Proverbs 14:2 ESV
Whoever walks in uprightness fears the Lord, but he who is devious in his ways despises him.
Why do people sin? Generally, we default to two different explanations: some people want to do things more than they care about morals, and some people want to do things without realizing those things are immoral. Sure, we concede, some people actually just want to sin or do evil, but that’s a vanishingly small portion of the population, so small we’re skeptical when they appear in a novel or on TV. The truth, as Proverbs here states, is that man’s heart is pervasively depraved. We, in our fallen state, separate from God’s redeeming work, hate God, and because we hate God, we act against Him, sin against Him.
But surely, you might ask, people can’t hate God if they don’t even know Him, right? The argument is correct; the presuppositions are not. Hate does require knowledge of the existence of that which is hated, but we have that knowledge. All man has an instinctive, soul-deep understanding of God’s existence (Rom. 1:19-21) and of His law (Rom. 2:1). This knowledge is obviously far from comprehensive, but comprehensive knowledge is not required (else nobody would be able to feel anything about anything, given the finite information storage capacity of mortal man). The knowledge is enough for man to identify the God whom he hates.
Of course, people have plenty of other motives, ones they actually acknowledge. Money, power, desire, even love, all of these are powerful motivators. Yet man hates God, and the evil he does is a reflection of that hate. When man lusts for money, for power, or for flesh which he ought not to covet, he violates the law of God (Ex. 20:14-17). He acts in a way which displays his contempt for God’s law; the individual sins and their motives are an outworking of his hatred. As for ‘love’, when man loves what he ought as he ought, he walks in uprightness; this blessing is given only to those whom He sanctifies, as the working out of His character in His people (1 John 4:8). When he ‘loves’ wrongly, he commits just as much sin as if he had acted from plain and simple anger; at the root, indeed, they are both the sin of despising God (and therefore His law, which is of His character).
Why are these motives the ones we see, and not man’s inveterate hatred for God? If all of fallen man’s sins derive from a bone-deep hatred of God (an element of total depravity, also known as radical or pervasive depravity), why doesn’t everybody not already saved by God just go axe-crazy? If, as Psalm 53:1 proclaims, “There is none who does good,” why do some people seem to do good, to at least do not-as-bad-as-it-could-have-been?
The short answer is ‘common grace’. God has preserved this world, saving it from the ill passions of man both by external means (environmental restrictions) and by internal means. While none does good without His sanctifying hand (Ps. 53:1; 1 John 4:7), they also don’t act out their depravity to its fullest extent, at least in most cases. This restraint is a mercy both to the unbeliever and to the believer; Romans 1:24-31 tells us of the horrors which man unleashes when his restraints are loosened in judgement (to the unbeliever, also, it is a terror, for to him this grace of restraint is given for a time, and woe to him to whom much is given when he bears no fruit (Luke 12:48)).
That God through His Son reconciled His elect to Himself from this abject state is truly a testament to the glory of His name. We who once were lost are now saved by His grace (Luke 15:3-7). In the words of the old hymn (which I’m sure I’ve quoted before):
“Amazing grace! How sweet the sound / that saved a wretch like me. /I once was lost but now am found, / was blind but now I see.” ~ John Newton
Sanctuary Functional Medicine, under the direction of Dr Eric Potter, IFMCP MD, provides functional medicine services to Nashville, Middle Tennessee and beyond. We frequently treat patients from Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Ohio, Indiana, and more... offering the hope of healthier more abundant lives to those with chronic illness.