Have you ever marveled at the creativity and inventiveness of the human mind? I remember as a boy learning about Alexander Graham Bell inventing the telephone, Eli Whitney the cotton gin, and Guglielmo Marconi the telegraph.
Considered America’s greatest inventor, Thomas Edison introduced incandescent lightbulbs, the phonograph and many other devices that changed our lives and paved the way for other wonderful innovations. Necessity might be the mother of invention, but Mr. Edison might have been its father.
|We benefit from human inventiveness in many|
ways - but not always. It also has a dark side.
We could name many other notables, ranging from Henry Ford to George Washington Carver to the Wright brothers. Thanks to Elisha Otis, every time we get on elevators, they don’t plummet to the bottom level. Perhaps more than anyone else, his career had its ups and downs.
Unfortunately, inventions that serve the common good can also be utilized to accomplish all manner of nefarious deeds. Spending time around little kids, we can witness how inventive they can be for getting into mischief. Toddlers sleep a lot, and I think they dream primarily about what they can do to annoy mom and dad.
Inventiveness for the sake of wrongdoing doesn’t disappear with the passage of years. Adults also have an endless capacity for imagining ways to do bad, even with good things. Take the internet, for example. It’s essentially neutral. A means for disseminating information; enabling people to communicate quickly and efficiently with one another; and shrinking the world so we can reach out electronically and touch someone many thousands of miles and multiple time zones away.
Unfortunately, clever – and malevolent – minds have figured out many ways to do bad stuff with this essentially wonderful resource we used to call the “worldwide web”: Scams – have you gotten an email from a Nigerian prince lately? Viruses to infect the computers we now rely on so much. Computer pornography to addict the minds of viewers who believe they can indulge in mental garbage without causing harm to anyone – except for cherished relationships, work productivity, and their perceptions of the real world. Hateful expressions on social media range from simple ridicule to shameless, menacing bullying of vulnerable, sensitive people.
Technology may have changed dramatically through the centuries; the propensity for distorting our inventive capacities for harmful, destructive intentions has not.
Paul the apostle wrote about this in the opening chapter of his letter to believers in the early church in Rome, commenting on the state of those who consciously rebelled against God: “…they invent ways of doing evil” (Romans 1:30).
What was the purpose of this evil inventiveness? Paul explained earlier in the chapter, “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles” (Romans 1:21-23).
A few verses later, the apostle gets more specific: “They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful…” (Romans 1:29-31).
This entire chapter was a powerful indictment of society nearly 2,000 years ago, but even a casual glance at our world shows things haven’t changed much since then.
Years ago, a popular paraphrase of the Bible was called Good News for Modern Man. The early chapters of the book of Romans, however, sound more like “bad news about modern man.”
Thankfully, even when it appears humanity at its worst is on the rise, we have the assurance God hasn’t lost His capability to turn bad into good, making wrong into right. As Joseph said, after being reunited in Egypt with his jealous, vindictive brothers who had sold him into slavery years before, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Genesis 50:20).
Even at the worst of times we can trust in the assurance Paul offered later in his letter to those in Rome, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).