Total Depravity and A Small Act of Kindness

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Yesterday, on my way home from the grocery store, I was overwhelmed by a very small act of kindness. Not one done to me, but one I was able to offer a total stranger.

As I neared a construction area in my neighborhood, I saw a man driving a truck wishing to come out of the alleyway. He was unable to because no one driving either north or south would allow him entrance onto the main road since we all had to share a single lane due to the construction. I understand. It was rush hour and everyone was trying to get home.

When it was my turn, and I had the right of way, I stopped and waved him in. He was hesitant and looked to the car coming southward, but they saw me and stopped too. The driver of the truck smiled, carefully drove out, and gave me a warm wave of thanks. I smiled, nodded and waved back. Then I smiled and waved at the driver who joined me in this very small act of kindness and they smiled and waved back.

Unexpectedly, as I thanked God for this opportunity to show a stranger this very small act of kindness...I began weeping. I was overtaken by the fact that I could experience such joy over something no one else involved in this situation would probably ever remember. I mean, this isn't the kind of thing anyone goes home and writes about (well...obviously...present company excluded). This very small act of kindness isn't something we'll eagerly tell our family and friends or even years from now, reminisce fondly and repeatedly tell our grandchildren about. It's simply a very, very, very small act of kindness.

So why am I writing about it? Why am I telling you about it? Why is this small act such a big deal?

It's a big deal because the instant I thanked God for allowing me to experience exuberant joy for such a small act of kindness, I realized how very depraved I am without Christ. As I thanked God for allowing me to notice that other person, the small need he had at the moment, and that I was able and desired to meet that need, filled me with joy.

Realizing I'm far too self-absorbed, selfish, and so many other words that begin with "self", to notice another human being, let alone a need they might have, I wept with thanksgiving in my heart to the Lord. In actuality, we're all a bit too self-something or other. We all complain too much, we all feel more entitled than we ought, and we all suffer from outright pride, or pride cloaked in self-loathing.

Our eyes are too fixed on self rather than on Jesus and that's why we disobey Him and why many won't acknowledge Him as who He is—the one true God, Creator of all we see and can't see, the King of kings, the Lord of lords and the only way of eternal salvation. Whether we want to admit it or not, and regardless of how meek a person may appear, disobedience to God in any form originates from pride. We all have it. And we all suffer from how it manifests itself—total human depravity.

But here's the thing, total depravity doesn't mean I'm as depraved as I can be and neither are you. Total depravity means we're all sinful and totally incapable of saving ourselves. But because of God's common grace, no human being is as depraved as they can be. Evil does not dominate the earth because God is God and He is gracious. The sun shines on both those who bear the righteousness of Christ as well as those who reject Him. God causes the rain to fall on the ground and bear fruit to feed both His children and His enemies.

Without God's common grace poured out to all creation, no human would be safe from constant evil bombarding them from their first breath to their last. None of us would ever be able to experience any joy in participating in any act of kindness, small or great because we simply wouldn't even think to do it. We're all too self-actuated. We are all that depraved (Rom 3:10-12).

Admitting I'm totally depraved without Christ isn't self-loathing. And it isn't depressing. It's actually an act of great confidence, that is, confidence in Christ's finished work on the Cross on my behalf. Those whom God has chosen to grant repentance that leads to saving faith, willingly bring and see all things in the light of God's truth so that it's clear that any and every good has been carried out by the mighty and compassionate hand of God (John 3:21)—even a very small act of kindness.

"For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?

"Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures."
~1 Corinthians 4:7, James 1:16-18 (ESV)