The heart [ is ] deceitful above all [ things ], and desperately wicked; who can know it?
In certain ( Christian ) circles today, some rather heavy emphasis is placed on this and other such passages, which seem to point to the utter worthlessness & wickedness of man, apart from belief & trust in Christ! Even as Christians, our hearts are so desperately wicked, that unless we confess our sins every Lord's Day to receive absolution, we will doubtless fall away from the faith and be in danger of burning in hell for eternity!
This belief & emphasis is no doubt part of the reason for many evils; evils like suicide, severe depression which can lead to suicide and people, young & old alike, leaving the Communion of the Saints in droves! Jesus told His disciples, 'you are of more value than many sparrows' ( Luke 12:7 ), and while one might well remind us that Jesus was speaking to His disciples there, we might do well to remember too, that we are all His children/creatures/offspring ( Acts 17:28 ), and that He 'is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance' ( II Peter 3:9 ( although these words may be seen to be primarily eschatological in scope, they hold true today as well )!
Our Heavenly Father, contrary to certain popular opinion, is not a cruel Master of Puppets! Although the apostle Paul reasoned, in Romans 9:22, '[ What ] if God, wanting to show [ His ] wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction', this, as well, can be seen as a primarily, if not totally, an eschatological construct! We know that God does not change; the Scriptures tell us of His immutability ( Malachi 3:6 ); He has not changed His 'modus operandi', but if we are to believe the majority of Christians today, God's creatures have all been condemned to one of two places, 'Heaven' or 'Hell'; either they are 'vessels of wrath' or 'vessels of mercy'!
Is the above a viable scenario; does God create a certain number of people destined for 'Heaven' while the rest are destined for 'Hell'? Is it not rather, as Peter so succinctly put it above, that He is 'is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance'?! We, as believers in a Fulfilled Eschatology, know that when Jesus, God in the Flesh, came to earth over 2,000 years ago, He consummated the Marriage of Heaven & Earth through His Advent, and through the destruction of Jerusalem & the Temple, destroyed Death forever, casting 'Hell' ( Hades ) itself into the Lake of Fire ( Revelation 20:14 )!
Since we know that our Heavenly Father does not destine His children to either one of two places, can we question the traditional paradigm that Paul seems to outline in Romans 9:22? What if God, instead of creating one group for destruction and another for eternal life, gives men a choice ( 'choose this day whom you will serve'- Joshua 24:15 ) as to whether they will enjoy the blessings of His Presence, or whether they will labor under the oppression of those who live in disobedience to His immutable Glory!
There is no man without value in the estimation of our Heavenly Father, for we are all His Creation! Does a person lose this value just because he or she chooses to live outside the bounds, so to speak, of the Family of God? Does one retain this Value just because he or she chooses to live in obedience to the Royal Law ( Matthew 22:37-40 )? Each one of us has this choice, to live according to our Heavenly Father's prescription or to become sick & die, but our choice does not determine our value! It may determine how people around us value us, as a friend or enemy ( or inconsequential ), but it is our status as God's Creation that determines our Value!
Our failure to see this intrinsic value, and so to undermine rather than to bolster it, has been the cause of much suffering & pain in this world! Because we do not see that Value in all of God's Creation, many have perished in numerous wars & untold desolation; genocides & suicides have taken places for all the ages because this group is seen as of more value than that, or, more to the point, that other group, or person has no value at all! The life of a mother overvalues that of the unborn child, or more to the point, the mother's own selfish desires outweigh the worth of any fetus she may have unwittingly co-created!
It is true, as Jesus said, that 'No man can come to me, except the Father who has sent me draw him' ( John 6:44 ), but it is within the 'heart' of every man, woman and child to choose whether to accept the Rule of Heaven ( God ) in their life, or to choose to spurn His Grace & Mercy and live a cursed existence, apart from the blessings which obedience brings ( some call it 'karma' )!
May we ever note the value, not just of our own life, but that of every other creature ( except maybe those damned 'skeeters'), and recognizing that value, treat ourselves and each other with the respect we deserve as the Creation of our Heavenly Father, whether we esteem that one has worthy of our attention or not!
Charles Haddon Shank