But in describing their creation as good, God did not mean that Adam and Eve were inherently good or were inclined to choose to live God's way. Initially, they made no reasoned choice in terms of good and evil. Their way of thinking and behavior was neutral—a state sometimes referred to as tabula rasa, or "clean slate."
As flesh-and-blood human beings, they did have the physical drives and material interests common to all mankind. They had desires for self-preservation, for physical pleasures, for appreciation, for learning and for bettering their circumstances. They were also naturally curious, desirous of avoiding boredom or, conversely, too much effort. The focus on self in such characteristics was not inherently sinful. But this self-oriented focus could lead to sin if it contradicted God's direction and instructions.
Onto the scene came Satan the devil in the form of a serpent, and he wasted no time in tempting the first human beings to sin. He deceived Eve about partaking of the fruit God had forbidden, taking advantage of her desire to partake of enjoyable fruit, become wise and better her life. These weaknesses of her physical, fleshly existence—including her overall gullibility—made it easier for the devil to deceive her. Adam was not deceived, but he submitted to Satan's scheming through Eve anyway—apparently to maintain his bond with her (Genesis 3:1-24; 1 Timothy 2:14).
Adam and Eve thus set a pattern the whole human race that would spring from them would follow—accepting the rule and influence of Satan rather than following God.
Following footsteps of Adam and Eve
From then on, human beings would be led to pursue selfishness and rebel against God's commandments. Children would still be born with a neutral nature—tabula rasa—but, under the influence of Satan and in a world in which all people were deceived into unwittingly following him and his ways, all children would very quickly develop the selfish-oriented nature of the corrupted human society and culture around them.
The tendency of human beings to exalt self and disobey God is known as human nature, referred to in the Bible by such terms as "the carnal mind," "fleshly lusts," "selfish ambition" and the like—signifying selfishness as the primary motivation rather than a desire to obey and please God.
But again, God did not create human beings with this selfish nature, nor are children born with it. We all fall victim to it through the influence of Satan. It is in reality Satan's own corrupt nature that he has instilled in the whole human race (except that he himself has no accompanying fleshly weaknesses since he is a spirit being).
The Bible represents Satan as the master manipulator of human nature. Our weakness combined with the devil's influence has led the whole world into sin (Revelation 12:9). Paul explains that, as "the god of this age," Satan "has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel" (2 Corinthians 4:4).
Because our carnal human nature is sometimes referred to as sinful nature, some have the impression that it is only a problem of some people—those who are sinful. But the fact is that this nature is a problem for all people. Indeed, with the sole exception of Jesus Christ, "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23).
The apostle Paul, quoting a number of Old Testament passages, sums up the sorry spiritual condition of the human race this way: "'There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; they have together become unprofitable; there is none who does good, no, not one.' 'Their throat is an open tomb; with their tongues they have practiced deceit'; 'The poison of asps is under their lips'; 'Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.' 'Their feet are swift to shed blood; destruction and misery are in their ways; and the way of peace they have not known.' 'There is no fear of God before their eyes'" (Romans 3:10-18).
Satan's influence on all mankind
Paul reminds Christ's faithful disciples that "you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others" (Ephesians 2:2-3). This shows that Satan even "broadcasts" corrupt and sinful moods and attitudes to human minds.
As powerful as his influence is, however, we must understand that the devil cannot force us to sin. He simply seduces us through our fleshly weaknesses and the wrong ways of thinking he has led us into over time. Let's consider some ways we are all too easily manipulated by Satan.
First, our selfish, fleshly desires often get us into trouble: "Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God" (Galatians 5:19-21).
Paul graphically describes the effect corrupt desires have on human behavior. "Therefore God gave them over in the sinfuldesiresof their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another . . . Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity.
"They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them" (Romans 1:24; Romans 1:28-32, NIV).
Second, our ingrained deviousness, including self-deception, is a major weakness of the fleshly mind. "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?" (Jeremiah 17:9).
Subject to Satan's influence, we naturally look for ways to justify our lusts, our sinful desires, and the behaviors that arise from them. We deceive ourselves into believing that, since our desires are natural, they are not so bad after all. But God's Word reminds us that "there is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death" (Proverbs 14:12; Proverbs 16:25). Death is the end result of living that wrong way (Romans 6:23).
Third, under the devil's influence we have developed the tendency to resent having our selfish desires limited by rules, even God's rules. Paul explains: "For those who live according to the flesh think about the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, about the things of the Spirit. For the mind-set of the flesh is death, but the mind-set of the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind-set of the flesh is hostile to God because it does not submit itself to God's law, for it is unable to do so. Those who are in [that is, within control of] the flesh cannot please God" (Romans 8:5-8, HCSB).
We see from these and other passages that Satan is a powerful deceiver and manipulator, taking advantage of our self-focused nature by persuading us to give in even more to our human wants and desires than we normally would. But we play our part. Without the positive influence of God's Spirit, our primary inclination is to serve ourselves and resist living according to all of God's biblical instructions.
Because of this Paul warns: "If you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God" (Romans 8:13-14). We need the leading of God's Spirit to help us break free of the selfish nature we have developed under Satan's influence and to develop a godly nature instead.