Humans Are Evil (Part 2)
Updated: Feb 27, 2020
The Harm in Believing a Lie
Believing that innate goodness lies within every human being does not seem like such a bad thing. In fact, modern culture teaches that the proliferation of this belief would make the world a better place. If we all just learned to see the best in people and operated out of the goodness of our hearts, nothing bad would ever happen in the world. However, the attractiveness of this belief, coupled with our own natural propensity to overestimate the cleanliness of our hearts, masks the inherent dangers of this view, both in our own lives, and in how we interact with the world around us.
The Harm to Us
If we fail to grasp the depths of human depravity, we will automatically overestimate our own goodness. Ephesians characterizes those who have not placed their faith in Jesus as dead, children of wrath, and followers of the devil. Jesus describes unbelieving Jews as children of the devil. Romans labels unbelievers as foolish idolaters, slaves to sin and death. As evidenced in Part 1, the accurate picture of the human heart is a bleak one. Despite this reality, there is a tendency to believe we are different than the rest of sinful humanity—that we are, somehow, good people.
This belief in our natural goodness creates a consistent victim mentality. If something goes wrong, it’s another person’s fault. If I act rudely, it’s because another person put me in a bad mood. If I steal, it’s because another person was hoarding resources I could use. If I do drugs and join gangs, it’s because I lacked proper role models and adequate parenting growing up. If I go into suffocating debt, it’s because the financial system is rigged against me.
While another person may have contributed to my bad mood, my financial situation, or my social setting, it is my own sinful heart that produced the actions. It is my own angry heart that produces rudeness. It is my own covetous heart that produces theft. It is my own unsatisfied, empty, selfish heart that produces addiction and unhealthy affiliations. James 1:15 argues that sin is produced by our own inward desires. Others are not responsible for our sins; we naturally originate sinful responses to external stimuli because of our inward condition.
Because we spend so much time blaming others, trusting in our innate goodness, we fail to understand our desperate need for an overhaul of our hearts. The Bible does not refer to us as good people in need of minor adjustments; it refers to us as broken people in need of complete restoration. Our hearts are unsalvageable—corrupted beyond repair. There is no 10-step program to a restored relationship with God, by which we can will ourselves and discipline ourselves to become righteous creatures. We desperately need a savior.
Until we understand the wickedness of our own hearts, we will never fully understand the gravity of the gospel. Christ died to set unrighteous, unworthy sinners free from the power of sin and death. We could never earn a right relationship with God; we could never work our way to heaven. Romans 5:8 says that Christ died for us while we were still sinners—while we were corrupt rebels bent on finding life apart from God. He laid down his life for us, so we could live with Him forever. Trusting in man’s goodness undercuts the very message of the gospel. The power of the cross is stripped away if man is innately righteous. We must grasp our own depravity so we can remember with amazement the moment in which Christ redeemed us—people not inherently worth redeeming.
The Harm to Others
As the belief in man’s innate goodness belittles the message of the gospel, our interactions with others will never produce eternal, positive results if we hold to that belief. We are not called to be kind for the sake of kindness, love for the sake of emotions, befriend for the sake of companionship, work for the sake of enrichment, give for the sake of improvement, or serve for the sake of upliftment; rather, we are called to do all things for the sake of the gospel.
In Matthew 28, Christ’s disciples are given the commission to make disciples—a task that extends to us today. The world does not need nicer, friendlier people with better morals; the world needs Jesus. Our friends and family members do not need gentle encouragements to improve; they need a total heart transformation. Our neighbors and coworkers do not need peace signs and platitudes; they need to be set free from the sin and death that reign in their lives. When we trust in the goodness of others, we offer advice for improvement that will never solve their actual problems. We address their issues with empty suggestions. We fail to provide them with effectual solutions. We give them hollow companionship, never communicating that which they need most.
On a societal level, we fail to respond to the world’s issues with the proper solution. We place all our hope in elected representatives, hoping their legislative agendas will solve the world’s problems, forgetting that laws and economies and foreign policies do not fix people’s hearts. We give to organizations we believe in, hoping their mission and methods will make the world a better place, forgetting that their operations can only solve external problems, not eternal positions. When we treat mankind as inherently good, we fail to meet the world around us with the only thing that can truly produce lasting, positive results.
While it may be attractive to believe in humanity’s goodness, that view is deceptively problematic. When we buy into a lie about the state of our hearts, we undermine the message of the gospel and leave our interactions with others devoid of eternal power. As counterintuitive as it may be, those around us need us to understand the depths of their depravity, so we can then introduce them to the One who died to make them new.
To continue to Part 3, click here.