One of the pastors at my church made this statement: “If you don’t believe in the depravity of mankind, then go down the hall and sit in on the 2 year old Sunday school class for awhile.” The congregation laughed when he said it. My first thought was, “What exactly is depravity?” I had heard the word thrown around in my conservative church home growing up, but the problem with many of those loyal church words is that we don’t know what they even mean. I knew depravity was not a good thing and it probably had to do with sin because my church was totally into teaching about all the things that we were NOT allowed to do in this life. We were the “Church of Don’t.” Don’t have sex, don’t drink alcohol, don’t dance, don’t bother others with your problems at church, etc. So we would all come together on Sunday mornings and celebrate the fact that we had spent a week doing nothing. I assumed depravity had to do with people that went out and did things during the week. I Googled it and the definition was as follows: “Marked by corruption or evil.”
How are two year olds “marked by corruption or evil,” I thought to myself. Then I met a two year old and it all made sense. Attempting to play with this young chap was a learning experience for me. Our playtime began with him throwing a temper tantrum complete with spitting, red face, screaming, kicking, hitting, crying, throwing things, etc. The reason for this outburst? The pajamas he wanted to wear were dirty and he had to wear another set. In about 60 seconds after the temper tantrum was over and he had completely forgotten what he was upset about, play resumed. It involved him picking up one of his 3700 toys and throwing it around. I thought I would join in and select a toy to play with as well. I selected my toy, a hammer than makes construction noise when it hits something. Immediately, crying resumed as the hammer was violently yanked from my hands followed by a stern eye to eye glare from the 2 year old with the following statement, “MINE!” He took the hammer and laid it on the floor and went on playing with his other toys. I was speechless. It was funny in a certain twisted sense, but so irrational in another.
The depravity of mankind now made more sense to me. I have always wondered why sin was so natural for me. The question was posed to me in college: “Why do we sin so easily?” The simple answer is that sin if fun. I like doing things that I like to do. Many thoughts/activities/attitudes that are not good for me are still fun to do. From the day we are born we encounter sin and selfishness. A person trained by sinners is likely to be a sinner himself. Now for you Original Sin proponents and opponents this discussion is not that discussion. I’m not discussing whether we are born sinful or not. I’m simply stating that from birth, human beings want what they want when they want it. I’m hungry, I want my bottle NOW! I’m angry so I’m going to hit you because it makes me feel better NOW! Perhaps sin and selfishness are synonymous. Try to think of a sin that does not stem from selfishness. It’s nearly impossible to do.
Thus, from early in life we have a selfish nature. The psychology world calls it egocentric. The layperson calls it self-centered. Selfish ambition is something that we are in conflict with our entire lives. At 2 years old it’s a plastic hammer that makes construction sounds and a set of Spiderman sleepwear. At 35 it’s a spouse that leaves the marriage due to disinterest with the same old husband or wife. At 50 it’s more money and upward mobility in the company. At 65 it manifest itself as jealousy over not retiring with as much stuff as the neighbor or the coworker.
King David felt it when he wrote in Psalm 51: 3-5 NIV:
3 “For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you are proved right when you speak
and justified when you judge.
5 Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.”
What a depressing passage of scripture. Just reading these verses does not give one a sense of hope in overcoming this fallenness that we live in. Luckily, the Hebrew Bible, our Old Testament is not the end of the story.
Paul writes in Romans 3:21-24 NIV:
“But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”
The word “justify” in this passage is key. Justify is an old carpentry term. It means to line something up. From early on in our lives we have been out of line. We are incapable of staying inside the lines that God has drawn for us. It’s only through Jesus Christ that we are put back in line, straightened up, made right, justified.
These are not the end
Only through Christ Jesus