Before Pandora was a personalized radio service, she was a figure of Greek mythology. She was given a box with the instruction not to open it. Curiosity as her key, she lifted the lid and so streamed miseries, maladies, and all sorts of malice into the world to plague mankind.
The expression “opening Pandora’s box” relates to that story to warn of consequences and ramifications of certain actions. It provides counsel for avoiding unwanted trouble. It also suggests a metaphor for the unraveling moral fabric that endangers American society.
God’s diagnosis of the human heart is not an optimistic one. He speaks of the heart in bondage to sin, filled with wickedness, and inclined to evil.
Theologically speaking, human hearts are totally depraved. Not that people are as evil as they could be, but there is nothing in the operating system of people’s inner being that is unaffected and uncorrupted by the fallen condition of sin. Sin warps. It distorts. It incapacitates for honoring God and pursuing righteousness.
Parents are told that this waywardness, this misalignment, is bound up in the heart of a child. Therefore, they are to guard and guide their children. To protect a child from the foolishness bound up in the heart is to exercise love, as is direction in the way of righteousness.
Just as God has given parental authority to safeguard children, so He has given governmental authority to safeguard citizens. Societal structures represent common grace to restrain evil, to keep people from self-destructive behavior, and to promote community well-being.
When these restraints are lifted, depravity is unleashed.
Wickedness advances by being tolerated, then accepted, then promoted, then imposed. Psalm 1 traces this sort of progression.
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.
Walk. Stand. Sit. There are those that walk in the way of unrighteousness, living it out. From there they stand in that way, adopting the position and the practice, becoming entrenched in it. Finally, they sit in the seat of those who scoff at the way of God. Sitting was the posture of a teacher. They disciple in depravity, passing off evil as good, noble, and true.
The psalm makes clear the contrasting outcomes of the two ways. One leads to life, health, vitality, and the fruit of righteousness. The other leads to death, away from God.
Ultimately, the blessing of life and that abundant is bound up in the Blessed One, Jesus Christ. That blessing comes through special grace, as a gift of the Holy Spirit. Salvation is not by our obedience, but by Christ’s, and becomes ours through faith in Him.
But there is a blessing of common grace by living in the way of God’s design.
What we see unleashed in our society today is not the product of an enlightened mind, but rather a willing descent into the darkness of sin, fueled by an aspiration to be as God. The lid has been lifted, giving license to depravity. As the biblical diagnostic puts it: “Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more” (Eph. 4:19–20).
We live in a world in rebellion against God and His Christ (Psalm 2). That uprising has gained ground as it has been advanced through its educational, political, and pop cultural (entertainment, celebrity) institutions and influencers.
The miseries, maladies, and malice of the world are real. Even restrained by societal structure and stigma, they exert their infection. The only hope is found in Him who promises to make all things new. To Him we must bear witness by holding fast the word of life and holding forth the hope bound up in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Heavenly Father, grant me a heart of wisdom that recognizes folly and turns from it to walk in the way of wisdom. As light in the Lord, help us to walk as children of light, in all goodness, righteousness, and truth, not taking part in the unfruitful works of darkness but rather exposing them. For the glory of Christ our Lord we pray. Amen.
Stanley D. Gale is a minister in the PCA and the author of several books, including The Christian’s Creed: Embracing the Apostolic Faith and Workbook.