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Often I hear someone say, “The world is getting worse and worse.” And I have heard others say, “Things sure are better now than they used to be.” Is either of these statements true? Could it be that both are true?
Answers to these questions may be found in a parable of Jesus (Matthew 13:24-30), which tells how a man sowed good seed in his field. However, while most people were sleeping, some others sowed tares (weeds) in the same field. A problem became apparent when the man’s servants discovered the desirable wheat and the worthless weeds growing side by side. The servants inquired about the origin of the weeds. With no hint of surprise, the farmer explained that an enemy had planted the tares.
“Should we pull up the weeds?” the servants asked, The owner ruled out that course of action, indicating that destruction of the unwanted weeds would also destroy the desired wheat. Instead, the servants were told to let both growths continue until harvest time, when the reapers will gather the wheat into the farmer’s barn and the weeds will be burned.
That story characterizes the world in which we live, where a mixture of good things and bad things are growing simultaneously, and it makes it clear that a time of divine judgment is a certainty.
Is the world getting better? In some ways it is. We have seen many useful things grow from the planting of good seeds, whereby some things have gotten better for most of us. For example, we live in a world blessed by extensive volunteerism and by a multitude of humanitarian efforts. We have better housing, better medical care and live longer and with less pain than our ancestors. Many crippling and deadly diseases have been all but eradicated.
We are better educated, have better transportation and benefit from better communications. We have more economic freedom, enjoy more things, travel more and have more leisure time. We are not in a world war, we have made progress in race relations and we have the capability to produce enough food and goods for the world. Yes, the world has gotten better.
In keeping with a “the world is getting better” mindset, a few visionaries predicted as late as the beginning of the 20th century that within a short period, the world would have grown so much better that poverty, crime, war, disease and suffering would be no more. A few teachers and preachers even espoused similar ideas prior to World War I.
That utopian bubble, however, burst abruptly with the devastating World Wars I and II, the Korean, Vietnam, and Cold wars, and the nuclear threats. These wars took place when some of the world’s best-educated and most cultured people became the most inhumane in killing tens of millions of people. Many of us lived and fought through those times, which exposed anew the ugly and darker side of humanity.
Actually, each day is a time of planting for every person, so that concurrently the world’s people are planting good and bad things. While good seeds are being sown in the fields of the world, with their beneficent output, the bad seeds of evil, hatred, destruction and environmental pollution are being sown.
While there are those who diligently work for peace in many troubled places in the world, there are those who profit by the world’s misery who zealously scheme to promote their evil causes. Also, while the resources for better health are available to more people of the world, at the same time there is a proliferation of health and life-threatening scourges caused by substance abuse, the opioid crisis and large segments of society drowning in the excessive use of alcohol.
How could anyone imagine the world is getting better when abortion and AIDS are considered? It is beyond my comprehension to read that in the United States alone, a holocaust of death reached more than 60 million abortions in the United States since the Supreme Court’s 1973 ruling.
Also, it is mind-boggling to read a United Nations report indicating 34.3 million people in the world are living with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, with 18.8 million having already died. The deaths of young men and women in sub-Saharan Africa have left behind more than 13 million orphans. Though many of the dead and infected suffer through no fault of their own, the spreading of the accursed disease has been caused mostly by irresponsible behavior or deliberate misbehavior.
Again, the great potential for sowing good seeds in the world through the press, radio, television, movies and the internet has been increasingly nullified by the sowers of evil seeds in the world. While these media are capable of improving the quality of life for most people, there are some greedy and evil people exploiting them to produce violent and obscene entertainment and to use the internet to promote revolution, violence, fraud, seduction, detrimental lifestyles and to turn society into a cesspool of pornographic obscenity and violence.
Some of us remember feeling a mild shock in America in 1939 when Clark Gable used a four-letter profanity in “Gone With The Wind.” Now six decades later, there seems to be no limits and little public shock when we are bombarded with streams of obscene words, suggestive remarks, lewd scenes and the routine bandying about of the names of God and Jesus Christ. In this country our so-called progress and enlightenment in entertainment for “adult” and “mature” audiences finds us drowning in a polluted sea that encourages violence and reckless behavior, glorifies cohabitation and adultery, mocks the institution of marriage, demeans the family, applauds promiscuity and sexual perversion, parades the most sordid of characters from the scums of society on TV talk shows and ridicules many Judeo-Christian values.
Much of society has turned its natural inclinations for religion away from Judeo-Christian times and places of worship and into a subculture of pagan cultism, whose false gods seem to be some high-profile figures in music, movies, television and sports.
The surge of legal and illegal immigration in America has broadened pluralism and multiculturalism, and has made a sacred cow of political correctness, much of which has diminished the influence of traditional values in society, public schools, government and institutions.
The tares in the field can be seen in the shameful numbers of illegitimate births and in the widespread brokenness of homes, where almost one out of two marriages in America ends in divorce. We can see it in the terrible effects upon children and society brought on by the unfaithfulness of people who are married and those unwilling to make the commitments marriage needs.
We see it in the growth of white-collar crime, adult and teenage crime and sexual abuse, the threat to public safety because people do not know or have rejected traditional beliefs that it is wrong and injurious to steal, lie, kill or commit adultery.
So, is the world getting better or worse? Both.
That’s not just double talk, because both the good and bad are growing side by side all the time. And the time of reaping has already come in some ways and will continue to come, as the good fruit is gathered for use and the weeds from the evil seeds will be destroyed.
All of this is meant to show a broader picture of what is going on in the world and what the conclusion of the whole matter can be expected to be. So, plant as many good seeds for the world’s benefit as you can. Be encouraged that these attempts at infusing good can anticipate a harvest of good fruit, while the sowers of bad seeds can only expect bad fruit and divine judgment.
Ray Hodge is a Kenly native and a retired minister. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.