Human Nature

To me, the Bible’s teaching on human nature provides one of the greatest indications of its authority. When God made humans, he made them in His own image, giving all people the capacity to express His extraordinary love and righteousness. God also gave humans free will and the ability to choose their own path. Unfortunately, man chose to turn his back on God and pursue his own desires, which allowed sin and its consequences to enter the world. As a result, man’s heart became deceitful,1 his mind became hostile towards God,2 and all people became sinners.3 The Bible tells us that we are born with a sinful nature,4 that our desires are never satisfied,5 and that this leads to contentions, strife, and wars.6 (For additional teachings, please refer to the sampling of scriptures in the footnote below.7)

What makes the Bible’s teaching so amazing is that it’s so readily supported by people’s behavior, yet most people completely deny it.  This is truly fascinating.  People are always asking for scientific proof of the Bible’s claims – something that is observable, consistent and repeatable.  To me, human nature and behavior are as predictably bad as the force of gravity is observable in everyday life.  Want evidence?  Consider the following.

War, Strife and Murder

I’ve seen estimates ranging from 188,000,000 to 262,000,000 for the number of people killed in the 20th century by war, homicide, genocide and dictators.8  This number doesn’t even consider all the people who were affected by these deaths (friends, relatives, loved ones) nor does it account for all the people who were hurt by others but didn’t die.  The Washington Post called the past century “a hundred years of bloody warfare” while outlining its “many episodes” of genocide and other crimes against humanity.9 Here are some more statistics to consider.

  • The Center for Systemic Peace notes that there have been 324 episodes of major armed conflict in the world between 1946 and 2014 (35 of them ongoing).10
  • The Global Terrorism Database cites over 140,000 incidents of terrorism from 1970 to 2014.11
  • The United Nation’s Children Fund notes that there were 55 civil wars worldwide between 1990 and 2004.12
  • 60 million people around the world are currently displaced due to war, conflict and persecution – the highest number in history.13
  • According to the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM), the United States had elite special forces deployed in 134 countries in 2013.14

As of late summer 2015, among other things, unrest has spread throughout much of the Middle East including the implosions of Syria, Libya, Iraq, and Yemen; over half of Syria’s entire population has been displaced due to its civil war; the Islamic State is trying to trigger a global conflict by killing what seems like everyone they come across; North Korea continues to oppress and starve its people, and threaten nuclear attacks; many believe Iran will continue to sponsor terrorism and develop nuclear weapons despite the pending nuclear deal; the United States has been involved in Iraq and Afghanistan for over a decade; and the Russians continue to escalate the conflict in the Ukraine, and seem to be getting involved in Syria.

This has all happened during a period when humans were supposedly more knowledgeable and enlightened than at any time in the past. In a letter to the early church at Rome, the apostle Paul wrote, “[People] are quick to commit murder. Wherever they go, destruction and misery follow them. They do not know what true peace is.”15 Sadly, his words ring truer today than ever.

Greed

Proverbs 27:20 says, “Human desire is never satisfied.”16 Let’s consider America for a moment. We live in the wealthiest country on the planet and enjoy, by far, the highest standard of living. One could argue that we should have reached a point long ago where we don’t need any more stuff. But the evidence indicates otherwise. Among other things, total U.S. consumer debt reached an all-time high of $3.33 trillion as of January, 2015;17 our houses are bigger than ever (new homes averaged 2,600 square feet in size in 2013 versus 1,725 SF in 1983 – which is even bigger than during the housing bubble years18); and our national debt is so bad that many economists believe our country is broke. The official U.S. government debt is $15.8 trillion and climbing, and that figure doesn’t even include things like Social Security and Medicare.19 When these and other factors are taken into account, some estimate that government debt exceeds $200 trillion.20 These numbers are simply astounding. One would have thought that the biggest economic collapse since the Great Depression would have sobered us up, but I’ve seen little evidence of that. Stories about Wall Street’s resurgent excesses,21 the scandalous mal-distribution of wealth in America,22 and our growing narcissism abound.23 The fact that the richest country in the world is also the world’s biggest debtor is clear proof that human desire, indeed, is never satisfied.

Porn

An April, 2012 ExtremeTech online article reports that, “It’s probably not unrealistic to say that porn makes up 30% of the total data transferred across the internet.”24 This figure was later confirmed by a porn industry insider who said, “On balance, I think [that] report is OK.”25 The implications of this statement are truly staggering, given that over 31 exabytes of data (1 billion gigabytes) passed over the Internet every month in 2013.26 The ExtremeTech reporter closed his story by writing, “The Internet really is for porn.”27 It would seem so.

There are many other disturbing Internet porn statistics, like estimates that 12% of all Web sites (over 24 million) are pornographic;28 there are 116,000 searches for “child pornography” per day;29 the average age at which a child first sees porn is 11;30 and that 90% of children between the ages of 8 and 16 have viewed pornography.31 As if this weren’t bad enough, an April, 2013 article on DailyMail.com drove the point home further.32 The article described a sex educator’s encounter with 20 boys and girls, ages 13-to-14, in England. When asked to write a list of sexual terms they know from A through Z, every single one of them wrote “anal” for the letter A. It turns out that every child in the group had seen the act of sodomy in an online video. The young teens went on to talk about things like bestiality and scenes “too graphic to describe in a family magazine.” At one point, the author wrote, “The true stories of boys I met whose lives had been totally taken over by porn not only moved me to tears but also made me incredibly angry that this is happening to our children. And the looks of revulsion on those poor girl’s faces in the playground enraged me. I feel as if an entire generation’s sexuality has been hijacked by grotesque online porn.”

When I first wrote this section several years ago, I noted how publisher Judith Regan talks about the “porno-ization” of our culture. “If you watch every single thing going on out there in the popular culture, you will see females, scantily clad, implanted, dressed up like hookers, porn stars, and so on – and that this very acceptable.”33 (Judith’s former company – ReganBooks, a division of Harper Collins – recently published a book entitled “How To Make Love Like A Porn Star.”) Photographer Timothy Greenfield-Sanders was shocked when there was intense competition to publish his book of porn star photos. Mainstream publishers called him, not the normal him chasing publishers. He called this “surreal” and said “there was a bidding war.”34 Porn production firms like Flynt Enterprises employ major accounting, law and legal firms, and no one blinks an eye. Major corporations like GM (which owns DirecTV), big telecom and cable providers (like SBC and Comcast), and all major hotel chains (like Marriott and Hilton) make money when porn is sold to their customers. It’s high-profit-margin business that they gladly accept without making a lot of noise. Clearly, what was once private, unthinkable, taboo and completely unacceptable has become commonplace, available for all to see, and sadly mainstream. Long ago, the apostle Paul wrote, “When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, your lives will produce these evil results: sexual immorality, impure thoughts [and] eagerness for lustful pleasure…”35 How true.

Entertainment

Nothing’s shocking anymore.  As a society, the United States has become so accustomed to seeing and hearing about horrific, immoral and crazy things that we’re fast becoming numb to it all.  A Washington Post article summarizes, “Take any medium or art form – literature, film, TV, music, political discourse – and chances are you’ll find that it has become more intense, more extreme, more desperate to provoke a reaction from a desensitized audience.”36  The author calls this the “Sledgehammer Effect.”  Need proof?  Just turn on the TV and watch the litany of funk we call entertainment.  Shows like Jerry Springer, Jersey Shore, Real Housewives, The Maury Povich Show, and countless others are designed to shock and titillate audiences while belittling and degrading people. A World’s Dumbest Partiers episode that aired a few years back showed a video of a young man vomiting on a naked stripper’s crotch while his mother and friends looked on, some of them cheering. The content in shows like South Park, Louie, and Man Seeking Woman would have shocked people not long ago, yet they barely elicit a yawn these days. I recently landed on an episode of Man Seeking Woman that featured a “penis monster” that was indescribably disgusting. 

Movies are even worse.  Joel Achenbach writes “…the sledgehammer has its ultimate source in Hollywood…  Sledgehammer movie directors give us protracted rape scenes, dead children galore, vast armies of Orcs storming castles, [and] space monsters devouring human flesh the way fat kids eat Doritos.”37  Violent R-rated movies like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre air at all hours of the day on TV with scant editing so we can watch people repeatedly get ripped or sawed in half.  What makes matters worse is that America is exporting all of this crap to the rest of the world.  While it’s true that people have reacted with shock to books and entertainment throughout the ages, there’s no denying that the volume, pervasiveness and extreme nature of what’s out there today is without equal – and it’s picking up steam.  Shortly after the creation account described in the book of Genesis, Moses wrote that violence, depravity and corruption were everywhere on earth.38  This has been the case throughout history, and is just as true today as ever.

Summary

I could go on, but I won’t.  I will, though, ask you to consider your own daily behavior and thoughts.  Are you offended by your neighbors, engaged in political battles at work, tempted to stretch the truth at tax time, bickering with your loved ones, blowing off people who have asked for your help, cursing too much, eyeing your neighbor’s wife or married coworker, gossiping, etc.?  These things (and uncountable others) represent sin in action.

Now consider the times you’ve wanted to do the right thing and didn’t?  Have you ever tried to change a bad behavior/habit only to immediately fall back into it?  The apostle Paul wrote to the Romans about this phenomenon nearly 2,000 years ago.  “…I really want to do what is right, but I don’t do it.  Instead, I do the very thing I hate… When I want to do good, I don’t.  And when I try not to do wrong, I do it anyway… Oh, what a miserable person I am!  Who will free me from this life dominated by sin?  …the answer is in Jesus Christ.”  (Romans 7:15,19,24-25)

The Bible nails human nature.  But it doesn’t stop there.  Its message is incredibly encouraging.  Despite the fact that we’re sinful and unable to change on our own, God is willing to forgive our sins, give us good standing in His sight, and help us overcome our sin if we’ll only let him.  We’ll discuss how this works later on.

– – –

  1. Jeremiah 17:9
  2. Romans 8:7
  3. Romans 3:9-12
  4. Ephesians 2:3; Psalm 51:5; Genesis 8:21
  5. Proverbs 27:20
  6. James 4:1-3
  7. Genesis 6:5,11; 2 Chronicles 7:30,36; Psalm 53:3; Ecclesiastes 3:18; Isaiah 64:6; Matthew 15:19; Mark 7:20-23; John 2:24-25; Romans 8:7; Colossians 3:5; 2 Timothy 3:2-6
  8. Figures gleaned from two Web sources: http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/welcome.html; and http://necrometrics.com/all20c.htm.
  9. David Bosco, Crime of Crimes. Washington Post, March 6, 2005, Page B1.
  10. http://www.systemicpeace.org/warlist/warlist.htm
  11. http://www.start.umd.edu/gtd/about/
  12. Celia W. Dugger, UNICEF Says a Billion Children Now Suffer Deprivation Worldwide. The New York Times, December 10, 2004
  13. http://www.newsweek.com/syrian-refugees-all-you-need-know-373475
  14. http://www.thenation.com/article/americas-secret-war-134-countries/
  15. Romans 3:15-17 – New Living Translation
  16. New Living Translation
  17. http://www.creditcards.com/credit-card-news/credit-card-debt-statistics-1276.php
  18. http://money.cnn.com/2014/06/04/real_estate/american-home-size/.
  19. http://www.forbes.com/sites/mikepatton/2012/07/23/is-america-bankrupt/.
  20. http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2013-09-11/lawrence-kotlikoff-us-fiscal-gap-200-trillion-our-country-broke.
  21. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/11/24/wall-street-excess-is-back_n_788043.html.
  22. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/26/opinion/26herbert.html?_r=1&ref=bobherbert.
  23. Jennifer Senior, Me the People. New York Magazine, November 8, 2010, page 28
  24. http://www.extremetech.com/computing/123929-just-how-big-are-porn-sites/2
  25. http://www.xbiz.com/news/146703.
  26. http://www.cisco.com/c/en/us/solutions/service-provider/visual-networking-index-vni/index.html.
  27. http://www.extremetech.com/computing/123929-just-how-big-are-porn-sites/2.
  28. http://www.dailyinfographic.com/the-stats-on-internet-pornography-infographic.
  29. Ibid.
  30. Ibid.
  31. http://erlc.com/issues/quick-facts/por/.
  32. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2432591/Porn-pernicious-threat-facing-children-today-By-ex-lads-mag-editor-MARTIN-DAUBNEY.html.
  33. Quote from January 5, 2006 episode of 60 Minutes.
  34. Ibid.
  35. Galatians 5:19, New Living Translation.
  36. Joel Achenbach, Numb Nation.  Washington Post, April 1, 2004, page C1.
  37. Ibid, page C4.
  38. Genesis 6:5 – New Living Translation.