Being a parent is a wide-open window into the human condition. For example, I’m constantly having to remind and encourage and cajole my young children to say “please” and “thank you” and to share. But I never have to encourage them to say “mine!” or to grab things that don’t belong to them or to hoard toys from one another.
Now where does this self-centered impulse come from? The Bible is helpful here because it gives us a vocabulary to talk about why we seem to be born with this self-centered disposition. You see, we’re told that when God created Adam and Eve, he created them in his image. That means, among other things, that they reflected his goodness. God affirmed their goodness when he looked at his creation, including Adam and Eve, and said, “It is very good.” So Adam and Eve had a perfect relationship with God. They were able to love and obey him perfectly. But then we’re told that Satan tempted them with a lie that God isn’t good, that he can’t be trusted, that real freedom is found apart from God and his law. And so when Adam believed and acted on that lie, Paul tells us in Romans 5, sin entered the world the way a virus enters the body, infecting all mankind from that time on. This is why from my earliest days, and my children’s earliest days, and, in the future, their children’s earliest days, we all say, “Mine.”
Now this doesn’t mean that people are devoid of all goodness. We’re made in God’s image and therefore we’re still capable of doing good and beautiful things. But sin has corrupted our ability to love and obey God with our whole hearts, strength, and minds. Sin has infected every part of us, so that we’re all born in sin and guilt, corrupt in our nature, and unable to keep God’s law.
Consider one example. Imagine a hungry lion, and imagine putting two plates of food in front of him—one a plate of raw red meat, the other a plate of perfectly cooked string beans. The lion can choose either one, but because of his nature he’s always going to choose the red meat.
See, when Adam sinned as our representative, our nature became enslaved to sin so that we no longer want or seek God. But when Christ came, he was the second Adam, and where the first Adam failed, the second Adam succeeded. Where the first Adam brought death through his disobedience and selfishness, the second Adam, Jesus Christ, brought life through his obedience and sacrifice on the cross.