Many years ago, I remember reading a short story out of a reader (an English class textbook) in school, and a line from that story stuck with me years later:
“The task of destruction is infinitely easier than that of creation”
(While I think that the excerpt was called “TJ and Me”, it was taken from the short story Antaeus, by Borden Deal.)
From an engineering standpoint (having taken Thermodynamics I in college), I might say that the second Law of Thermodynamics works: entropy continues to increase. As a parent and homeowner, though, I know that this doesn’t just occur in engineering. Any occupied room, left to itself, will accumulate junk!
There are a couple of things that we can learn from this insightful statement. First, our ability to “create” is far overshadowed by God’s.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
Genesis 1:1 NASB
(See also Revelation 21:5.) God speaks entire worlds into existence, and His power is not diminished a bit by the effort. While many things are difficult for us as human beings, God doesn’t get worn out by exerting His creative power.
In reality, when we say that we “create” something – whether a work of art, an solution, or an idea – we are not truly creating something from nothing. Artists use God-given talent to construct material representations of feelings or concepts. Problem-solvers take data, experience, and analytical tools to synthesize solutions. Even “new” ideas are typically generated from combinations of existing ideas and new opportunities (see Ecclesiastes 1:9-10).
Secondly, as this quote says, tearing something down is generally much easier than building something better. More specifically, tearing someone else down is far easier than investing in them to build them up.
Since the release of the Internet to the public, many gigabytes of data have been wasted on attacking others. This is all too easy, thanks to simple techniques like marginalization, ad hominem insults, public humiliation, and memes. Not only is it relatively simple to attack a fellow human being, but it’s often popular. Within our interconnected world, finding others who are willing to join you in assaulting the character, appearance, or opinions of another person is easier than ever.
However, that is not what people – including us – are called to do:
Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 NASB
(See also Romans 14:19.)
Still, let’s be realistic: following this command takes some conscious work, and sometimes significant effort.
- Forming a rebuttal is often easier than taking the time to listen to where someone else is coming from. It takes restraint and patience to understand what has brought a particular person to a specific point of view. Brash claims from those we don’t agree with (whether online, or in person) might just be rote recitals of what someone has heard or read. Or, there might be a real, deep-seated, painful experience that brought the speaker to a dark place.
- Forwarding an article or quote is faster than taking the time to research a topic and understand the facts. I fear that claims have stopped being the foundation of logical discussion, and instead become sticks that we club other people with. There is usually a truth (whether or not it is easy to find) that supports or refutes any claim, but when we grab any statement that reinforces what we already think, we are often guilty of spreading lies and misinformation.
- Calling someone’s statements a lie is easier than leading them to the truth. How many times are we dismissive of a fellow person’s point of view, when we should lovingly spend time with them, show them that we do care about their souls and their lives, and guide them to the truth?
- Hating our enemies is simpler than loving them. If this wasn’t true, I don’t think that Jesus would have had to remind us (see Matthew 5:43-45). It takes humility and strength of character to not immediately defend our points of view. It takes a lot of work to love like 1 Corinthians 13 tells us, and to admit when we are wrong. Furthermore, it takes a special type of person to invest time into an enemy for the purpose of showing them the joy of following Jesus.
Yes, sometimes the old must be removed so that something better can be built in its place. Our old, sinful habits really need to be removed so that we can live the way that Jesus showed us. However, as Christians, shouldn’t our days be focused on emulating our Lord Jesus? After all, He labored for years to develop other people (especially His disciples, but also larger crowds) into those who would carry not only His message and teaching, but also His example of righteous living, into the world.
That is an act of God’s creation that we can all get behind. It will take some work, but when we are actively investing in God’s plan for the souls that He loves, we are perhaps the closest to actually “creating” something good, as we are at any other time.