IS MAN INHERENTLY GOOD or EVIL?

PSALM 53:1-3: “The fool says in his heart, “There’s no God.” They are corrupt, and they do vile deeds. There is no one who does good. God looks down from heaven on the human race to see if there is one who is wise, one who seeks God. All have turned away; all alike have become corrupt. There is no one who does good, not even one.” CSB

OBSERVATION: Is man inherently good or evil? This is a question that has been debated for ages. One’s answer to this question depends mostly on their world view. If one forms their world view from conventional wisdom, the position would be that man is inherently good. However, if one forms their world view from the Scriptures, the position would be that man is inherently evil.

The Psalmist makes it very clear. God has searched the entire human race and He has found it wanting. This may seem like a harsh statement, but it is true. David came to realize this in his own fall into sin when he committed adultery with Bathsheba and orchestrated the death of Uriah. David wrote,

  • “Indeed, I was guilty when I was born; I was sinful when my mother conceived me.” Psalms 51:5 CSB

In theological terms this is known as the depravity of man. This doctrine is greatly misunderstood. It does not mean that man is inherently as bad as he can be. It simply means that man is born with a sin nature, and his natural inclination is to sin. This is proven out logically by the fact that all men and women do sin. If this was not true, there would be those among us who escaped this fate. However, the truth is – we all sin!

In Psalm 53 the Psalmist does not declare that everyone in the world is as corrupt as they can be. The key point he makes is that no one seeks God. Instead, they rely upon their own wisdom. They create their own reality. They dismiss the commands of their Creator and begin to live by their own desires and decrees. This is the state of man – without a Savior.

Some may object to this view as negative and condemning. How can man achieve his full potential if we do not uphold and promote his goodness? Our politicians tell us how good we are. Society tells us how good we are. Why doesn’t the Bible tell us how good we are? Which view of man is true?

Jesus was approached by a rich man. This man was a good man in the standards of the day. He was a devout Jew, he upheld the commandments, and he was seeking the way to eternal life. In this discourse we discover an important truth about man’s inherent goodness and depravity.

  • “As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up, knelt down before him, and asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “Why do you call me good?” Jesus asked him. “No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: Do not murder; do not commit adultery; do not steal; do not bear false witness; do not defraud; honor your father and mother. ” He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these from my youth.” Looking at him, Jesus loved him and said to him, “You lack one thing: Go, sell all you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” But he was dismayed by this demand, and he went away grieving, because he had many possessions. Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” Mark 10:17-23 CSB

This man was respectful as he approached Jesus. He addressed Him as “Good Teacher.” Jesus’ response is telling. Jesus said, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.” In this statement Jesus both proclaimed His deity and man’s depravity. The problem was that this rich man thought he was good too. So Jesus challenges him with the commandments. And the man is proud to answer, “Teacher, I have kept all these from my youth.” Yet, Jesus left out one commandment – “Thou shall not covet.” When Jesus asked the rich man to sell all he had and follow Him, the man turned away dismayed and grieving. He was not really interested in seeking after God if it cost him something he was not willing to give.

This is what the Psalmist declares. Man is not as evil as he can be. Yet, even at man’s best he does not seek God on his own volition. If this were true, Jesus would not have come to die for our sins. Man needs a Savior. I need a Savior. I need a Savior from the penalty of sin, which is death and separation from God eternally. And, I also need a Savior from the power of sin that is inherent in me. I am totally incapable of overcoming the power of sin and living a life that pleases God, apart from Jesus Christ. It takes a change of heart to change my sin nature!

  • “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will place my Spirit within you and cause you to follow my statutes and carefully observe my ordinances. You will live in the land that I gave your fathers; you will be my people, and I will be your God.” Ezekiel 36:26-28 CSB

While we enter a new season of a national political race, there will be many who stroke our egos and tell us how good we are. Yet, in all of the cycles that I have experienced in my 63 years of life, I have not seen an improvement in the nature of man. The only change I have seen in mankind is when there is a changed heart. Changed hearts change the world. And the only one who can change man’s heart is Jesus Christ. Apart from this inner transformation we all will wander in our own direction away from God. Some will do it in starched white shirts, and others clinging to the gutters of life. Yet, all will stray.

Lord, remind me today that there will be no peace in this world until we meet the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ the Lord. We have tried to change the world through governments and programs, we have thrown trillions of dollars at the social ills of our land, and yet we continue to slide downward. Give me boldness to proclaim the wonderful truth – Jesus Saves! Transform this sinner’s heart so that I can share your truth with others. Help me seek You today, sincerely, wholly, and in fullness of faith.

In Jesus Name!

About Kirk's Devotional Journal

Kirk L. Zehnder is the Founder of Resurrection Christian Outreach. RCO is a ministry that promotes the growth and vitality of the local church through speaking engagements, seminars, various media tools, and written curriculum and books. This ministry was started over 35 years ago by Kirk as a means to strengthen the church that he was pastoring. It grew as Kirk began to share these tools with other churches. Today many of the materials are being used by local churches both nationally and internationally. Kirk's Devotional Journal is a result of struggling with Bible reading programs that never seemed to work. Kirk feels the Lord helped him discover an easy to follow program to Read, Reflect, Pray, and Journal through the Bible in one year. This program is called L.I.F.E. Unlike other programs there are no dates to follow. You can miss a day and still complete your reading. You never feel like the dates and verses you missed are chasing you. You are free to enjoy your daily Biblical journey and listen to the voice of The Lord. For more information on the L.I.F.E. plan, send an email to rcoutreach@aol.com. Kirk is also available for speaking engagements, seminars, and retreats. With over 40 years of professional business and pastoral ministry experience, Kirk brings a unique combination of practical wisdom, humor, and Biblical insight. If you would like Kirk to speak at your church, school, or ministry, please send an email to rcoutreach@aol.com and we will get back to you as soon as possible to discuss your opportunity.
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