Some claim if a person were given the perfect surroundings, that person would be perfect as well.
As a father to a young boy, I (as every parent) know that along with the cuteness and amazing things we see in our sweet little children, each and every one of them – and each and every one of us – have another side too. After all, we teach them how to be considerate and share, not to grab toys out of other kids’ hands. It would seem that they already have that part down on their own. It is as if the urge to be rebellious and selfish is embedded in them, as well as in us.
Undoubtedly, each and every one of us has God’s good image within us. However, we can’t ignore the fact that something also breaks along the way and there is something in the human heart which isn’t exactly perfect.
Therefore, if the problem lies within us, an environmental change simply cannot be the solution.
See what Jewish professor of practical theology, Dr. Richard Flashman, said:
“I believed that what the world needed was radical social change. That instead of people competing against each other in the market place, that the government would come and create an equal playing field… The only problem with my convictions about social change and making a better world was the problem of the brokenness in people. My own personal brokenness, I saw that, my own selfishness, my own pride, my own lust, my own greed – I saw it in other people. I saw it in the world around me. If there is something wrong with us, then changing social systems wouldn’t make any difference.”
In other words, even if we were to make every weapon on earth disappear, we would probably just go back to sticks and stones. After all, if WE are the problem, we can’t also be the solution to the problem.
The problem of the human heart
The author of Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament had wealth and property beyond anyone else during his time. He had hundreds of women, castles and magnificent gardens, the best food and wine available, a great and powerful army and a huge empire at his disposal. You might say that he had it all. And yet, he chose to summarise his life with the sentence:
“Vanity of vanities! All is vanity…and there is nothing new under the sun.” [Ecclesiastes 1]
The writer of Ecclesiastes understood his heart was hungry, but material things cannot satisfy spiritual needs. He saw he was trying to fill the lust in his heart with all the wrong things.
The common definition of the term “a good person” is very different from God’s standard.
That is because the tiniest decision we make has the power to greatly impact our surroundings and those who are dear to us. Any decision which fails to do good is defined in the Bible as a “sin.”
And we all make such decisions every day.
We all sin; therefore there is no such thing as a “righteous person” who only does good things. we all succumb to our selfish urges and impulses. Those who claim that people are inherently good and that if we were to provide them with the perfect surroundings, they will become perfect as well, fail to truly understand what evil is. They think that an evil person is someone who murders, tortures or rapes others. However, both the New Testament and the Old Testament define “evil” differently:
The definition of evil deeds, or sins, is quite simple: selfishness – i.e., making ourselves the center.
After all, sometimes a single word can cause massive destruction and even death.
If we examine the Ten Commandments closely, we notice all of them instruct us to place both God and other people before ourselves. We are last on that list. But who are “other people?”
In the New testament, Yeshua teaches us that it’s not enough to only love those who love us back and that we must love EVERYONE – even those who do not love us.
Yeshua teaches a simple, yet profound principle: you cannot drive out darkness with more darkness. Only light can drive out darkness. Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can.
The word “sin,” or “sins,” comes from the Hebrew word for “missing the mark.”
When we choose to make a selfish decision, we’re missing God’s will; missing the goal of loving others. If you ask around, you may be surprised to discover how many people think they’re “good enough” in God’s eyes. It’s possible that due to the bad news constantly blasted at us regarding other people’s wickedness, many conclude that, compared to “those people,” they must be worthy of a seat in God’s presence. This line of thought undoubtedly points to one of the repercussions of our post-modern-world lives. The thought that, if I haven’t murdered, raped or robbed a bank – I’m probably a decent human being.
Yeshua Himself was asked a similar question by a group of seekers.
“What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” [John 6:28]
It is very interesting that the question was asked in the plural form. The seekers probably expected to be given a list of laws, rules and actions. However, Yeshua answered them in the singular form:
Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you (singular) believe in Him whom He has sent.” [John 6:29]
Like many of you, those seekers probably protested Yeshua’s reply. What makes faith all that special? After all, the things we DO matter far more than the things we BELIEVE. Don’t they? Yeshua teaches us that everything we do comes from the faith within our hearts.
If I brag about donating money to the needy only so I can be praised by my peers, or gain Facebook likes, my donation is not worthy. However, if I secretly donate to the needy, without even the receiver knowing, in order to spare them embarrassment, then my donation is truly meant to bless THEM, rather than to serve myself. The motivation behind our actions is just as important as the actions themselves.
The real question is not who is good enough to meet God’s standards and enter the Kingdom of Heaven. After all, none of us are good enough.
The REAL question is how does God even let ANY person enter into His kingdom.
The answer, as already mentioned, can be found in the Torah given to us by Moses: that is, we cannot atone for our own sins. We require atonement and forgiveness for our wrongdoings. We need someone perfect to atone for our sins in our place. Therefore, for thousands of years, we sacrificed innocent victims at the altar in order to atone for our sins.
A father who loves his son wants to set an example for a perfect love.
Such a love is also expressed through actions.
A father willingly will give an arm or a leg for his son, and even lay down his life to spare his son’s. That is true love. Self sacrificing love. That is EXACTLY what God came here to do. He revealed Himself to us as one of us, as the Messiah. He let us reject and curse Him, took the suffering we deserve upon Himself and died for our sins.
Such is God’s love. God did all the work for us and opened up the path for us, so we cannot boast about our own deeds. Or, in the words of Paul the apostle in the New Testament:
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” [Ephesians 2:8-9]
This article originally appeared on One for Israel and reposted with permission.