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The Human Condition
Romans 1:16, 17, 22–32; 2:1–10, 17–24; 3:1, 2, 10–18, 23
October 21, 2017

A natural disaster sweeps through a city—hurricanes or wildfires—forcing residents to flee their homes and businesses and quickly close shop, leaving thousands of buildings and goods wide- open to looters. Greedy people sneak into these unwatched areas and ransack homes and shops carrying off valuable goods, like plasma TVs, money, and jewelry. It always happens in our world when unfortunate catastrophes put people at risk. The carnal nature of humanity rises up and takes advantage of the less fortunate. Right?

Hold the phone; let’s be careful how far we walk down this road. There is no doubt that looting takes place when there are natural catastrophes, but not everywhere and not always to the extent that some people pitch in the news or on social media. Yes, police in Santa Rosa have arrested looters near evacuation zones for the wildfires people are attempting to escape. Looters have been picked up in Houston after Hurricane Harvey flooded the city. And there have been looters arrested following Hurricane Sandy and Katrina. It appears more looting takes place during riots in cities. [1]

But numbers of looters vary depending on the location. Sometimes business owners have left grocery stores open for people to come and get food and water since these are deemed as survival necessities. A person who “borrows” an SUV to save someone’s life and then returns the vehicle wouldn’t be considered a looter, but a person who breaks a window of a store to make off with stereo equipment is a different matter.

Though balance is important (and prejudice needs to be weeded out), there is no question that there are plenty of examples in our world that show the breakdown of the human condition. The blot of selfish people who aren’t stealing bread to feed their hungry children, but robbing stores to fill their pockets, really is a reminder that we’ve all had times of self-focused living.

Our Sabbath school lesson this week brings into sharp focus the truth about the human heart. While we are quick to point our fingers at our TV screens and monitors at video footage showing looters trudging out of big box stores during disasters carrying giant LCD TVs on their shoulders, we cannot forget Paul’s words: “All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Surveillance cameras cannot reveal what is inside the human heart, but the Lord can see what we can only guess at—that everyone has been a looter in one way or another.

We’ve all stolen in some way, either by trying to put the spotlight on ourselves or our good works, or by physically taking something that belongs to another, or even by passing up an opportunity to serve someone in need. We’re all guilty at some level.

~ cr

[1] https://hazards.colorado.edu/uploads/observer/2007/mar07/mar07.pdf and http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/ct-harvey-looting-20170901-story.html