He Permits It, But Who Practices It?
What is the wickedness that God permits and that people lament? That which results in human suffering.
Nations declare wars, slaughter soldiers, bomb cities, kill women and children, litter the earth with dead bodies. Pestilence flourishes. Scorched-earth policies are implemented. Famine follows. This generation has suffered two world wars. The first killed 10 million men, the second claimed 55 million lives. Bombs rained down on vast areas, and atomic bombs incinerated two large cities.
In 1979 some 50 million people in Third World nations starved to death. Some 25 million children under five in those nations die every year, and a thousand million people are chronically hungry. This wickedness is preventable, by man. The earth is capable of producing food far in excess of the needs of its inhabitants. Bringing the Ganges basin under cultivation, for example, would create a food production potential of 150 million tons, but it is not done because of the cost. Yet a tiny fraction of the $500 thousand million spent in 1980 on the world’s military budgets would finance it. What does this say about man’s priorities?
“In the time it takes to read this sentence, 8 acres of forests will disappear.” That is how “Newsweek” magazine introduced its article on vanishing forests. Since 1950 half of the world’s woodlands may have been lost. Twenty-five to 50 million acres are now disappearing yearly. In Africa five million acres are cut annually, 90 percent of these burned as fuel. The result? Spreading deserts and increasing famine. Bulldozer mentalities hungry for quick profits are ravaging the rain forests of the Amazon basin, with disastrous consequences. One ecologist says: “At the present rate, they could end up creating another Sahara.”
When man skins the forests off the earth, the topsoil is washed into the sea—and it is the earth’s topsoil that grows the plants that feed the world. One example: In India 6,000 million tons of this precious resource, 10 tons for every person in the country, slips away downstream each year. It takes thousands of years for rock to be pulverized into soil, and centuries more for such soil to become enriched enough to support food crops. Dirt cheap? Not this dirt! It’s far more precious than gold. Less topsoil, less crops, more famine—this is man’s doing, not God’s.
Permitted by God but perpetrated by men is worldwide pollution of air, water and soil. This is wicked, if wickedness is measured by human suffering. Miscarriages, birth defects, diseases, deaths—no one knows how many millions are victims. One flagrant example: an industrial community of 80,000 in Brazil where petrochemical centers are located. It is called a “valley of death.” Spewed daily into this city’s air and water are 1,000 tons of toxic gases, poisonous mists and venomous liquids. The rivers billow with suds, the fish are born blind and deformed, the atmosphere is heavy with industrial smoke. There are no insects or birds or butterflies whatsoever in the area, and when it rains the acids in it burn the skin. Thousands die.
As these horrors of human suffering continue to unfold, another kind of pollution becomes obvious, the pollution of mind and morals. Before men can deliberately and flagrantly pollute the earth and thereby destroy beauty, property, health and life, they must first be polluted inwardly—mentally, morally and spiritually.
MAN AGAINST HIMSELF
But it is not only nations and industries and other powerful groups that inflict suffering upon millions of helpless victims but individuals victimize other individuals. Crime soars to new highs as people murder, rape, rob and assault other people.
Then there are those millions who victimize themselves. They overeat, get too fat and strain the heart; diet fanatically, get too thin and weaken resistance; refuse to exercise and become flabby; overindulge in alcoholic drinks and get cirrhosis of the liver; smoke tobacco and die of lung cancer; use marijuana and damage brain, heart, lungs and the reproductive and immunity systems; practice adultery and sodomy and contract venereal diseases; drive recklessly and injure or kill themselves and others; greedily pursue money and power, position and possessions, and in so doing create stress that causes ulcers and heart attacks—each reader can continue the listing of preventable evils that people bring upon themselves.
MISUSED FREE WILL
God does not permit wickedness in the sense of issuing a permit to practice it; he does allow man to misuse his freedom of choice and cause it. Ecclesiastes 7:29 interestingly comments: “God made the race of men upright, but many a cunning wile have they contrived.”—Moffatt’s translation.