“What is wrong with the world?” I remember hearing a story about a newspaper many years ago who surveyed many notable authors, thinkers and philosophers and proposed this question. After receiving scores of responses to which many were lengthy indeed, one stood out from the rest. It read:
G.K. Chesterton was a Catholic author and Theologian and a man who understood that the ills of the world, are not external but rather lie within the human heart. Regardless of politicizing issues such as climate change, the need for more education or even building a huge wall along the Southern border, the fact remains that our biggest problem is us. Now some of you might be thinking “How can you say that? People are generally good.” Let me respond firstly by pointing out that the assertion that was just presented is an ontological one, or a statement on “being”. So the question that is raised is “Are people good at a fundamental level?” If we were honest, the answer is pretty clear.
Now I love the Bible. And I say that not because I am a pastor. But I do love the Scriptures because they are rooted in reality and reveal the condition of the human heart. You could say, that the Bible confirms already what I know about myself. Like G.K. Chesterton, I know the condition of my heart and it’s not a good one. But the same goes for all of us, we have all said or done things that were certainly not good, but if we were to look deeper, our very own thought-life bears witness against us and our own perceived “goodness”. Jesus himself says that “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander”(Matt. 15:19). Please note, that Jesus is not talking about the blood pumping organ in the center of your chest, rather he is talking about the very essence of your person. Christ is communicating that the problem of evil is not because of a lack of education or societal condition, it is however an internal malady of the person. Our own moral conscience reveals this truth (Romans 1:15). Have you ever felt guilty for something you said or thought about? Have you ever felt shame for something you did? Of course you have. In fact, if I were to somehow figure out a way to record all the evil that you think about on a daily basis, put it on a DVD and play it before family, friends and the community, you would either frantically use any method to stop me or you would leave in shame, never to show your face again. It is true, because if I were in that situation I would do the same thing and together we know that we have a problem.
“The heart is deceitfully wicked, who can understand it?” Jeremiah 17:9 says and so because of that, people do not just vacillate between good and evil, they are in fact totally depraved. Now this does not mean that people cannot do some good. For example, donating food to the local food bank, helping the elderly across the street and even traveling thousands of miles to dig a well in Africa are all good things. But again the issue is who are, at a fundamental level, like a bramble bush can provide some bit of shade from the sun, it is still a bramble bush and really not a life giving plant.
Admittedly so, this week’s column has been a bit heavy. Talking about the condition of man is always a hard topic to speak on, because at times we do not think of ourselves as really that bad. So when it is pointed out to us, it is shocking and at times, offensive. However, it is important for us to look at our condition when it comes to defining our worldview, because the problem is identified. It is not an issue of politics, the economy or education that is what is wrong with the world. It is us. That realization, though negative, shapes our worldview because now we seek a solution to our problem. In effect, the bad news points us to the Good News and the ultimate hope for us, transformation. Real change can happen, and we will be diving into that wondrous reality next time.