I am becoming more and more intrigued with the mind of William Barclay. I really appreciate his astuteness and willingness to go the extra distance to help me understand a lot of things.
In today’s devotional reading from his book, Daily Celebration, Word Books, Waco, TX, 1972, pgs 135, 136; we find the subject Two Natures.
Which is the real man? I read in the papers about a criminal who, during his gaol sentence, had tamed a magpie and who had so won over the bird that it was quite fearless. The criminal, or the man who with infinite patience tamed the bird ~ which is the real man?
This question is written into the Bible. Which is the real David? The David who spared Saul’s life with infinite magnanimity, who would not drink the water which his mighty men brought from the well which was by the gate, at the jeopardy of their lives, or the David who callously arranged the death of Uriah that he might lustfully possess Bathsheba?
Which is the real Peter? The Peter who denied Christ in the courtyard of the High Priest’s house, or the Peter who took his life in his hands for Christ before the Sanhedrin?
Which is the real John? The John who wanted to call down fire from heaven to blast a Samaritan village, or the John who had but one message: “Little children, love one another.”
For that matter, which am I? I can work to the point of exhaustion and I can be completely lazy; I can be generous, and I can be mean; I can be kind, and I can be cruel; I can be patient, and I can be impatient.
The Jews said that inside every one of us there are two natures ~ the Yetser Hatob, the good nature, and the Yetser Hara, the evil nature. They said that every man had two angels, a good angel on his right hand pulling him up, and a bad angel on his left hand dragging him down.
Socrates said the soul was like a charioteer with the task of driving two horses, one gentle and tame, the other wild and undisciplined. The one was the passions, the other the reason. With almost poignant vividness Paul described the struggle within in Romans chapter 7.
It is a characteristic of human nature that we are a mixture. To the end of the day that remains true. There is only one person who can control the evil side of us and who can make the good supreme, and that is Jesus Christ himself.
In this life we never finally win the victory, but the nearer we live to him, and the more constantly we remember him, the more the good in us is victorious and the evil is defeated. In him alone there is conquest of ourselves.
Basically, two ideas stand out for me in this devotional thought.
First is the idea of two sides inherent in each of us: the good side, and the evil side. Throughout the entire Bible we are shown the power of God residing in His mighty right hand. We understand this to mean His power for good. We also know that when a king, or a sovereign wishes to recognize someone for the good they have done for them, they are seated at his right hand. You know, Scripture tells us that Jesus returned to heaven and sits at the right hand of God ever ready to intercede for His own.
Continuing in this thought, I am reminded that in earlier times, it was considered to be bad, or evil for a person to be left-handed. If we talk with our parents, or grand-parents, we learn that in school they were forced to use their right hand to write even if their left hand was their dominant hand. The popular belief, I believe was that a child who used the left hand was destined to deeds of evil; so, nip it in the bud, and get them on the right path.
In ancient cultures, and in many of the mid-eastern cultures today, the right hand is good and the left hand is bad. You never use your left hand to eat with, nor to greet another. The left hand is used to clean yourself after using the bathroom, it is dirty, and can never be cleansed. Witness, the cruelest punishment a thief can receive in that culture…to have the right hand cut off. You immediately become an outcast, right up there along with the lepers who raise fear and loathing in others.
Today, we talk about the “left” and the “right” in the realm of politics and intellectual direction. We generally relate the left to mean, oppressive, degenerate rulers who have no concern for their fellow man. We think of Stalin, Hitler, Cesar and the many of their ilk.
I am amazed at the Jewish interpretation of Yetser Hatob and Yetser Hara: the angel on the right hand that pulls you up; and the angel on the left hand that pulls you down. Isn’t that what we are seeing today in the political struggle we are witnessing? To my military mind, the “left” is definitely pulling us down; as a nation and as individuals. Make an attempt to discuss something with someone from the left, and they end up calling you names, and doing all they can to destroy you or your character. If you want to have a real down to earth discussion with someone, you must meet with a person who is dedicated to the “right”.
The second idea that readily stands out in my mind is the thought that the evil side has the tendency to be the dominant direction in our lives. After all we live in a fallen world, a world that has chosen to deny God, and invent our own gods that we can worship and depend upon.
I am sure that every one of us alive can testify how easy it is to do something wrong, or evil, and yet, how difficult it is to do something good. One of my favorite statements has been in reference to physical exercising: “When the thought crosses my mind to exercise, I lie down on the couch and eat a Snickers bar.” Consider the time a clerk gave you back too much change, and how difficult it was to bring it to their attention and return the overage. Wow, how much easier it is to just put the windfall in your pocket and walk out thinking, they will learn.
The only remedy, that can bring us beyond this overpowering bent to do evil rather than good, is to trust totally in God through Jesus Christ, that He will, and can, change us into loving, caring persons who are the same yesterday, today and tomorrow in our dealings with each other. Sadly, we have come to point where we no longer believe in evil…so, we continue to steal money from the workers to pay to have babies killed in the womb; we free criminals who prey on society, we continue to steal money from the workers to support the lifestyles of the criminals and the lazy; all in the name of being beneficent.
Until the time, we as a nation, and as individuals, come to the realization that there is evil loose in this world, and that only God, the Creator, is capable of controlling the evil in this world and in our lives, we will continue to deteriorate until there is nothing left of good. May God have mercy on our souls.