As conservative Christians, we have badly misunderstood the way depravity works.
Depravity doesn’t just make you want to be wicked in the ordinary senses that people think of as wicked — stomping on kittens, say, or talking at the theater. Depravity can’t force you to stop having the good desires that God put within you, desires for love, community, respect and admiration, acceptance, peace.
Depravity is relational. It is a rebellion against the God who alone can make those God-given desires a reality. We crave good things — peace, joy, love, and so on — that’s the image of God in us, and we can’t get rid of it, no matter how hard we try. But we want all those things on our own terms and for their own sake, apart from God — and that’s depravity.
We were made to accept love, joy, and peace as good gifts from a loving Father. When we won’t accept them as gifts, we seek to wrest them from the world under our own power. Depravity is taking a twisted path, thinking it will lead to a good end. Of course it never works. But if we admit that it isn’t working, that we aren’t really finding the soul-rest that God made us to seek, then we have to admit that ignoring God is not working. Depravity doesn’t want to do that, so instead it makes us forget what we really want.
We crave joy, so we take the twisted path of getting rich, thinking it will lead to joy. Along the way, we forget that we were aiming for joy, and just get preoccupied with getting rich. Even if we succeed, we remain profoundly unhappy–but our depravity has long since caused us to think of wealth as the goal. We often don’t realize how unhappy we are until some circumstance in life forces us to face it. Others find a different twisted path toward joy, with the same basic result: first we give up everything for the sake of the twisted path, and then the twisted path fails to deliver what it promised, and in the end it kills us.