I'm of the opinion that the Bible should be obvious to people. By that, I don't mean there's no nuance or interesting intricacies to study; I mean that the basic core messages should be easily interpreted by even the unstudied. That's the point, right? That anyone can obtain guidance from God's Word, regardless of status, education, capability, all that. That it's obvious. That even the little children can get it.
In that light, I thought back to some things where the "obvious" answer isn't always the right one, but maybe another answer is just as obvious...just overlooked. Part one of this is "Wickeder and Wiser."
For one, this isn't even in the Bible. It's an often-quoted "Biblical urban legend" of sorts. More on this later*. Most people point to it as being related to Revelation, if not actually being in Revelation itself; it's seen as a prophetic statement about the state of the world in the End Times. But insofar as scads of people do believe it's in the Bible, the point of "the world's children becoming wickeder and wiser" is obvious: it's telling us that over time, the world will become more deceitful and try even harder to mislead Christians, being very skilled at such things. In the end, they will be so clever that most people will fall to them. We have to be strong and realize the world is out to get us.
But even if this verse were in the Bible, the other "obvious" answer is clear: the structure of the world will become more evil and more deceitful, but that doesn't at all mean that individuals are evil, or that there is any need to be paranoid about friends and companions and so on. That doesn't mean the world is out to get you.
"Wickedness" has many forms. One of these is greed, which is driving the capitalist world now. Corporations are becoming more brutal, cutting more corners, hiding more illegalities, and in the end, perhaps these megastructures are causing more problems than in the past. I'm not sure, given how most countries have given up the slave trade, that we're more evil than before, but we certainly still have great evil in our fundamental structure. We still have all sorts of ancient cruelties that have lived on through the ages. Sin is no new thing, and we certainly haven't come up with particularly new ways to do it. It's all just a rehash of the old.
So are we becoming "wickeder and wiser"? Wiser, probably. More evil, maybe not, maybe so. Either way, it's not about paranoia -- it's about repairing the structure and function of the world we live in, and the organizations who live in it. It's not about your friends trying to convince you to become an atheist or your neighbor being gay. It's about obvious sins. Great crimes against humanity. Little abuses of the day to day. Not whether your neighbor's son is sleeping with the schoolteacher's daughter. Or son, for that matter.
*This "urban legend" has also been translated as "weaker and wiser," and if you look on the Internet, you'll find scads of sources saying that this does not at all exist in the Bible and could easily be a misparsing of a number of verses that have nothing to do with the End Times.