By Bolanle Bolawole
The pictures of heaven and hell painted by the scriptures contrast sharply: One is a place of happiness, joy, and enjoyment while the other is a place of deprivation, sadness, and punishment. God presides over one while the devil or Satan superintends the other. Both are places of reward: heaven is a place of reward for those with good deeds while hell is a place of punishment (which in itself is another form of reward) for those who perpetrated or lived a life of evil while in the world.
Did you ever wonder why this has to be so? It is simply because without the prospect of reward, no one may be minded or encouraged, on their own volition, to do that which is good; and without the fear or knowledge that punishment awaits every wrong-doer, no one may feel compelled to move away from doing evil.
It would appear, then, that man, naturally, gravitates towards doing that which is evil unto others but knows to protect his own interests. For, according to the Roman philosopher, Cicero, every man instinctively gravitates towards “summun bonum”, which means “the highest good” while recoiling from “summum malum”, meaning “the greatest or ultimate evil or death.”
Which must be why God lamented that “the imagination of man’s heart was evil right from his youth” (Genesis 8:21). By “youth” God possibly means very early after creation. There was, then, a time when man’s heart was not evil but that period of bliss did not last long for reasons which need not detain us here. That man lost his innocence and purity did not sit pretty with God, hence, “it repented of the Lord that He made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart” (Genesis 6:6)
When God speaks of “man’s heart”, He speaks of the heart of every man and woman – of its general tendency/proclivity, which is to do evil; to pander towards evil; to gravitate towards evil and away from that which is good, pure, holy, and acceptable unto God. Thus, in Jeremiah 17:9, God says “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” Of course, God knows the heart of man because only He searcheth the heart (Jeremiah 17: 10).
Looking upon the face of a fellow man like Samuel did in the house of Jesse where he had been sent to choose another king for Israel that would replace fallen King Saul, man sees with ordinary eyes but God, who looks at the heart, sees beyond what man can see (1 Samuel 16: 6 – 7). Genesis 6: 5 says: “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”
The wickedness of man’s heart is, thus, constant and perpetual. Doing evil is in the DNA or genes of man. But you will be mistaken if you think man alone is prone to doing evil; even angels are! Genesis 6: 1 – 4 speaks of angels or “the sons of God” who coveted the beautiful daughters of men, climbed down from their high horse, married them, and, according to some bible scholars, raised children who were giants from the relationship.
The Book of Jude verse 6 reveals how God addressed this problem: “And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day”
Also, when Lucifer lost the battle against God, bible scholars say himself and one-third of the hosts of heaven/angels («innumerable company of angels» – Hebrew 12: 22) sided with him and were all thrown out of heaven (Revelation 12: 3-9).
God keeps His throne; sustains His power; and puts everything under control by maintaining a reward system that punishes evil and rewards good. God who created all things knows that all things will naturally gravitate towards their own pleasure, and not God’s, as stated in Revelation 4: 11. Hence, He enforces discipline, law and order.
Heaven runs smoothly and perfectly because God does not compromise on this standard. Therefore, as perfectly as He had made Lucifer and despite the very important assignment of the “son of the morning” in heaven, once he fell short, the full weight of God’s reward system was brought to bear upon him (Isaiah 14: 12 – 15; Ezekiel 28: 13 – 15).
Even Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the second Person in Trinity, was not exempted from God’s immutable reward system. Jesus did not just come to the world for man’s redemption, a reward for doing the job was first set before Him. Hebrews 12; 2 says of Jesus: “… who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God”
The best governor ever is God. Without discipline, law and order, society soon disintegrates into Thomas Hobbes’s state of nature of “the war of one against all…where life was brutish, nasty, and short”. Another area where the wisdom of God towers above Man’s is in setting priorities. In Genesis 1: 1- 5, God’s priority was power supply, setting, as it were, the horse before the cart.
Crime rate is one vital statistics used to measure the level of development; the more the crime rate, the lesser the level of development and vice versa. To all rules, there are exceptions, though. Another is the percentage of the populace that compulsively, instinctively obeys the law, without anyone breathing down their neck. Where people naturally tend to obey the law rather than break it, development is better assured and at a faster rate than where the populace generally tend to break the law, even with an avalanche of law enforcement agencies falling over one another.
The traffic management system of any country is also a measure of its level of development – and of the mental capacity and orientation of its citizenry. Where citizens are more likely to shunt than queue; where they are more likely to break traffic light than obey it; where they will rather offer a bribe to escape penalties for infractions committed than face the full wrath of the law; and where the law-enforcement agencies themselves have moved from providing solutions to becoming part of the problem, then, such a society can only develop in the wrong direction.
Corruption, insecurity, banditry, maladministration, breakdown of law and order, crimes of all hues, etc. are different facets of indiscipline. These thrive where the reward system is weak or is non- existent. Some countries devote a lot of energy, time and resources going after criminals, ensuring that none escapes justice, no matter how long it takes. They are no fools. Citizens are more likely to avoid committing crimes once they know the chances are high the law will resolutely come after them; scrupulously fish them out; and ultimately bring them to justice.
Conversely, crimes become the order of the day and criminals, kings where the chances of arrest and prosecution are very low or are non-existent. Where the system is easily and generally loose and perverse and can be compromised and perverted, then, crime will become the order of the day and criminals, kings of the jungle.
Over time, impunity sets in. The more confident criminals become as they subvert the law and get away scot-free one audacious act after another, the more the State as an organisation of law and order loses its raison d’etre, respectability, and power. The weaker the State, the stronger the criminals; and the stronger and more confident the criminals, the lesser the ability of the State to exert itself or protect its own interests. Soon, the State capitulates and the anti-social forces take over.
Insurgency, banditry, corruption, and Islamic fundamentalism apart, the criminal activities of rape, rape-and-murder, and paedophilia have been on the increase in recent times. Various reasons have been adduced for the troubling surge as well as its ferocity. Some have ascribed increasing loss of societal values. They are right: so-called modernisation and civilisation or, better still, aping the Western world, jettisoning our values and adopting strange ways, have led to a sharp increase in the rate of criminal activities here.
Age-old, yet subsisting, customs and traditions which treat the girl-child as chattel and the boy-child as king have also condemned women to a place of inferiority in the thinking of many. Our society is basically paternal and prejudices against women are still rampant despite our claim to civilisation. Many men still see and treat women as objects of pleasure, meant only to satisfy their sexual orgies and other base pleasures. This, too, is incontrovertible.
Whereas, Nigeria is a country drowning in laws, some, including this writer, have advocated for more stringent penalties for vile paedophiles, rapists, and rapist-murderers. One such suggestion is castration and it is gaining traction by the day. Rapists and paedophiles who murder their victim to boot should get the death penalty.