Are People Basically Good?
A common assumption is that people are basically good. Yes, we make mistakes. However, most people want to do what is good and right, and after all... mistakes happen. However, we are all basically good.
This is a harmful assumption. If we do not correctly understand the nature of humanity, we will never know the solution to the problems humanity faces. Instead of making things better, our efforts will result in things continually getting worse. That's not good.
Who Are We?
Let's start at the beginning:
Then God said, “Let Us make mankind in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the livestock and over all the earth, and over every crawling thing that crawls on the earth.” So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. - Genesis 1:26-27
And God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. - Genesis 1:31
We are very different from EVERYTHING else God created. Unlike the rest of His creation, we are created in the image of God. We are to have the character of God... and the image of God means we have an everlasting spirit, similar to what God has. We were part of God's perfect creation.
Then God placed man in a beautiful garden... and there was just one rule:
The Lord God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may freely eat; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for on the day that you eat from it you will certainly die.” - Genesis 2:16-17
So... what happened?
Man Broke God's Law
Adam disobeyed God and ate from the forbidden tree. He didn't have to. There was plenty of other food. However, Adam made the choice to disobey God. That's called sin, and Adam's disobedience resulted in man's sinful nature and God's curse on all of creation. This is called the fall, and it brought death and corruption into the world.
Then to Adam God said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat from it’;
Cursed is the ground because of you;
With hard labor you shall eat from it
All the days of your life.
Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you;
Yet you shall eat the plants of the field;
By the sweat of your face
You shall eat bread,
Until you return to the ground,
Because from it you were taken;
For you are dust,
And to dust you shall return.” - Genesis 2:16-17
That's What Happened. What Does It Mean?
We like to think of ourselves as being good, and if anyone disagrees... well... we'll turn our back and not talk to them again. Trying to tell someone they are fundamentally not a good person usually does not turn out well. (see the Good Person Test) We can point out how our neighbor has many faults. But us? No way. We're good. However, the truth is you are not a good person. No one is.
And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone.” - Mark 10:18
All of us, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way;” - Isaiah 53:6
There is no one who does good. God has looked down from heaven upon the sons of mankind to see if there is anyone who understands, Who seeks after God. Every one of them has turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one. - Psalm 53:1b-3
Dealing With Reality
No one is good, and we need to keep this in mind in all that we do. For example, when establishing a government, we must take into account that those in government will be selfish, self-centered, and willing to do wrong. (They are human.) So authority and power must be distributed... checks and balances must be in place. The same for a church. That's why the local churches in the Bible were governed by multiple elders. Whenever the lead pastor is the "boss," the door is open to problems.
Any time people have authority over other people, we must remember our fallen nature, and create a system that protects the ruled from those who would rule. Not everyone will take advantage of others when given the power to do so. Our fallen nature effects each of us in different ways. However, there will be many who, given the chance, will take advantage of a position of power and authority.
The fall affects all of us. No one is good, even those who rise into leadership positions and tell us they have the answers. In a January 2021 article Tyler Dureden wrote:
Why are Intellectuals So Prone to Communism?
Intellectuals tend to be fooled by radical ideologies. This phenomenon has drawn the attention of scholars. British historian Paul Johnson found that radical intellectuals share the fatal weaknesses of arrogance and egocentrism.
This arrogance is exhibited in a statement by nineteenth-century French politician and art critic Jules-Antoine Castagnary: “Beside the divine garden from which I have been expelled, I will erect a new Eden … At its entrance, I will set up Progress … and I will give a flaming sword into his hand and he will say to God, ‘Thou shalt not enter here.’”
Rapid scientific progress since the 18th century greatly strengthened humankind’s confidence in its own ability and fueled the intellectual trend of progressivism. People started to worship humanist reason instead of God. Reason is believed to be able to lead people to the path of happiness and morality. People want to create a utopia, a “paradise on earth,” which is the essential idea of communism. As the “pastors” of modern science, intellectuals believe that they are the interpreter of the truth, and their cause is so important that no means are off-limits to serve their ends. This has caused a deluge of blood and misery.
The above quote is a good description of the effects of the fall. Arrogance, egocentrism, depending on human wisdom, and a turning away from God. Our fundamental nature is not one of goodness, but of disobedience (sin).
What Is The Answer?
How do we fix this? That's what the Bible is about. The only fix that will work is Jesus Christ. God. He came to earth to seek the lost and pay the just penalty we've earned for disobeying God. Only when this penalty is paid in full will we be free from sin. What do we need to do? There is nothing we can do. Just give up and trust that Jesus did it all. Put your life in the hands of Jesus. Live to obey Him. He is the answer. The answer is Always Jesus.