Why is society so messed up? Many are wondering. And what can be done to fix it?
Various answers are being proposed.
To those convinced that climate change is our biggest foe, the solution is to cut fossil fuel usage. Many think humanity’s biggest problem is the people themselves. They believe exclusiveness and intolerance for the beliefs and practices of others are the greatest culprits. Still, others think the problem is blacks . . . or whites . . . or Jews . . . or Christians . . . or Muslims . . . or corrupt governments . . . or global elites . . . The list is endless.
As debates rage about what needs to be done to mend our shattered world, news networks keep churning out heart-sickening reports detailing the latest violent crimes—robberies, riots, and murders. Beyond the social woes, our planet keeps being pounded by deadly fires, storms, floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions—with no end in sight.
But again, what’s our biggest problem?
And can it be fixed?
In the New Testament book of Matthew, in chapter 24, Jesus Christ gave His own list of human problems and perils. With a broad brush, our Savior painted a picture of deception (verse 4), “wars” (verse 6), “famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes” (verse 7), murder (verse 9), hatred (verse 10), and “false prophets” offering false solutions (verse 11). We all know such horrors and problems exist. But then, in the next verse, Jesus listed something many Bible students overlook.
Shockingly, He put His finger on the root cause of society’s massive global meltdown. The cause is clearly moral. Take a close look at what Jesus said: “And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved” (Matthew 24:12, 13; emphasis added).
the root cause of society’s decay
Here Jesus predicted that “lawlessness” would be rampant, and He wasn’t talking about breaking just human laws, such as state laws requiring car drivers to wear seatbelts. Instead, He was talking primarily about God’s moral law of Ten Commandments, the violation of which the Bible calls “sin.” Yes, it is “sin” itself, which is the same as “lawlessness,” that lies at the root of human woes. And behind all sin is the devil, who first “sinned” in heaven (Ezekiel 28:16; John 8:44). This is how Lucifer, the covering cherub, became Satan, or the devil—the first “transgressor of the law.”
Notice these clear New Testament texts:
“By the law is the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20).
“Sin is the transgression (breaking) of the law” (1 John 3:4, KJV).
What law are these Bible verses talking of? Notice carefully: “I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, ‘You shall not covet’ ” (Romans 7:7). Here, the Apostle Paul tells us that when he looked at “the law,” he discovered his “sin.” In this case, he specifically violated the tenth commandment, which says, “You shall not covet.”
Similarly, the Bible says, “He who said, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ also said, ‘Do not murder.’ Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law” (James 2:11). Here, James quotes the sixth and seventh commandments and states that even if a person keeps one commandment but breaks another, he (or she) has “become a transgressor of the law.”
Putting these pieces together, we discover that the Bible writers John in 1 John 3:4, Paul in Romans 3:20, 7:7, and James in James 2:11 all agree that “sin” is breaking “the law” of the Ten Commandments. The reason any violation of the Ten Commandments is “sin” is that this law, “written with the finger of God” (Exodus 31:18), expresses the character of God Himself. The Ten Commandments perfectly reflect God’s mind, will, and heart. Harmony with God and His law—righteousness—results in happiness, whereas being out of harmony with it—sin or lawlessness—leads to misery and death (see Isaiah 48:18, 19).
Most people have heard of the Ten Commandments. Many have seen Hollywood movies about them, such as the classic The Ten Commandments, produced by filmmaker Cecil B. DeMille, or Raiders of the Lost Ark. Despite this, few know what each commandment actually says.
You are about to find out. But before you read them, this pithy statement attributed to Will Rogers seems appropriate: “Never miss a good chance to shut up.”
This is good advice. I try to remember it whenever I read God’s Word. We should al “shut up” and listen carefully to what God says:
And God spoke all these words, saying:
“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
“You shall have no other gods before Me.
“You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.
“You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.
“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.
“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you.
“You shall not murder.
“You shall not commit adultery.
“You shall not steal.
“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s” (Exodus 20:1–17).
Our responsibility is to obey. The Big Ten command us to put God first, avoid idols, respect His name, keep the seventh-day Sabbath, and honor our parents. With practical straightforwardness, they also command us not to kill, commit adultery, steal, lie, or covet things that don’t belong to us. As we ponder God’s holy law, we should also keep in mind that it does not contain ten suggestions but ten commandments. Because the Lawgiver is the Maker of all life, He has every right to command.
the big two
Both the Old and New Testaments also teach that the Big Ten are conveniently summarized by the Big Two.
Shortly before Jesus died on the cross, this scene took place:
A lawyer asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”
Jesus said to him, “ ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:35–40).
The first four of the Ten Commandments concern our relationship with God and require us to love God supremely with our entire being. The last six commandments can be merged into one short sentence: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Some teach that the Big Two have replaced the Big Ten, but this is not correct, for immediately after His response to the lawyer, Jesus clarified that on “these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” In other words “all the law” (all ten) are hanging on the “two commandments” and cannot be separated from them. As pastors, priests, and rabbis often declare at the conclusion of wedding ceremonies uniting one man and one woman: “What God has joined together, let not man separate!”
the cure for lawlessness and the global meltdown
Back to Matthew 24. Jesus predicted that “because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved” (Matthew 24:12, 13; emphasis added). It is because human beings originally created in the image of God no longer respect the Ten Commandments that we are now witnessing a global meltdown into lawlessness.
False gods. Idolatry. Taking God’s name in vain. Sabbath-breaking. Disrespect for parents. Murder. Sexual immorality. Thievery. Lies. Coveting. Prejudice. Hatred. Hostility. Such unbridled “lawlessness” has resulted in “the love of many” growing icy cold. Sympathy, compassion, and kindness are rapidly vanishing from the earth, just like in the days of Noah (see Genesis 6–8) and in the days of Lot before Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by fire from heaven (see Genesis 19).
Now don’t miss this next point. Two verses after predicting that “lawlessness” would prevail globally, Jesus also offered hope by predicting, “This gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14; emphasis added).
The ultimate answer to our global mess isn’t slashing fossil fuel usage by buying electric vehicles. Nor is it merely accepting everyone as they are (which has its place) no matter what they do. Nor is it making one race or skin color superior to another race or skin color.
Instead, the “gospel” itself is the true solution to “lawlessness.”
What is the gospel? In the midst of global bad news, it is the good news that God still loves lawbreakers and sinners. He loves them so much that He sent His own Son to die on a cruel cross to pay the ultimate price. “Christ died for our sins” (1 Corinthians 15:3). Then He rose from the dead!
If we confess and forsake our sins and trust fully in the merits of Jesus Christ our Savior, God has promised to forgive our sins (1 John 1:9) and, by the power of His Holy Spirit, to write the Ten Commandments inside of our hearts so we can obey them (see Romans 8:4; Hebrews 8:10–12; Revelation 14:12). “Then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14).
Jesus Christ alone can solve our personal sin problems now, and He will establish the global solution when He returns.