The Root of All Sin: Why Atheists Can’t Be Happy
[Note: The full title should be (it would have been too long): The Root of All Sin: Why Atheists Can't Be Happy and Many Christians Aren't]
Most Christians are familiar with Jesus’ answer to the Pharisee’s question about the greatest commandment. The question and answer are found in Matthew 22: 36b-40.
“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him,
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.
And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
Based on this text John Piper has a penetrating analysis on the root of all sin. It is worth reproducing below:
“The root of our sinfulness is the desire for our own happiness apart from God and apart from the happiness of others in God…ALL SIN comes from a desire to be happy cut off from the glory of God and cut off from the good of others. The command of Jesus [to love others as yourself] cuts to this root, exposes it, and severs it.”
Piper goes on and equates this root of all sin with PRIDE. At first sight, it is difficult to see the connection, but it is clear that he is on the right path because pride is historically considered the most deadly sin in Christianity (it is the sin that we find in Lucifer himself).
Piper explains the connection:
“Another name for this root of sinfulness is PRIDE. Pride is the presumption that we can be happy without depending on God as the source of happiness and without caring if others find their happiness in God. Pride is the contaminated and corrupted passion to be happy. It is corrupted by two things:
1) The unwillingness to see God as the only fountain of true and lasting joys, and
2) The unwillingness to see other people as designed by God to share our joy in him.
If you take the desire to be happy [which is good and put there by God Himself] and strip away from it God as the fountain of your happiness in God, what you have left is the engine of PRIDE. PRIDE is the pursuit of happiness anywhere but in the glory of God and the good of other people for God’s sake. This is the root of all sin.”
I think that Piper is right on and this analysis was eye-opening for me. Pride has to do with misguided self-love. And this means at least two things:
1) Atheists cannot be happy (for they do not even believe in God who is the real fountain of joy and happiness).
2) “Christians cannot be happy either.” They cannot be happy unless they understand that the greatest commandment can only be made visible in the second. It is not enough to say that you love God, this love must find its true and normal (visible) expression in our love for the neighbor.
Piper explains in greater detail the root of all sin and the path to real happiness. It is a service that he does for every human being. For Pascal was right when he said:
“All men seek happiness. This is without exception. Whatever different means they employ, they all tend to this end…This is the motive of every action of every man, even for those who hang themselves [of course - this is a classic case of a misguided act of self-love].”
Have you been looking for happiness and satisfaction in the wrong places? Consider going to the Source. All other streams get lost in the desert.
It is worth reading the rest of Piper’s article. See here (chapter 32). He explains very well the importance of God and of loving one’s neighbor.
Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the LORD, for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.