The Root of All Evil

root-of-evil2The root of all evil.  They say it’s money (don’t they?).  Or if you talk about what’s the foundational sin, the root of all sins, the sin underneath our outward acts of sin, they say it’s pride.


Well, I don’t buy it.

What is pride, anyway? When I try and connect the word pride with some of my sin patterns, it just doesn’t fit. I’m not an addict to PC games out of pride. I don’t always get unnecessarily frustrated at things not going my way out of pride.

No, I think there’s a motivation other than pride under my sin. And another motivation belowadam-and-eve-sinning that.

Why did Adam and Eve sin?

Two reasons:
1. They didn’t trust that God was looking out for their best when He told them not to eat fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and
2. They decided they needed to take matters into their own hands (and mouths!) in order to meet their needs (because, presumably, God would not do so). So, they took control (ok, I’ll grant you that there’s pride in thinking we are able to control anything!).

The underlying motivations? Lack of trust and a resulting need to control.

distrutstNow that fits much better with my sins.

I feel stressed. I want to remove the pain. I DON’T TRUST God enough to endure the pain. At some level, I don’t believe He has a good reason to allow it. So I TAKE CONTROL and treat the pain with a numbing addiction.controller

Things aren’t going the way I want. I DON’T TRUST that God can meet my needs in such circumstances. So I TAKE CONTROL and fix things the way I like them.

I tell you: distrust and control work  better for me as the reason for my sin than pride does.

But, lo… there’s a deeper sin lying beneath these sinful motivations which drive my outward sin.  There’s a root of evil down there. And here’s what it is:

its-all-about-you-copyIt’s all about me.

And it was all about Adam and Eve.

They walked in the presence of God Himself, beholding His beauty.  Yet they took their eyes off Him and focused on themselves. They became the center of their own universe, and when they did, they became obsessed with meeting their own needs.

And since God denied Adam and Eve the tree’s fruit (and they needed the fruit of that tree…),  they began to distrust His good intention towards them. Then, to ensure their needs were met,  Adam and Eve took control and got what they wanted.root

They ate the fruit.

So, what’s the root of all evil?

Complete, utter, self-centerdness.copernicus

As Larry Crabb says, human beings  need “a Copernican revolution of the heart” to dig up that root:  the center of our heart’s universe must move from us back to God.

Boy, when I think back over my blogs of the last few months, that’s what I see: self-centerdness.  God help me.

In His graciousness, God is helping me. He is starting to open my the eyes of my heart to some egregious manifestations of my flesh that I had not before seen.

Thank God that the flesh’s drive to enthrone me will one day be fully conquered by my new nature’s desire and determination to return the King of Kings to the throne in every area of my life.

Dear Lord: Thanks for showing me my heart this week. Even though it stinks. Amen.


17 thoughts on “The Root of All Evil

  1. I read Marcy’s essay (To lose life and gain it…) she linked from in the comment above. In it, she discusses what it really looks like to lose your life. I thought it a very thought-provoking post and hope to respond to it in the New Year… and to get a conversation going on the topic.

    — Longing

  2. Pingback: To lose life and gain it « Becoming Three

  3. Essentially, I need a vacation from me. Yeah, my affliction tends to “curve me further inward” (kudos to C.S. Lewis) than I normally am. Struggled with that even today as I caught up with someone. I started to feel sorry for myself.

    I am to consider the needs of others, as well as my own (Phil 2 or is it 1?). Not obliteration of self- but putting self in its proper place. I am to love God more than I love myself. I am to love my neighbors as I love myself.

    but my disposition is to love me most of all, and the rest of you (God included) with the leftovers.

    I’m more captivated by Keller’s apologetic in one of his sermons- “which leads us more to love, x-ism or the gospel?” Obvious answer- Christ crucified, the magnificent manifestation of God’s love for helpless sinners like me.

    I’ve got to chew on that more……

  4. Saw a quote from Tim Keller that made me think of the balance between what you and Marcy were saying: “The Christian gospel is that I am so flawed that Jesus had to die for me, yet I am so loved and valued that Jesus was glad to die for me. This leads to deep humility and deep confidence at the same time. It undermines both swaggering and sniveling. I cannot feel superior to anyone, and yet I have nothing to prove to anyone. I do not think more of myself nor less of myself. Instead, I think of myself less.”

    Also, a minor correction: The Bible does not say that money is the root of all evil. The Bible says that the love of money is the root of all evil (1 Timothy 6). Small but significant difference, I think. Of course, you said “they” say it, so maybe you weren’t quoting the Bible. 🙂

    I really like the Larry Crabb quote about “a Copernican revolution of the heart”. Very apt illustration.

    Longing: Yes, I purposely said “they say it” so to attribute it to whomevers out there who occasionally say that (though, yes, they misquote the Bible).

  5. I think you are right, Vanity. The term “pride” just doesn’t personally convict me like “self-centerdness” does. It’s just overused!

    And to Mirirworm’s comment, I agree with Vanity. Any addiction typically means we are turning to something other than God to dull our pain. He tells us to bring our troubles to Him.

    I think I need to blog further on this topic. Meantime, I am reposting a longer piece that gets at this particular etimology of sin another way. It’s called “There’s Adultery Among Us.”

  6. Well, I think we’re really saying the same thing. I think, like you said, you just don’t like the word “pride.” Everything you wrote screams of pride, which is absurd and treasonous! Perhaps it’s more the connotations that go along with the word that are so disagreeable. But, it seems to me that self centeredness equates with pride. For, if we didn’t place ourselves above God (pride), we wouldn’t be looking only at ourselves.

    And miriworm, I would think that being addicted to PC games is absolutely a sin. What is the addict giving up in favor of such a mind-numbing activity? How do the games stir his affections for Christ? How do they win more to the kingdom? How do they really do anything eternally useful? …. I mean, we can say this about much of what we do in life. Thus, much of what we do is sinful. (And, you might say, prideful! 😉 )

  7. Don’t have much of an argument with ehat you say except that I didn’t realise being addicted to PC Games was a sin in itself – maybe the content of a game could be?

  8. Funny you should write that, Vanity. My husband and I were actually discussing my blog today. I said someone could actually equate extreme self-centerdness with pride: both put self above God. And your comment does just that.

    But, “pride” doesn’t feel as right to me. When I turn away from the beauty of God to focus on my own needs, it doesn’t seem like I think I am better than God. It almost seems stupid, not great (and “pride” implies that I think I am great). I can see your point, too: it’s prideful to even think our needs are more important than the beauty of God who stands before us (as in the case of Adam and Eve, for sure).

    Two scriptures that speak to the source of sin are also instructive. Lucifer fell because he wanted to “exalt his throne above” God (isaiah 14:12) – not just the way we replace God with ourselves in our personal focus, but he wanted to replace God as the center of the universe’s focus. And maybe that is what extreme self-centeredness does. Romans 1: 21, 25 also says, “although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God… and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator…” That sounds both unbelievable self-centered and extremely prideful.

    I think what I have against the “pride” word is that it 1) is sometimes unthinkingly thrown out as the root cause of all sins (often – it seems to me – used with no real understanding of what’s being said – and it feels like this empty word, to me, too) and 2) it doesn’t emotionally resonate with my own sense of my sin. I am far more convicted about the thought that in my total self-centerdness I turn away from the beauty of God to concentrate on myself and my needs. How absurd! How treasonous!

  9. Aren’t self-centeredness and the “it’s all about me” attitude essentially synonyms for pride? We’re focusing on ourselves instead of on God. The reason for doing that must be a pre-occupation with the importance of meeting our own needs above and beyond worshipping Him. Therefore, we think ourselves more important than God, even though we’d never even begin to allow ourselves to speak those words because we “know” it’s not true. But our lives scream the opposite. We see ourselves as more important than God. Pride. Right?

  10. Thanks for sharing that. I was responding not out of a sense of being criticized, but because of my frustration at seeing so much of the opposite (of putting God at the center) in the church at large today, teaching that seems to encourage self-centerdness, as if God is our cosmic vending machine, just here to serve us (you know, the prosperity stuff, but it’s all over the place). It so minimizes God (and it bugs the crap out of me, too!).

    What is so cool about Jesus’ teaching and the stuff I’ve learned from Piper and others is that if we lose ourselves in relation to God, if we stand in awe of Him and give Him the throne, we become not doormats, but our complete selves. If we put other people at our center, we are in danger of becoming doormats (and God can’t be there if another person is, too). But if we put God at the center, we become more of who we are. Very mysterious!

  11. Oh, yes, I don’t think I was disagreeing with you completely — just that as soon as the word self enters a discussion like this, I get all paranoid and defensive, because sometimes for some people it really does sound like praise of doormatness and obliteration. I was more just jumping in with a slightly different angle, or at least trying to; not trying to criticize — sorry about that! It’s just that the whole “how to be a self without usurping God’s place” question is so central to my psychological and spiritual quest. I know my self-centeredness is a problem, and I know obliterating the self is not the answer, and yet finding the right in between is hard.

  12. I agree with what you say and I agree with what I wrote, so there’s probably some different interpretation between us that I don’t understand.

    I guess if I had to put priority on the “it’s about…” statements, I’d say it’s first about Him, and only then about us. Not that we are obliterated, but that our aboutness is only found in relation to our being in awe of Him and seeing Him as the center of our universe (just as each member of the Trinity does with one another… mutual other-centerdness). I wish I could express it better, but I do believe that we are far more utterly self-centered and self-consumed and selfish than we understand.

    Any of you other commenters: can you shed light on this discussion? Any other opinions, thoughts?

  13. I didn’t mean that we are at the center, not at all — but neither are we obliterated.

    Jesus knew how to sacrifice himself without being a doormat. I hope to keep learning how that works.

    I want to say, “it’s about us!” — again, not that I’m on equal footing with God in his purposes, but neither am I completely out of the picture. God could have been alone forever and perfectly satisfied, but he chose to make us and include us in the story.

  14. Marcy: I think John Piper (who got it from Jonathan Edwards) has it right. When we turn our attention from self to God, we become more ourselves then ever before. Jesus Himself said “when we lose our life, we find it.” The way up is down.

    Piper suggests that our highest joy is found when we do put God at the center and remove ourselves. We are created to glorify God, to find satisfaction in Him, and when we seek Him, we find ourselves and our joy. I’d highly recommend “Desiring God” which describes these thoughts better than I.

    I don’t think God put us at the center when He chose to save us. He is still at the Center. He has to be. The Trinity itself acts out this extreme other-centerdness. Each member submits to the others and seeks each others’ glory at his own expense (witness Jesus’ many statements that suggest this). Likewise, when we lose ourselves to bring God glory, we actually find ourselves.

    When it stops being about me and it becomes about him, I finally find me.

  15. I was right with you until you got to self-centeredness. I just have issues with the “it’s not about me” thing — granted, God isn’t there just to meet our whims, and he didn’t need to create or love or save us, but he did choose to create and love and save us and bring us into relationship with him, and a relationship requires two persons, not one person and a groveling doormat robot clone empty vessel.

    I know there is still something deeply wrong in me, and I am boggled by the verses about dying to self and taking up crosses and losing our lives, and yet I am also convinced that the answer is not to stop being a person or a self at all.

    So I wait and ask and trust God to show me what it means to be a full self, a real person, without being sinfully self-centered.

  16. Good post.

    I definitely think self-centeredness and an “I deserve this” attitude are major problems. At least in my own life.

    I’ve also discovered that I try and seize control not so much because I believe God won’t act, but because I think he won’t act FAST enough.

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