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News & Articles > Biblical Principles of Economics: Part 3

Human Depravity
22 Nov 2010

This article first appeared in The Home Instructor newsletter published by
Gary & Wanda Sanseri, March/April 1991

“Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned (Romans 5:12)."

“Sin is man’s declaration of independence of God.” Anonymous

In Part 2 of Biblical Principles of Economics, we noted that while Adam resided in the Garden of Eden God prohibited him from eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. After some time the serpent (Satan) spoke to Adam’s wife and deceived her into eating the forbidden fruit. The woman then gave the fruit to the man who likewise yielded to temptation, ate the coveted food, and sinned against God. In judging Adam’s sin the Lord declared: “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you saying, ‘you shall not eat of it,’

Cursed is the ground for your sake;
In toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life.
Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you,
And you shall eat the herb of the field.
In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread
Till you return to the ground.” (Genesis 3:17-19)

We shall now examine the consequences of Adam’s rebellion against God and the subsequent economic changes his sin brought upon the human race.

Changed Nature

Adam’s disobedience brought upon humanity a hereditary corruption which the early Christians called “original sin.” John Calvin defined original sin as “depravity of our nature, extending to all the parts of the soul, which first makes us obnoxious to the wrath of God, and then produces in us works which in Scripture are termed works of the flesh.” (John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, trans. Henry Beveridge (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1981), Vol. I, p 217.)

Before attempting to understand why mankind indulges in evil we must first comprehend the truth of original sin. Because we all have descended from an impure seed, we all “come into the world tainted with the contagion of sin. Before we behold the light of the sun we are in God’s sight defiled and polluted.” (John Calvin, p. 214.)

According to Scripture, after Adam sinned he begot a son in his own image and likeness. His descendants came into the world contaminated with a corrupt, sinful nature (Genesis 5:3). Adam and Eve were incapable of producing a pure, sinless offspring. If our parents were unclean, how is it possible that we are clean? Job lamented, “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? No one! (Job 14:4) His friend, Bildad the Shuhite asked, “How can he be pure who is born of a woman?” (Job 25:4) Centuries ago Thomas Boston wrote, “Every person that is born according to the course of nature is born unclean. If the root be corrupt, so must the branches be.” (Thomas Boston, Human Nature In Its Fourfold State (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1989), p. 65.)

David, the Psalmist, understood the truth of original sin when he cried, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me (Psalm 51:5). Obviously, David is not referring to conjugal love as a sinful act. While his life was being formed in his mother’s womb, David was a corrupt seed, a sinful human being. In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians we learn that all who enter the world are by nature children of wrath (Ephesians 2:3). Many Christians today wrongly believe that a person is not a sinner until he or she commits a sin. However, the above Scriptures teach that the reason we sin is because we are sinners by nature. Our total being is corrupt from the moment of conception making us objects of God’s wrath and condemned before we have done good or evil. This is the doctrine of original sin. This is why the world rushes into every form of evil under the sun.

Changed Behavior

Because we are sinners by nature, we live and act according to that nature. Without repentance and faith in Christ, “every intent of the thoughts of our heart is continually evil.” The sinful, unregenerate heart is capable of producing only evil thoughts, adultery, fornication, murder, theft, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, blasphemy, pride and foolishness. Sin has resulted in selfish, oppressive, envious and hateful behavior among men and women. Humans not content with what they have and unwilling to work, seek to take what does not belong to them either by aggressive acts of violence or through government approved plunder programs. It was Adam’s ingratitude for the Lord’s liberal provision which caused him to take that which God had not allotted him.

Adam’s disobedience altered mankind’s economy. God cursed the ground for Adam’s sake and man would now have to toil for his food and survival. “His labor is now unpleasant and burdened, or at the very least it is often frustrated and discouraging, unlike the labor in the garden.” (Gary North, The Dominion Covenant (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1987), p. 112.) Before Adam’s fall, the earth brought forth abundantly for man’s enjoyment. Now man would have to learn to cooperate with one another in the production of the earth’s resources. To accomplish his economic goals, man soon learned to divide his labor and become efficient in a specialized industry. “Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground” (Genesis 4:2). Some became experts with musical instruments while others labored as craftsmen in bronze and iron (Genesis 4:21 & 22). When men are free to keep the wealth of their labors there is greater productivity, prosperity, and a corresponding higher standard of living. Increased wealth sometimes causes strife but men of wisdom, who are free, have learned to settle their differences in peaceful ways without government intervention (Genesis 13:1-13).

Sometime ago, in their travels through the Middle East, Eastern Europe, and the Far East, Milton and Rose Friedman noticed that wherever they found the principles of individual freedom in operation they likewise discovered that the free market “was the main device being used to organize economic activity.” (Milton Friedman, quoted from, Sven Rydenfelt, A Pattern for Failure (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1984), p. ix.) However, where the free market was suppressed and government controlled the economic activities of its citizens, the Friedman’s witnessed the ordinary man in political fetters with a low standard of living. (Rydenfelt, p.ix.) As we understand the doctrine of human depravity we realize man’s tendency to dominate and oppress his fellow man. The greatest offenders of human domination and oppression throughout history have been human governments.

Although intended by God as vehicles of His wrath against evil doers (Romans 13:1-4), governments have consistently harassed its people, suppressed economic growth, persecuted those who do good, confiscated private property and curtailed the freedoms of its citizens through numerous, senseless laws, regulations and heavy taxation. Without freedom the people are controlled by the state.

Noted author and economics instructor, Dean Russell, noted, “Where the market is freest, human liberty is highest. If labor is controlled... there is neither a free market nor freedom. If capital is controlled (e.g. government ownership), you cannot produce without permission. That is not freedom. (Dean Russell, Government and Legal Plunder (Irvington-on-Hudson, New York: The Foundation for Economic Education, 1985), p.33.) Similarly, governments act as agents of legal theft when they transfer wealth from one citizen (who produces) and give it to someone else (who does not produce). We should remember that governments are made up of depraved sinners whose activities must be continually checked and monitored when out of line with God’s laws. The only way this can be accomplished is in a free society.

Dean Russell perceptively determines that: “Somewhere along the line, our essentially free economy must drift into an essentially controlled economy, if the present trend continues. That will be the end of human freedom in the United States, and probably throughout the world. All other freedoms-press, speech, franchise, religion-must necessarily disappear with the loss of the free economy. For the fact remains: In a totally controlled economy, it is not the economy but the people who are totally controlled.” (Dean Russell, p. 43.) When government controls the people the forces of human depravity are unleashed with very little restraint.

©Gary Sanseri