The title of this post, “The Plight of Man” seems rather old fashioned, but it conveys the sense of a desperate need in humanity, a need which has not gone away with the years. I have recently felt the weight of that need more and more, and I cannot find a better phrase.
This phrase has come afresh to me as a result of a more intensive look at the nations of the world and especially perhaps at looking at India. Operation World, the Prayer Guide to Every Nation, says quite bluntly, “India has more human need than any other nation”. It goes on to note that poverty affects hundreds of millions, a poverty that often means utter destitution; forty per cent in India live below the poverty line. Poverty abounds not only in the vast cities but throughout the whole of rural India. This is the truth behind a nation which now boasts a middle class of 350 million and the fourth largest number of billionaires. These merely stand astride a mountain of people in poverty and do not hide the plight of most.
One could add much more to that picture of need. For example an estimated 900,000 people (almost a million) in India die through drinking unclean water or through pollution, 35 million children under 15 are orphans whilst 20 million are child labourers and 1.2 million are involved in prostitution. This is just scratching the surface. The list of such appalling needs is a very long one.
I have cited India, but the truth is, of course, that gross human need, human suffering and distress abound wherever you turn in the world. It affects billions. In the U.K. we are remarkably sheltered from what so many suffer, and the weight of it scarcely touches us, even if we are by no means entirely sheltered from the experiences of need and suffering. It does us no harm to look hard and wide at this panorama of distress and let the “plight of man” start to weigh heavy on heart and mind. It certainly galvanises prayer.
A Moral Problem
This panorama does not speak simply of widespread and appalling physical and social need, however. It also speaks very loudly of a profound moral plight among mankind. For the simple fact of the matter is that a vast amount of the need and pain and suffering is due to the failings of human behaviour. The plight of man is in fact fundamentally a moral problem. Selfish greed and desire for power spawns corruption and violence. Corruption, feeding on the growth of wealth in the world, is a fast growing and world-wide moral disease. It is avid corruption, not least in high places, which in large measure keeps India and Africa in their backward and needy positions, and corruption is increasing rapidly in the West. The new rich India makes very little progress in getting its act together for the relief of its poor.
The fact is that the responsibility for the plight of mankind rests at mankind’s own door, and mankind on the whole shows a remarkable disinterest in helping its own kind.
Fall from Grace
Some will no doubt say I should look at things from the other end and see the good in the world – see the glass as half full, not half empty. I think that, however, just evades facing the fact of the desperate nature of the plight of man; it’s rather like saying look at your good finger when four others are broken. No, we need to face what we are like and the awfulness of our predicament. The plight of man is his massive moral deficiency, his huge fall from grace, causing mayhem among his own species.
That plight is, of course, precisely what God is earnestly seeking to impress on people. What has so recently weighed on me is the utter blindness of humanity to its moral predicament. Such blindness has brought incalculable pain to this earth. It’s the blindness of self-seeking. Much as people react against such a biblical expression, the truth resounding all around us is that “the wages of sin is death”. Humanity’s despite of such an expression is the measure of it’s plight, and more than that, it has brought a complete failure to recognise that what we see on this earth as a consequence of our “sin” is a picture of what we shall see intensified after death if we do face up to our moral failure. We should not be too quick to dismiss eternal pain when we see pain all too readily spread out before us every day of this life.
Now and Eternity
After all, this is precisely what Jesus came to point out. Eternal consequences were not a matter he touched only lightly; it was a major theme. He not only made a strong call to repent now and live uprightly before our fellow human beings, but he spoke of eternal life to come and he spoke of with severe warning of the need to make peace with our Maker through his death. The plight of man is a matter for now and for eternity. That is what makes it so weighty.
The plight of man is much, much deeper and dangerous and threatening than we are prone to think. We should all be better if it made us shudder.