Can Anyone Really Change the World?
“Poor people tell us that, above all, they want peace and security—and then opportunities to make their lives better. They want fair national and international systems so that their efforts are not thwarted by the overriding power of rich countries and rich companies.”
THAT is how the director of one international relief agency described the hopes and aspirations of poor people. In fact, her words could well describe the desire of all victims of the world’s tragedies and injustices. All of them long for a world of true peace and security. Will such a world ever become a reality? Does anyone really have the power and ability to change what is fundamentally an unfair world?
Efforts at Change
Many people have tried. For example, Florence Nightingale, a 19th-century Englishwoman, devoted her life to the cause of providing clean, compassionate nursing care for the sick. In her day—before antiseptics and antibiotics—hospital care was not what we have come to expect today. “Nurses,” says one account, were “uneducated, unclean, and notorious for their drunkenness and immorality.” Did Florence Nightingale have any success in her efforts to change the world of nursing? She did. Similarly, countless caring, altruistic people have had outstanding success in many areas of life—literacy, education, medicine, housing, feeding programs, to name a few. As a result, significant improvements have been made to the quality of life of millions of disadvantaged people.
Still, we cannot ignore this harsh reality: Hundreds of millions still find their lives blighted by war, crime, disease, famine, and other calamitous events. “Poverty,” says Irish aid agency Concern, “kills 30,000 people every day.” Even slavery, the target of so many reformers over the centuries, is still with us. “There are more slaves alive today than all the people stolen from Africa in the time of the transatlantic slave trade,” states Disposable People—New Slavery in the Global Economy.
What has thwarted the efforts of people to bring about complete, lasting change? Is it simply the overriding power of the rich and the powerful, or is more involved?
Barriers to Change
According to God’s Word, the overriding barrier to any of man’s efforts to bring about a truly fair world is Satan the Devil. The apostle John tells us that “the whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one.” (1 John 5:19) Right now, in fact, Satan is “misleading the entire inhabited earth.” (Revelation 12:9) Until his malign influence is removed, there will be victims of evil and injustice. What brought about this sad situation?
Our original parents, Adam and Eve, were gifted with an earth that was designed to be a perfect paradise home for the whole human family—a world that was “very good.” (Genesis 1:31) What changed things? Satan did. He challenged God’s right to make the rules by which men and women should live. God’s way of ruling, he insinuated, was unfair. He induced Adam and Eve to opt for a course of independence so that they could decide for themselves what was good and what was bad. (Genesis 3:1-6) This resulted in a second barrier to man’s efforts to produce a fair, just world—sin and imperfection.—Romans 5:12.
Why Allow It?
‘But why did God let sin and imperfection develop?’ some may ask. ‘Why did he not use his limitless power to get rid of the rebels and start over again?’ That sounds like a simple solution. However, the use of power raises serious questions. Is it not true that abuse of power is one of the main grievances of the poor and oppressed of the world? Does it not raise questions in the minds of righthearted people when some despot uses power to eliminate anyone who disagrees with his policies?
To assure honesthearted ones that He is not a tyrannical abuser of power, God chose to allow Satan and the human rebels to act independently of divine laws and principles—for a limited period of time only. Time would prove that God’s way of ruling is the only right way. It would show that any restrictions he places on us are for our good. In fact, the tragic results of rebellion against God’s rule have already shown that to be true. And they have proved that God is fully justified in using his great power to eliminate all wickedness when he chooses to do so. That will be very soon.—Genesis 18:23-32; Deuteronomy 32:4; Psalm 37:9, 10, 38.
Until God acts, we are trapped in an unfair system, “groaning together and being in pain together.” (Romans 8:22) Whatever we do to change things, we cannot get rid of Satan, nor can we completely eradicate the basic imperfection that is at the root of all the suffering we experience. It is simply beyond us to remedy the effects of sin inherited from Adam.—Psalm 49:7-9.
Jesus Christ Will Produce Lasting Change
Does this mean that the situation is completely hopeless? Certainly not. Someone far more powerful than mere mortal man has been charged with the responsibility of bringing about permanent change. Who is that? It is Jesus Christ. He is described in the Bible as God’s Chief Agent for the salvation of the human family.—Acts 5:31.
He is now waiting for God’s “appointed time” to act. (Revelation 11:18) What exactly will he do? He will bring about the “restoration of all things of which God spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets of old time.” (Acts 3:21) Jesus will, for example, “deliver the poor one crying for help, also the afflicted one and whoever has no helper. . . . From oppression and from violence he will redeem their soul.” (Psalm 72:12-16) Through Jesus Christ, God promises to make “wars to cease to the extremity of the earth.” (Psalm 46:9) “No resident [of his cleansed earth] will say: ‘I am sick,’” he promises. The blind, the deaf, the lame—all those affected by sickness and disease—will be restored to perfect health. (Isaiah 33:24; 35:5, 6; Revelation 21:3, 4) Even those who died in past centuries will benefit. He promises to bring back to life victims of injustice and oppression.—John 5:28, 29.
Jesus Christ will not bring about a partial, temporary change. He will totally eliminate all barriers to a truly fair world. He will remove sin and imperfection and destroy Satan the Devil and all those who follow his rebellious course. (Revelation 19:19, 20; 20:1-3, 10) The distress and suffering that God has temporarily permitted “will not rise up a second time.” (Nahum 1:9) This is what Jesus had in mind when he taught us to pray for God’s Kingdom to come and for God’s will to take place “as in heaven, also upon earth.”—Matthew 6:10.
‘But,’ you may object, ‘did not Jesus himself say that we “will always have the poor with us”? Does that not mean that there will always be injustice and poverty?’ (Matthew 26:11) Yes, Jesus did say that there would always be poor people. However, the context of his words along with the promises of God’s Word shows that he meant that there would always be poor people as long as this system of things lasts. He knew that no human would ever be able to rid the world of poverty and injustice. He also knew that he would change all of that. He will soon bring about a totally new system of things—“new heavens and a new earth” in which pain, sickness, poverty, and death will cease to exist.—2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:1.
“Do Not Forget the Doing of Good”
Does this mean that it is pointless to do whatever we can to help other people? By no means. The Bible encourages us to help others when they face trials and distressing circumstances. “Do not hold back good from those to whom it is owing, when it happens to be in the power of your hand to do it,” writes ancient King Solomon. (Proverbs 3:27) “Do not forget the doing of good and the sharing of things with others,” urges the apostle Paul.—Hebrews 13:16.
Jesus Christ himself encouraged us to do whatever we can to help others. He told the illustration of a Samaritan who came across a man who had been beaten and robbed. The Samaritan man, said Jesus, was “moved with pity” to use his own resources to bind up the wounds of the beaten man and to help him recover from the assault. (Luke 10:29-37) That compassionate Samaritan did not change the world, but he did make a huge difference to another man’s life. We can do the same.
However, Jesus Christ can do more than help individuals. He really can bring about change, and he will do so very soon. When he does, victims of today’s unjust conditions will be able to better their lives and enjoy true peace and security.—Psalm 4:8; 37:10, 11.
While we wait for that to happen, let us never hesitate to do anything we can, both spiritually and materially, to “work what is good” toward all those who are victims of an unfair world.—Galatians 6:10.
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Florence Nightingale made real changes in the world of nursing
Courtesy National Library of Medicine
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Christ’s followers do good to others
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The Star, Johannesburg, S.A.