Growing up, such phrases as “today’s generation is spoiled”, or “back in the day such things were unheard of” or “Oh! back in our days’ people were much better behaved than now”. The above and many more are very common, especially with the generation of our parents and the generations before them. It is used by those who are older to lament over the new generation’s “increased evil”. Of late, as I have heard this, I have been left wondering how true this is. I have been wondering if there is any truth to these sentiments and how helpful these are. I have also wondered if there are any suggestion of such sentiments from the scriptures. So, after a while of searching the scriptures and a lot of inquisition from much wiser brothers and sisters, the following are some of my findings.
Wickedness didn’t always exist
The world we live in wasn’t always broken as it is today. As a matter of fact, in the beginning, the world was the exact opposite of what it is. The world as originally intended by its creator was supposed to be a paradise marked by perfection. Yes, perfection in all aspects. This we can see from Genesis 1&2, in which the Lord God creates all things that are. Chapter 1 is characterized by the constant refrain, “And God saw it was good” (vs 10, 18, 21, 25) with a climax in (vs 31a), “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” This is the world as it was meant to be, very good. This not only describes its aesthetic value but also its inherent quality. This means it was marked by a series of perfect relationships- between God and human beings, between humans and fellow humans, and between humans and the rest of creation. As a matter of fact, in these two chapters of the book of beginnings, the only thing we are told is not good was that Adam did not have a companion of his kind (Gen. 2:18). And this is not a fault in God’s design, rather it is a necessity of it, since man was created in the image of the triune God, and thus, he was created to exist in a community as did God the holy trinity in eternity past. God gave human beings to have dominion over the rest of the creation he had created. He gave it to them so that they could be stewards of it and enjoy it. (Gen 1:29-30, 2:15). Because the Lord God loved Adam and Eve, he gave them this command (Gen 2:16-17), that they were not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. This was not to limit them, rather it was for their good, for in the day they ate of it they would most surely die. Therefore, the world as originally designed did not include sin and thus sin and wickedness are unnatural to God’s creation.
The origin of sin
If God’s original design did not include sin and wickedness then where did they come from? Genesis 3 answers this question as human rebellion. The perfect human race that God had created, to live in perfect harmony and indescribable joy with him, with one another and with the rest of creation, rebelled. They broke the commandment that God had given them (Gen 3:6), they ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. At that moment, sin entered the world. Because God is holy and just, he judged them. Thus judgment, death, and curse came into the world. The death was spiritually immediate, that is to say, that the perfect relation between God and man was broken, and consequently even the other perfect relations were also broken. But death was also physical even though this was not immediate.
The ever-flowing wickedness since then
Ever since the rebellion of the first man, all men- you and I included- have become greatly wicked and every inclination of our thoughts is evil all the time (Gen 6:5). Ever since Genesis 3, as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one;11no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” 13 “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” 14 “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” 15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16 in their paths are ruin and misery, 17 and the way of peace they have not known.” 18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” (Romans 3:10-18, ESV Crossway Bibles). The sin committed by Adam and Eve flows to us like a never-ending all-season river. It corrupts all of us and thus we are born dead in our sins and transgressions (Psa. 51:5). And the bible, on account of God’s Justice and Holiness, demands that all sin must be punished, and the wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23, Rev. 21:8) and thus without the shedding of blood, there cannot be any forgiveness of sin (Heb 9:22).
No generation is more wicked than any other
Therefore, since the above is true of all people in different generations since the fall, then it holds true that no generation is more wicked than the other. All generations since Genesis 3 are evil before the sight of God for all of us are equally sinners, rightfully deserving God’s righteous indignation. Each and every one of us, whether we be nobles or peasants, puritans or millennials, white or of color, Gentiles or Jews, whether living in the medieval world or the postmodern one, is deeply sinful and totally depraved, equally capable of committing the most horrible and unthinkable evil. Minus God’s restraining power we would have sunk below the level of beasts. Make no mistake here, none of us is any better than the other. In this matter, no one has any advantage over the other. The order and relative peace experienced in different societies and the good done by us then can only be attributed to God’s grace ALONE. And not on any inherent goodness in us that makes us better than anyone else. If anything, each and every one of us is capable to commit more atrocities than the pedophiles, the Hitlers, the Ted Bundys, and the Osama Bin Ladens of our world. Do not at any point underestimate the depth of sin and brokenness in each and every one of us. Therefore, no generation comes up with ‘new evil’ for truly What has been is what will be,and what has been done is what will be done,and there is nothing new under the sun.10 Is there a thing of which it is said,“See, this is new”? It has been already in the ages before us. (Ecclesiastes 1:9, ESV Crossway Bibles).
Impostors will grow from bad to worse
As we read through our Bible, we come across 2 Timothy 3:13, “while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived” The context is that Paul is instructing his protégé Timothy to reject the way of false teachers and instead to continue walking in Paul’s example, holding firmly to the word of truth. He warns him, however, that evildoers will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. Well, doesn’t this outrightly contradict everything I have been discussing before this? So, then what are we to do? Which do we reject and which do we hold to? Allow me to suggest why I think we ought to hold both together and reject none. I think first and foremost is to remind us that these are truths from God’s word. God’s word which is true and inerrant as it is inspired by God in whom there is no contradiction. So, though in our minds these two may sound as contradictory and not pairable, such doesn’t exist in the mind of God. Because of our fallibility and finiteness, this and many other things in God’s word feel like they are going against each other. However, let us rejoice that even though now we see through a mirror dimly, when we are perfected, we will see clearly for we shall see him as he is.
Again, I don’t think they contradict because I tend to think that Evil morphs and takes new forms in each new generation. This is to say that while no ‘new evil’ comes up, ‘age-old evil’ can take new forms that didn’t exist before. A good example that comes to mind is sexual immorality that has morphed from age-old prostitution to modern-day pornography. So same old sexual immorality taking new forms over time. Secondly, I think that especially with the modern age, media has publicized evil that otherwise would have remained unbeknown to us. While in past days we would only know the evil that is in direct contact with us (a sought of local evil), with media, we come to know all sorts of manner of evil a lot of which is foreign to us. Also, the media tends to glorify certain forms of evil. All of these, thus makes it feel like evil is growing and may in turn make us feel like other generations were better. But do not be deceived for this is not so. All people in all generations beginning from Adam and Eve are equally wicked.
It’s not all doom and gloom; there is hope but not in ourselves
Is that the end of the story? Is there any hope for such deeply broken people like us or have we been left to perish in our wickedness? PRAISE GOD that this is not the case and that there is hope. Brothers and sisters as it turns out, it’s not all gloom and doom, for there is hope for us. This cannot be in any way found in us. Yes, this hope is not in trying harder, it is not found in becoming a monk or a nun, it is not found in ten steps to a better you, it is not found in beating down yourself with guilt, neither is it found in wallowing in self-pity. This hope is found in what the Bible calls poverty of spirit (Math. 5:3). This is a posture of the heart that realizes that in and of ourselves we can never do enough to merit God’s grace. That in and of ourselves we are spiritually bankrupt and thus we need someone else’s righteousness to be credited into our account. Hope for all generations has always been in that while God is Just, he is also unimaginably merciful. And these two qualities of his, ultimately meet at the cross of Jesus Christ. On the cross, Christ died the death that sinners rightfully deserve. On that cross he who knew no sin became sin, and for this, the wrath of God that all evil of men justly deserve fell on him, and thus the Justice of God was satisfied. While at the same time, this allowed God to extend His grace to all repentant vipers who would by his grace repent. Thus, hope is only found in looking away from ourselves and looking only to Christ, who has become our perfect, once for all substitute. Yes, fixing our eyes on him who in his life and death has become the perfect savior we so dearly need.
So, let us not look to any other rather, let us look to him alone who is the only savior for sinful and wretched men. Let us not look to any inherent goodness in us, for truly there is none. We dare not trust that deceitful feeling that so often makes us feel better than others, for it is but a mirage and a mist with no value at all before God. Instead, let us repent of this hypocrisy and turn our eyes from our filthy estate and fix them upon the Lord Jesus. For salvation is found in no other.
This article was written by Eric Kioko, an alumni of TransformD Discipleship program.
iServe Africa is an indigenous Kenyan gospel-driven organisation that exists to promote faithful Bible teaching and servant leadership.