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Opening Pandora’s Box

by Stephen Davey Scripture Reference: Romans 1:28–32

Those who abandon God quickly spiral downward into a depraved mind that justifies, approves, and applauds evil. It is a sad reality we can observe today, but just as real is the hope that is always present in Jesus Christ.


In Greek mythology, a woman named Pandora was supposedly the first human who lived on earth. Eventually, one of the gods entrusted her with a beautiful box but told her never to open it. What she did not know was that the box was filled with all kinds of powers, some good, but mostly evil and destructive powers.

Eventually, her curiosity got the best of her, and she opened the lid of the box. When she realized what began pouring out of it, she tried to close it, but it was too late; everything bad had now escaped into the world. The one thing she unknowingly prevented from escaping into the world, as she quickly closed the box, was hope. Hope was now forever trapped inside Pandora’s box.

Well, fortunately that is just a myth. However, it does depict mankind’s lack of lasting hope. People are hopelessly wandering, hopelessly enslaved to evil, hopelessly diseased and dying, hopelessly unfulfilled and living in despair.

The good news is—and this is not a myth—there is hope. There is a remedy to sin in God’s simple plan of salvation in the Person of Jesus Christ.

The trouble is, sinful humanity does not want freedom in Christ; they want freedom from Christ. They do not want anything to do with a holy God. But to abandon God, Paul informs us, is to be abandoned by God and left to wander through life. And beloved, the person who abandons God will find everything but hope!

In Romans 1:24, Paul told us that God gives unbelieving mankind over to immoral defilement—sexual sin and idolatry. Then verse 26 says God gives unbelievers up, not only to immoral defilement, but also to immoral distortion. This includes same-sex perversion, which is a complete distortion—a reversal—of God’s created order.

Now, Paul goes on to add here in verse 28, “And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.” Their hearts were corrupted, their bodies were corrupted, and now their minds—their thinking processes, their decision-making abilities—are corrupted.

And just what does a corrupted mind think of doing? Well, in the verses that follow, Paul lists twenty-one sins. And let me say this: Christians can be guilty of these sins as well. The difference is that Christians might trip up here, but they do not want to live here. Unbelievers want to make these sins their way of life.

Paul begins this list in verse 29 with the word “unrighteousness.” This is really anything that is the opposite of God’s holy character.

Next, Paul adds the word “evil.” This is a categorical term that could be defined as “totally bent toward corruption”—that is, corrupt in every purpose and in every way.

Next, Paul mentions, “covetousness”; this is grasping for what you do not have. In other words, it is a craving for more. Advertising strategies today play on our covetous hearts, convincing us that what we have is not new enough, fast enough, exciting enough, or big enough. Indeed, we are too easily convinced that we just do not have enough.

Paul mentions next the sin of “malice.” This is delight in harming others. Next in this list of twenty-one sins comes “envy,” which differs from “covetousness.” You can think of the difference this way: covetousness wants something you do not have; envy wants something someone else has.

In Matthew 27:17 we are given some insight about the religious leaders who hated Jesus:

Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” For he knew that it was out of envy that they had delivered him up.

Jesus had power, and they envied it. He had popularity with many people, and they envied it. They wanted what He had.

I think it is interesting that next to “envy” here in verse 29 is the word “murder.” This is the ultimate act of selfishness—taking the life of someone else.

Paul mentions next the attitude of “strife.” This word refers to having an affection for arguing. Some translations use the word “debate,” but “debate” does not carry the hatred and bitterness behind the Greek word used here.

Next is the word “deceit.” Deceit is trickery, or fraud. In the Lord’s generation, this word was used to describe the bait used for trapping animals, such as bait to catch fish.

This is followed in verse 29 with the word “maliciousness.” Maliciousness is viciousness. The Greek word is a compound word that combines the word for evil with the word for habit. Malicious people are habitually vicious. They just simply love to hurt other people.

Now Paul adds that those who have been turned over to a debased mind are “gossips.” This word refers to whispering. “Hey, have you heard?” This is a person who uses the tongue to ruin somebody’s reputation. By the way, if you want to stop gossips before they start talking to you about somebody else, just ask them, “Do you mind if I quote you?” That will turn off the conversation!

The list continues in verse 30 with “slanderers.” A gossip whispers in private, but a slanderer ruins someone’s reputation publicly—openly.

Next in this list of twenty-one sins, Paul adds, “haters of God”—and that pretty much sums up everybody who rejects Christ. It is interesting that this follows gossips and slanderers, who speak against the reputation of other people; “haters of God” want to ruin the reputation of God.

Next in Paul’s list is “insolent.” An insolent person is basically just an arrogant bully. Paul follows that by mentioning the sins of being “haughty” and “boastful.” These people are always bragging about themselves. “Inventors of evil” comes next. This describes people who are constantly looking for new ways to practice sinful behavior. Sin is their obsession.

The list of sins ends in verses 30 and 31 with “disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.” These people ignore God’s commands, refuse to obey authority, make themselves their own god, and view everybody around them as a tool to be used or something to avoid.

Now I must tell you, when you read that list, you want to go take a bath. It is a depressing list of what we are all capable of doing. But we haven’t reached the bottom of the gutter yet. The last step downward in defiance against God is given here in verse 32:

Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

This is the digression of defiance against our creator God. It starts by excusing sin, then accepting sin, then approving of sin, and finally, applauding sin. The decay of any culture can be seen in what they applaud. And today our world is giving wicked people a standing ovation. This is the warning from the prophet Isaiah: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil” (Isaiah 5:20).

The cheering for sin only adds to the danger. Someone’s life might be self-destructing, but the applause from their world deceives them into thinking they are all right with God. The truth is, they are in desperate trouble with God.

In a very real way, Pandora’s box was opened in the garden of Eden with the rebellion of Adam and Eve. But beloved, there is hope. And it is found in Jesus Christ. Through Christ there is a way to escape the downward cycle of sin. “The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

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