I had just completed two years of intense master’s work in counseling, contacted over 50 organizations, and was preparing to enter the field via an internship. First, I had to face the interview! He asked me one very defining question: “how do you see people”? I knew what he inevitably asking: do you believe people are born inherently good or bad? I knew my chance at this job rested on my answer to the question. I also knew this was a Christian organization, and had no doubt as to what the correct Biblical answer was: bad. This feels like a wrong answer for someone entering a field that is meant to help people feel better about themselves, but nevertheless it is truth… truth that even many Christians do not believe.
Romans 3:10-12 reads: “There is none righteous, no, not one… There is none who does good”. I tend to take notice when scriptures use wordings like “all” or “never” or “none”, it leaves no wiggle room for personal interpretation. All means all. None means none. There is NONE righteous… not even Mother Teresa! Not even the Pope. Not even Billy Graham. This doesn’t jive with a lot of people. We like our little categories: the good people and the bad people. We like to think of ourselves as a better person than the guy on death row or Hitler… but the Bible simply doesn’t support that type of thinking.
Jeremiah 17:9 is probably the most popular verse on this topic: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked”. When we do good things, we are good… right? When we do bad things, we are bad… right? Perhaps the correct way to state that is we are forgiven sinners, adopted into God’s family, who sometimes act good and sometimes act bad. Neither ways of acting make us good nor bad people.
Some will agree that as we age we become prideful and carnal, but they are convinced the Bible couldn’t be talking about innocent babies, right? Wrong. Psalm 51:5 – “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.” Psalm 58:3 – “The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray as soon as they are born, speaking lies.” Think about it. Yes, babies are cute… but honestly they are prideful. Children demand our attention, our service – and when they don’t get it they scream and whine (some adults too). They have no patience! They want it and they want it now. I never had to teach my children how to lie or steal. They knew how. Ecclesiastes 9:3 – “This is the evil in everything that happens under the sun: The same destiny overtakes all. The hearts of people, moreover, are full of evil and there is madness in their hearts while they live”.
Think about it even further. Jesus didn’t come to save us because we are basically good people. He came to save us because we need it. Romans 8:7 tell us that “the carnal mind is enmity against God”. People tend to search for what they need do to get right with God. This is why religions like Islam are so attractive. Follow these steps, do these things daily and you are good with God. Proverbs 14:12 says “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” Christianity is unique in that there is NOTHING you can do yourself to get good with God. Salvation is a free gift. A lot of people either do not understand this or don’t believe it. Everything else in life seems to have a transactional basis. You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours. Christianity, eternal life, is the biggest gift of all!
Ephesians 2:3 says“we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath”. I received a Father’s Day gift once that was a black t-shirt with big bold letters saying “Born to be Bad”. I kind of gave my kids a weird look before noticing the small white letters below that read: “born again to be holy”! When we choose Christ and are adopted into His family, He will no longer treat us as our sins deserve. We may still be “bad” people, but we are baptized – cleansed, reborn! By the way, I got the job.