Evil & Suffering

Going Green 5: Thorns and Thistles

Keri and I were out in the yard doing some spring raking a while back. Keri had made some piles of leaves and weeds, and I was coming around behind her to bag them up. I was in for a painful surprise when I grabbed a pile of leaves with my bare hands only to discover she had pruned a rose bush and left the thorny briers buried beneath.

“Ouch!” I exclaimed. Well, I’m afraid my language was a bit more coarse than that. I literally cursed the ground, and found myself suddenly transported back to the very beginning of history in the story of the Fall in Genesis 3. I was experiencing the result of a creation under the curse. Because of Sin, God told Adam and Eve:

“Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food” (Gen. 3:17-18).

Ever since that moment most good things come only through painful toil and sweat. Thorns and thistles are everywhere! The ugly fact of the matter is this: The natural environment is cursed.

This profound truth about nature is lost on our world today. We live in an age that is ignorant of or denying the fact that the natural order of things is fundamentally flawed. Things as they currently exist are often not as God had originally intended. Tsunamis, earthquakes, disease, famine, drought, and the disturbing violence we see in the animal kingdom — these are all evidence of the curse.

Likewise, human beings are certainly not exempt. Human beings are fundamentally fallen and prone to all kinds of perverse inclinations.

Yet, this is not what we’re taught at university. In fact, we are bombarded with the opposite worldview — the conviction that for the most part people are basically good and we must never question or condemn an individual for acting in a way that comes most natural for them.

“Be true to yourself.”

“I was born this way.”

“I didn’t choose this orientation.”

“Every person should do what feels right to them.”

“If God didn’t want me to have these urges, then he wouldn’t have made me this way.”

This way of thinking assumes that the natural order of things is still good and that our natural inclinations are automatically in line with God’s design and will. But nothing could be further from the truth according to the Scriptures. Let’s look closer at the garden to see how dangerous and misguided “going natural” can be.

Let’s say you hire a gardener and after a couple weeks you find it completely overrun with invasive weeds. You ask them about the weeds and why they haven’t pulled them, and they reply: “Oh, I believe the best way to grow a healthy garden is to just let it go naturally. God made the earth and all the plants and its best just to let things happen according to nature.” You should find a new gardener immediately — unless, of course, you are trying to grow weeds that choke the life out of the flowers and vegetables you planted.

When it comes to gardening, we readily admit that nasty invasive weeds will choke out life and pesky insects will devour the harvest if we let them to do what comes natural. But when it comes to human flourishing and cultivating a moral society, many won’t consider there’s a similar danger in letting people just do what their nature desires.

Sin is an invasive weed in our souls, eventually choking out life if we let it grow.

Without restraint the human heart is prone to wander into all kinds of trouble.  Jeremiah minced no words when he declared, “”The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is” (Jer. 17:9). The Christian worldview holds that every human heart is a garden of mixed soils capable of producing both exceptionally good and woefully bad fruit.  Jesus said:

“For each tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they pick grapes from a briar bush. “The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart” (Luke 6:44-45).

Only six chapters into the Bible, humanity’s collective garden has grown so full of the invasive weed of sin that God must to start over from scratch. Here’s the bleak summary of the situation: “The LORD saw that human evil was growing more and more throughout the earth, with every inclination of people’s thoughts becoming only evil on a continuous basis” (Gen. 6:5). The words are very strong: “Every inclination” becoming “only evil” and “on a continuous basis.”

This is only a snippet of this pervasive biblical theme but enough to make the point that we live in a world of thorns and thistles. Under the curse we cannot accept the popular opinion that ‘if it feels right, do it” or “I was born this way, so acting on these urges must be God’s will for me.” The Gardener is not the only force at work in the garden.

Let’s keep probing the nature of this fall in the next post.

Read entire “Going Green” series here.

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