Are People Good?

By Mike Miller

While enduring physical therapy this morning, a strange news story come from the TV mounted on the wall. My therapist asked, “Why would people do that kind of thing?” I responded, “Because people are twisted.”

Another therapist who overheard (and who also knows what I do) said, “Pastor! How can you say that? All people are good.”

I responded, “No. All people are bad.”

She insisted, “No. No one is bad. Everyone is good.”

I then explained, “Well, not according to the Bible. The Bible says that no one is good. Not even one.” I continued, “But we don’t even need the Bible to tell us that. How else could we possibly explain the mess that this world is? There is no other rational explanation for all the evil done and for the general condition of society.”

She replied, “I think I’ll go wrap some Christmas presents,” and she was gone.

Now, if you’re like me, you always wonder if you could have handled a situation better. After all, while lying on my back having my hamstrings stretched to the breaking point was not really the most conducive setting for a theological discussion. But this is a good discussion to have, nevertheless.

The general consensus seems to be that all people are basically good until something in their lives makes them do bad things. And even when they do bad things—unspeakable things even—they are still considered fundamentally good, if not somewhat flawed. Our prisons are filled with people whose mommas often repeat the line, “But he’s really a good boy at heart.” We attend funerals of really horrible people to hear them being eulogized as “really good.” And even when something like a school shooting takes place, someone will inevitably say of the shooter, “I don’t understand. He was really a good kid.”

Is any of that logical? Does it really make sense? You see, we need to consider our worldviews. We need to evaluate whether our underlying beliefs are consistent—whether they match reality. And the conviction that all people are good is simply inconsistent with reality.

Even the usual culprits for causing bad behavior cannot bear the blame with any consistency. Does poverty cause bad behavior? Then how do we explain crooked corporate CEOs? Is lack of education to blame? Again, not only are CEOs typically well educated, but even educators do bad things. What about bad parenting? Indeed, bad parenting can adversely affect people’s behavior, but many people with rough childhoods succeed and do well, while people from well-adjusted families can also turn out bad.

Really, the only rational and consistent worldview is a biblical one. What reason does the Bible give for why people do bad things? People are bad. That means you and me as well. “But,” you might say, “I’m not a murderer or a bank robber. I’m not that bad.” Maybe not, but you and I know very well that our hearts are not as pure as a fresh snowflake. It’s not that we are all as bad as humanly possible, but we are all bad nevertheless. Romans 3:10-12 says, “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” Verse 23 says that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Those words “none,” “no one,” and “all” are pretty absolute.

Do you see what good news this is? If all kinds of external things cause all the bad in the world, then we are without hope, for those things will never be fixed. But if the human heart is ultimately the problem, God has provided a solution: Jesus Christ. No man can change the human heart, even if we clean up our behavior. But when we turn to Jesus by faith, He gives us a new heart and a new spirit. That’s what it means to be born again.

So, aren’t you glad you aren’t just a hopeless product of your circumstances? Aren’t you glad there is hope for you? And aren’t you glad that hope doesn’t depend on others? The heart really is the heart of the problem, and the one who made your heart can give you a new one. Would you let Jesus change you today?

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