Things I have learned: The Total Depravity of Man

Over Memorial Day weekend of this year, my wife and I became emergency foster parents. I won’t divulge any details about them or the situation. Suffice it to say, since taking them into our custody, we have had to move to a larger home, and incur much financial difficulty. But that isn’t the point of this post. There are some things I have seen in these children (and the entire situation) that make very vivid illustrations of things we have been saying here on this blog (and elsewhere).  I will begin with the total depravity of man.

One of the children is a little girl who has (quite literally) never been told “No.” Everything she has ever wanted has simply been given to her. And she has never had to go through anything that was the least stressful or inconvenient. So she has never had to face disappointment, and she has never had to endure loss. All she ever had to do was cry and throw a tantrum, and she got whatever it was she wanted. So when a situation arises and she must go through something like separation from her siblings, she would cry and drool and throw herself on the floor and lose her mind—all because she never had to endure hardship.

What does this have to do with man’s depravity? Only everything. You see, this child was born with the same problem you and I were born with: she was born with a spirit that was only concerned with one thing, and that is pleasing itself. Think back to the 1980’s, the hit song from the British rock group Queen—“I want it all. I want it all. I want it all. And I want it”—when?—“I want it now.” We want it all. Everything we see, we want. And we don’t ever want to do anything we don’t want to do. And when we don’t get what we want, or we have to do something we don’t want to do, we throw a spiritual hissy fit. We may not cry and throw ourselves on the ground like this little girl, but we, in our spirit, buck up against God because we didn’t get our way. We are the king of our domain, and we’re gonna do and get what we want. Wasn’t that the desire of Lucifer, the brightest of all the angels? Isaiah 14:13-14“13 I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation On the farthest sides of the north; 14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.” Boy is that us or what? “I will do whatever I want to do, and I don’t care who gets in my way, I’ll run them over if I have to.”

Why? Because we think we deserve everything we want. And it is precisely that desire that brings forth sin. James 1:14-1514 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. 15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. It is only our desire that is to blame for sin and death. When we want something, we will do whatever we have to do in order to get it. And if that desire is not turned toward God, and if that heart remains separated from Christ, then the end of that man is death, what John calls the “second death” (Revelation 2:11, 20:6, 20:14, 21:8). James says, in another section, James 4:1Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? Again, we see the reason for any sin, no matter how grievous—up to and including beginning a war—is our desire for what we want. We want it, and we will kill anyone we have to in order to obtain it. Instead of asking God. If we seek the Lord, He will give us the desire for the things of God. But we don’t. we don’t want to. So we go about seeking the things that please us in ways that leave God out of the picture. “I want what I want, and I don’t want no God telling me I can’t have it! If He won’t let me have it, then…well…I’ll do it my way!” Does that last part sound familiar?

And it is these desires that rule in our hearts from the time we are born. Listen, no one has to teach a child how to disobey mom and dad. Did you ever have to sit your 6-month old down and say, “Now son, here is how you disobey me”? Of course that’s silly, but that is how silly it sounds when people say that man is not totally depraved from birth! Put two infants in the same room together, put ONE toy in between them and stand back and watch what happens. They don’t race to see who can share that toy with the other first. They’ll fight and tug over that toy, and 9 times out of 10 the one who gets the toy makes sure the other one gets the toy—right upside their head! This is nothing new; this goes all the way back to the earliest times in man’s history. After the flood waters resided, we read in Genesis 8:21Then the LORD said in His heart, “…the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth…” And if that heart is not guided toward thinking of others—and especially toward God—then that heart will simply grow colder to others and more distant to God. It takes discipline to change a child’s heart. If that child is not corrected, that child will grow up thinking the world owes him everything he wants, and if the world doesn’t give it to him, he’ll take it any way he can get it. Solomon said in Proverbs 22:15Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; the rod of correction will drive it far from him. Matthew Henry said this—

“We have here two very sad considerations: – 1. That corruption is woven into our nature. Sin is foolishness; it is contrary both to our right reason and to our true interest. It is in the heart; there is an inward inclination to sin, to speak and act foolishly. It is in the heart of children; they bring it into the world with them; it is what they were shapen and conceived in. It is not only found there, but it is bound there; it is annexed to the heart (so some); vicious dispositions cleave closely to the soul, are bound to it as the cion to the stock into which it is grafted, which quite alters the property. There is a knot tied between the soul and sin, a true lover’s knot; they two became one flesh. It is true of ourselves, it is true of our children, whom we have begotten in our own likeness. O God! thou knowest this foolishness. 2. That correction is necessary to the cure of it. It will not be got out by fair means and gentle methods; there must be strictness and severity, and that which will cause grief. Children need to be corrected, and kept under discipline, by their parents; and we all need to be corrected by our heavenly Father (Heb_12:6, Heb_12:7), and under the correction we must stroke down folly and kiss the rod.”

Man is depraved from birth. The Bible is very explicitly clear on this. And if that foolishness that is bound up in your child’s heart isn’t driven out, then you will wind up with a delinquent and a criminal headed for prison at best, or a lost sinner headed for Hell at worst.

9 thoughts on “Things I have learned: The Total Depravity of Man

  1. Well said, my brother. May the Lord continue to be your wisdom and provision as you care for these children, whom the world knows not how to handle. May He give you grace to proclaim the law to them until they see their sin and cry for mercy, proclaiming the only remedy as salve for their guilty souls. And may God be glorified in your efforts.


  2. Sounds like the parents had these two in the nursery at any local mega church wannabe in America, while the parents trotted off to get their coffee at the common grounds coffee shop in the atrium before the next wind of doctrine bible study that uses every new best seller at the christian book store and never the bible…


  3. Well put my brother … well put … An aside – will be in prayer about the emergency foster situation. Another lesson … You are fostering a child … How illustrative of God’s common grace … AND – if you were to adopt – a greater illustration of His saving grace …


  4. It was a general comment on the state of the American church 4Pt. I have seen the exact same reaction from children in the nursery at large churches. It was not the exception to the rule there, in fact at one, when our little girl, now 24, was in nursery and came out with a bite mark, we were told the pastor’s daughter was known as a “biter!” So it was a common pattern for her to get her way with the toys! I can assure you her dad was/is a “biter” to this day!
    By the way, since I am not a thoracic surgeon, I too have never really seen the inside of the “church” myself either. Christ was quite clear about His opinion of religious buildings verses His Building of Living Stones!
    You have taken on a good work in helping these victims of American Narcissism and it is a burden beyond the understanding of most of us. May the Lord equip you with everything you need to meet their needs and yours at this hour.


  5. Dear Brother, may you folks have the strength to continue through these trials and difficulties. This may well be the first and only chance for a long time that they will be able to see and hear the gospel of Jesus Christ be modeled for them as you seek to care and love them. Every blessing, TJM


  6. How can you say that a child is to blame for its horrid upbringing, or that the fact that she is crying for the loss of her sibling is a bad thing? Really? I can imagine the liberal theologian now, “Jesus was never really mature, you know, he wept at the death of Lazarus. Mature people don’t weep at the loss of a loved one.” That is one of the most unChristian things I have ever heard. If you want to demonstrate the depravity of man, look to the parents of such children who are often to blame for their children’s hurt.


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