I recently came across an article from Forbes entitled “Why The World Is Getting Better And Hardly Anyone Notices It” written by Steve Denning.
“Read the news and you can see that the world is going to hell in a hand-basket—and fast!” writes Denning. “Terrorism, nuclear weapons, economic stagnation, social unrest, autocratic leaders, structural unemployment, deskilling, growing hopelessness, the opioid epidemic, increasing inequality, xenophobia, economic migrations, recessions, financial bubbles and crashes, recessions, depressions—the list goes on.”
Denning then cites a survey in which the question was asked, “All things considered, do you think the world is getting better or worse?” 18,235 adults in 8 countries were surveyed. Only 6% in the United States thought the world was getting better. The best number was 10% in Sweden. And the worse was only 3% in both Australia and France.
“And yet the facts show otherwise,” Denning asserts. “In a powerful study entitled “The short history of global living conditions and why it matters that we know it” by Max Roser, an economist at the University of Oxford and the founder of Our World in Data, we learn that on virtually all of the key dimensions of human material well-being—poverty, literacy, health, freedom, and education—the world is an extraordinarily better place than it was just a couple of centuries ago.”
The article is both interesting and compelling in making its case. Three observations are worth considering.
(1) The article points to the fact that too many people are influenced by negative news. A steady diet of cable news 24/7, regardless of your favorite network, is mentally, emotionally and spiritually unhealthy. It can be depressing, discouraging, demoralizing.
By contrast in the midst of the corrupt culture of Rome, the apostle Paul encourages Christians with these words.
“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy — meditate on these things” (Phil. 4:8).
Our attitudes, actions and feelings are shaped by that which we think about. In fact, thoughts lead to the formation of character. Solomon said, “As he thinks in his heart so is he.” So, it is vitally important to be influenced by good, wholesome, positive virtues.
(2) The answer to the question, “Is the world a better place?” depends upon the criteria by which you assess it. Missing from the 6 areas that “proves” the world is a better place is the most important component–Spiritual values.
One might argue that we are worse off than we were 50 years ago. The acceptance of same-sex marriage and homosexuality, a divorce rate pushing 50%, drug abuse, addiction to pornography, sexuality transmitted disease, and a culture that is coarse and crass all point to a world that is going the wrong direction.
However, to a lesser or greater extent, the world has always gone the wrong direction without God. In the book of Genesis, the Bible says “the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5).
The book of Judges summarizes the sad state of mankind this way: “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Jud. 21:25).
Jesus Christ came into a culture that the apostle Peter called, “a corrupt generation” (Ax. 2:40). And Paul described the Roman world as a “crooked and perverse generation” (Phil 2:15).
Since the first sin, evil has always existed. And history records the ebb and flow of the moral state of mankind through the centuries from culture to culture.
(3) In reality, the only world that I can control is my own. I can choose to live soberly, righteously and godly in the present age” (Titus 2:12). I can abstain from “every form of evil” and “from fleshly lusts which war against the soul” (1 Thess. 5:22; 1 Pet. 2:11). And I can be “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world” (Matt 5;13-16) in my community, my home, and my church family.
In the final analysis, let’s not be negatively influenced to think things are worse than they really are. And yet, let us remember that the hope of the world is not based on better education, the eradication of poverty or medical advancements. Our one true hope is found in the gospel through Jesus Christ.
“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Col 3:2).
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman