates and I’m not going to choose between two evils.’”

To expand on pastor Barber’s analogy, let’s say that the boat with the thief is worse than first thought. As it approaches we immediately discover that it’s crawling with pirates and that if we come on board, our doom is assured. This certainly limits our options, doesn’t it? What now? Does getting on board with the adulterer mean we support adultery, or does it simply mean that, despite his moral failings, we believe he’s better equipped to get us to safety?

Indeed, we are on a fast-sinking boat in shark-infested waters, and we’re miles from shore with but two boats from which to choose. One of those boats is captained by a thief and full of pirates. The other boat, while certainly imperfect and captained by a fallen, sinful man, at least offers some chance at rescue.

“But there’s a third choice!” you say.

Sure, there may be a few pieces of driftwood floating about that represent options three, four or five, but we all know that a piece of driftwood has little chance of saving our families — especially with hungry sharks circling. You may choose a piece of driftwood out of principle, but are you willing to stake the lives of your family on what you perceive as the principled stand?

Doesn’t seem that principled to me.

These are perilous times, and we’ve got difficult choices to make. When we’re sinking, sometimes God sends us a boat with a reprobate at the helm. He has a history of doing quite a lot with reprobates.

Will He this time? God only knows.

Pray hard. And then pick your boat.


Matt Barber is founder and editor-in chief of He is author of Hating Jesus: The American Left’s War on Christianity, a columnist, a cultural analyst and an attorney concentrating in constitutional law. Having retired as an undefeated heavyweight professional boxer, Matt has taken his fight from the ring to the culture war. Follow Matt on Twitter: @jmattbarber.

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  • VL

    Being led by the Spirit is always the right thing to do. God knows his package and plans for it, its traveling companions and happenings to go on in the world. If you keep thinking about Trump in general, because of Mike Pence, because of Cabinet picks, because of Supreme Court picks, because of … Hey, aren’t you on your way to a multiplicity of reasons to vote for him? Now, how does it settle as to peace? You may have to stop yelling and calm yourself down at this point, but once you have regained the citadel, how does it respond in the innermost chamber to voting for Trump? I see and feel all the same that arises over a loathsome lot of stuff. BUT I am not LED by what I see and feel and think, but by what I believe and perceive. You?

    BTW, when’s the last time a political candidate – for the Presidency – met at least twice with a key group of Christian leaders in just a few months, and credits what they say?

    • SophieA

      Well said. Thank you. I was deceived into voting for Jimmy Carter as an ignorant 18 year old. I shall never be led by a cup of peanuts ever again even offered by my pastor at a graduation banquet. (Not to reference elephants and GOP, but because Carter was known as a peanut farmer.)

    • Really

      Since clinton met with some in order to get votes, just the other day. Not that trump would ever do that, or tell those Christian leaders they need to get people out to vote, for him, of course.

      • VL

        Trump formed a council among the evangelicals. He’s followed up at least once now. Of course, he wants their vote! When he asked them for it and their endorsement, they explained they can’t because they would lose their tax exempt status. As a result of his understanding that, repealing the Johnson amendment which imposed that restriction was made a part of the Republican platform at the Convention. FACT. He said we need their voice. Hey, he gave James Robison an hour and a half and listened the whole time when he first met with the group in June. That’s of course unusual for him. Clinton is merely trying to cover that “base.” No comparison. Trump has been told the issues, such as legislation in the works to make it illegal to preach certain portions of scripture, like the ones in Romans 1 describing homosexuality. It’s about the strongest response from a candidate, certainly a national one, for faith based concerns in quite a while.

  • This was meant as a joke right? The first analogy is easy. You sacrifice your foot. Self sacrifice is good in and of itself. No greater love is there when someone lays out their life for a loved one. Voting for Trump is hardly self sacrifice.

    The second analogy is just as easy. You get on the safest boat. This man’s infidelity and lack of integrity has no bearing on being the captain of a boat. Being captain of a boat is hardly comparable to running for president. Voting for Trump is hardly saving my family from sharks.

    A more appropriate analogy is being stuck in a sinking boat and trying to plug the leak. One person says that making the hole bigger will work. The other agrees. One wants a very large hole and the other has no discernable position on how much larger the hole should be made

    Not voting for Trump is notbeing “self righteous”. Not voting for Trump is being principled and supporting righteousness.

    Choosing to vote Trump is condoning and actively participating in the decline of our society. Our country is going further down the drain of hedonistic decadence. Trump being our response to Hillary is symptomatic of the speeding up of this descent. Now is not the time to go along with the madness convincing yourself of your own righteousness by choosing a “lesser” evil. I choose to stick with what the Bible teaches.

    If you can’t see that then I can’t help you.

    • VL

      Curious as to where you intend to place your vote.

      Given the parameters and dynamics you insist upon, you yourself cannot be helped.

      Wonder how it would have worked out had Israel’s leaders presented their checklist concerning Cyrus’ eligibility for administrative use at that period in their history. Sorry, staying right here, sir; you are not a spotless lamb.

      • I pray for Trump every night. I pray for God to give him wisdom and guidance. I pray for the Word to invade Trump’s heart and mind.

        As for the biblical verses that information my decision (understand that I am thinking of Trump’s character when reading these):

        Titus 3:9

        1 Thessalonians 4:11-12

        Matthew 6:24

        Proverbs 14:34

        Leviticus 19:18

        2 Timothy 2:24-25

        Psalm 146:3

        There are more, but my point is made. I should add that his character, his words, actions, and his wavering stances on every issue are considered. By this I am referring to his immoral (sexual and non) past, his words regarding not seeing the need for forgiveness or repentance, claiming that he’s our “champion”, slander against his political enemies (if the accusations are true this is fine, but I suppose it’s not slander in those instances) and the list goes on and on

        If he does win I will continue to pray for him. To be honest, I would be relieved. He is unquestionably a better choice than Hillary, but I won’t dirty my hands for him. I regret that we didnt used this moment to create a viable third party.

  • #EpluribusAwesome

    The choice is ALWAYS the lesser of two evils, since all men are sinful (evil) in some degree. If you love your country, you have an obligation to keep the worst person out. Most people know very little about the actual issues, that is part of the problem too, and the fact that the media cannot be trusted makes it even more difficult. So I can see why many are confused.

  • Really

    Okay, how much longer are Christians, who crucify clinton over her evil, going to ignore the ties between Trump, Manafort, Rupert Murdoch of the trump super pac’s ex-wife, and ivanka, who is currently vacationing and visiting in Croatia. What, is she getting instructions to bring back to trump from putin?

    Just stop it! This is just the tip of the iceberg, it’s been floating around for weeks while the main stream media ignores it, and Christians champion trump as the lesser of two evils – NOT!

    • VL

      Ivanka’s mother – thus some of her relatives – are from the Croatia part of the world – yes. The oldest son can speak Czech since his grandfather Milos lived with them for a while. She may be getting old family recipes. I’m not nervous. Hey, if you think the media ignores anything they could use against Trump, Think Again!

  • Don Hogue

    Matt, I love you and respect you and on this issue I don’t agree with you.

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