Nowadays we don’t want to say that someone is good or bad. Instead, we have new terms that we use, politically correct terminology. There was a time when someone did something wrong and it was identified as such. But now we say that it wasn’t really their fault. It was a sickness, a disease, or a syndrome that made them do what they did. They are not responsible for their own actions.
That is the trend in modern culture today. We are never responsible for what we do. If we have trouble at home, the trouble is with our parents. If we have trouble at work, the problem is our boss or coworkers. If we have problems at school, the problem is our teacher. If we have trouble with life in general, it is because we were raised in a dysfunctional family. We say we wouldn’t have done something if so-and-so had not done thus-and-so first. And maybe we shouldn’t have done that, but someone else is just as bad, if not worse.
We have a million and one excuses to pardon our wrong behavior. And we won’t even use the proper terms for things anymore. In the old days when people told lies, they were called liars. If people were lazy, they were called bums. If they were drinking all the time, they were called drunks.
But now we have new terms, such as these, which actually have been used in courts of law. Lying has been described as “ethically disoriented” or “differently honest.” Terms for laziness are “motivationally dispossessed” or “non-goal-oriented.” A drunk is “chemically inconvenienced” or “sobriety deprived.” Serial killers have been described as “socially misaligned” or as someone with “difficult-to-meet needs.”
Maybe we should rewrite the Ten Commandments for the 21st century. Instead of “You shall not murder,” we could say, “You shall not be socially misaligned or a person with difficult-to-meet needs.”
Instead of “You shall shall not steal,” it could be, “You shall not be a nontraditional shopper.”
“You shall not commit adultery,” could be changed to “You shall not be sexually dysfunctional” or “You shall not engage in consensual nonmonogamy.”
Of course, such an idea is ridiculous. We have to come to the point where we call sin what it really is. We also need to recognize an important truth about ourselves. In reality, the Bible doesn’t tell us that humanity is basically good; it teaches the very opposite. It teaches that humanity is basically bad.
Some would say we are not that bad, that we are just a product of our environment or our upbringing or our personal history or whatever. But that is not what the Bible tells us. That is not what experience tells us. And that is not what human history tells us.
I have visited Yad Vashem’s World Holocaust Center in Jerusalem. I have been to the Holocaust museum in Washington, D.C. As I walked down those hallways and looked at the photographs of what happened not that many years ago, it was sickeningly apparent how inhumane, how wicked and how sinful man can really be. And the wicked acts of human beings continue on, all around the world today, including in our own nation.
Some would say the answer is within. But the Bible teaches that the problem is within, that we were all born with a sin nature. The prophet Jeremiah wrote, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (17:9 NIV). And David prayed, “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight” (Psalm 51:4).
We all were born with a sin nature. No one had to teach us how to sin. I didn’t take my two sons aside one day when they were little and say, “Boys, I want to teach you how to sin. Repeat this word after me: mine!” Sin came as naturally to them as it did to me. It is the easiest thing for all of us to do. The Bible says that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
The New Testament book of James identifies our real problem as human beings:
“What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you? You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. …” (James 4:1–2 NLT)
One word above is very important in explaining why we do what we do: “desires.” In Greek, this word comes from the word hedon, from which we get our English word “hedonism.” Hedonism basically means to live for pleasure.
We have to understand that the Bible is not teaching that it is wrong to enjoy life. As a Christian, I can certainly experience pleasure. I can certainly know happiness in my life. But there is a difference between living for pleasure and experiencing pleasure as a result of our lives being properly aligned with God.
James was speaking of those who are on a feverish search for their own pleasures and personal gratification to the extent that it becomes the focus of their lives. And those who make the pursuit of pleasure the primary purpose of their lives will come up empty.
Not only does sin bring emptiness, but it also will bring a final separation from God. There is a solution to the problem of man, however. The answer is Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who came to the earth and willingly went to a cross and died in our place because we have sinned, because we have broken God’s commandments, because we have fallen short of his standards. In our best attempts to be good and moral, we fall miserably short. But God loves us so much that He sent His Son to take our place.