If there is one book that can help us understand human nature, it is the Bible. I am going to highlight just about 10 of the many things the Bible reveals to us about human nature.
1. You can get people to choose a bad man over a good man: Human beings tend to choose a bad person over a good man. We see this in the case of Jesus. Jesus was a good man, a great and popular spiritual leader who went round healing the sick, raising the dead and feeding thousands. His fame was so huge that wherever he went there was a stampede.
People just wanted to see him and follow him. And yet when his enemies arrested him and Pontius Pilate gave the people an option to choose between Jesus and Barabbas, a murderer, they chose the murderer.
2. It is very easy to mislead leaders: Leaders wield a lot of power and yet it is so easy to mislead them. We read that Daniel and his three friends were excellent civil servants— blameless, incorruptible, very capable and efficient, and they were loyal to the Emperor. They were the kind of people a leader needed around him. The Emperor depended a lot on them and yet he was easily manipulated to throw Daniel’s three friends into the blazing furnace and Daniel himself into the lion’s den.
It is frightening how easily a leader can be misled by his most loyal and committed servants. The late Tawiah Adamafio was very loyal and useful to Kwame Nkrumah; but Osagyefo was very easily manipulated by others to throw Adamafio into prison. I had the privilege of spending an evening with Adamafio years after his prison years. He had suffered a lot in prison and yet I have not met another person so loyal and committed to Nkrumah (despite all that he had gone through). Leaders ought to be careful when they are moving against those who are close to them because they may be doing jealous people’s dirty work for them.
3. Leaders don’t mind destroying those who can help them succeed if they feel threatened by that person’s abilities and popularity: Leaders fear nothing more than the popularity of someone below them. That is one of the most frightening things about serving a leader. Your service to a leader, especially if it is exemplary, will bring you to the notice of a lot of people and they will express their admiration for what you are doing for the leader.
And yet, when a leader discovers how popular you have become, it makes him uncomfortable. This was the case of King Saul and David. David became popular just by fighting the King’s battles and yet the king could not bear his captain’s fame and so set out to destroy him. Most leaders feel very insecure about their positions and will prefer either mediocre people or sycophants around them and that is what they often get.
4. Envy does not know family: Joseph was the favourite of his father, and the special attention he received made his brothers envious. And when he told them his dreams that suggested that he would be more important than them in future, the brothers grabbed him and sold him into slavery.
The fact that he was their brother meant nothing to them. As far as they were concerned, they were getting rid of the object of their envy. We see the same thing in the case of Cain and Abel. Cain was envious of his brother and killed him. The fact that Abel was his brother could not save the poor man from Cain’s hands. Where there is envy, it does not matter what kind of relationship there is, people will act to destroy the person who has made them envious.
5. Given the voice of God and another voice, we will always follow the other voice and disregard God’s voice: When you hear the voice of God and another voice, no matter whose voice it is, which one will you obey? I am sure that you will say that you will obey the voice of God. Should you ever find yourself in that situation, chances are that you will disregard the voice of God and follow the other voice. Eve knew what God had said and yet she was willing to follow the instructions of the serpent. Adam knew what God had said about eating the fruit but when it was offered to him by Eve, he disregarded what God had said and obeyed Eve.
The people of Israel on their journey to the Promised Land knew what God had said and yet they were willing to follow the voices of a few worthless people to make idols to worship. Our tendency to disobey God’s voice is phenomenal and that is why most of us live such desperate lives.
6. When people run into hardship, they romanticize the past no matter how terrible the past was: The people of Israel lived in harsh slavery for 400 years, then came Moses with liberation. As he led them to the Promised Land, they met with hardship which was nothing compared to the oppression they had just been freed from. And yet in the face of the hardship, they forgot how terrible those times were and began to romanticize those times.
It is typically human. A lady moans under the problems of being single. Let her marry and run into a little problem and she begins to romanticize the problems she wept over when she was single. A young man prays desperately for a job. He gets a job and has to deal with a few problems with work and he suddenly begins to forget how terrible it was to be unemployed and turns round to curse his employer.
7. People’s stomachs are more important to them than their destinies: If you have ever had leadership over people this is one of the most puzzling things about human nature. People will choose filling their stomach today even if it means selling their consciences or throwing away their destinies. We see it with Esau and Jacob. Esau was willing to fill his stomach at the price of his birthright. We can judge him but we should be careful because in our own lives, we often put short-term considerations over the long-term consequences. Not many of us are willing to postpone consumption and that is why many of us are poor. When the stomach demands, we tend to forget tomorrow.
8. Those who excel always suffer violence at the hands of those who are worthless: Einstein said, great minds suffer violent opposition from little minds. Great achievers also suffer violence at the hands of non-achievers. That is what happened in the case of Cain and Abel.
That is also what happened in the case of Jesus and the Pharisees and Sadducees. Jesus was fantastic at meeting the spiritual needs of the people and the Pharisees and Sadducees were not and so they came up with a scheme to get rid of him. We need to teach high achievers to be clever in dealing with their non-achiever cousins.
9. Women have an interesting relationship with obeying instructions: The case of Lot’s wife makes interesting reading. The city she and her husband had lived in for some years was to be destroyed by fire. But she and her family were spared on one condition: flee to the mountains and don’t look back.
But being a woman she just had to look back. After all, she had lived in that city before, her friends and neighbours were there. I read about a man who had been the headmaster of a boy’s school and then a girl’s school.
He was asked which school was easier to administer. He said the boy’s school because there, when you give instructions and the boys don’t like it, they will protest and agitate for change. But in the girl’s school, they will not fight for a change; they will simply ignore the instructions and do what they want to do.
Women have a lot of admirable qualities and strengths but every married man and every father will tell you that women have a very interesting relationship with instructions. If they don’t mind, they will obey it but if it does not suit them, they will simply ignore it and do what they want to do.
10. When a man meets a woman who is willing to give him sex, he often does not think of the implications and long term consequences: There is an interesting case in the Bible about how Judah fathered his own grandson. Judah was the father-in-law to a lady called Tamar.
The custom was that when Tamar’s husband died, it was the duty of Judah to give her another son for a husband. He did that but when that one also died, Judah decided not to let his third son marry her.
Tamar then disguised herself as a prostitute and enticed Judah who grabbed at the opportunity for cheap sex and disregarded the implications. And when he was told that Tamar had become pregnant, he had the nerve to pass judgment on her until he discovered that he had become the father to his own grandson.
How many men have not lost their posts because a woman offered them cheap or easy sex? How many careers have not been destroyed by a man’s inability to say no to sex no matter who was offering it? The ease with which a man can be trapped with sex is a very humbling reality for me as a man.