Do you ever read the Bible and assume it’s talking about someone else?
Especially a verse like this:
Fools say to themselves,“There is no God.” They sin and commit evil deeds; none of them does what is right. – Psalm 14:1 (NET)
There are multiple reasons I would skip over this verse and think it doesn’t apply to me.
- I consider myself fairly intelligent. The word fool is so harsh. Surely that’s not me. This must be talking about someone else.
- I believe in God, so I wouldn’t say “There is no God.”
- I don’t do what is right all the time, but I certainly don’t think I am “evil.”
But, since I am doing a series that walks through the Psalms, I can’t skip it. So, I investigate further.
In the Old Testament, the word “fool” is used not to talk about a problem with our brains but a problem with our hearts. It is an orientation towards arrogance. A wise person is a humble person, who trusts in the wisdom of God. Fools think they know what is best.
This is expounded upon with what fools say to themselves: “There is no God.” This does not mean fools don’t believe in God. It means that fools think God does not care about human activity.
Fools do whatever they want, and don’t fear the consequences.
Now, at first glance, this still doesn’t apply to me.
But what about when no one is looking? Do I live like I am in the company of a God who loves me and cares about my actions? Or do I say to myself, “there is no God” by what I do in secret?
What am I saying to myself when I live with a social media addiction habit that consumes so much of my time? What am I saying to myself when I pass by the guy with the sign on the exit ramp without a second thought or even a prayer? What am I saying to myself when I seek solace in chocolate or television instead of in the arms of my Father?
Hmm. Maybe this does apply to me after all.
So what, does the Psalm say next?
The Lord looks down from heaven at the human race, to see if there is anyone who is wise and seeks God. –Psalm 14:2
There is a God, and He does care. He watches what we do with interest, looking for those who are wise. The fools are those who live like there is no God, The wise are those who seek God.
My tendency, when I bump up against a sin struggle, like the ones I listed above, is to try be better. I think, “Hmm. I spent a lot of time on Twitter today. I ignored my kids too much. That probably wasn’t good. I’ll try to spend less time on it tomorrow.”
But notice that this Psalm doesn’t say, a fool sins and a wise person tries hard not to sin.
The difference between someone who is foolish and someone who is wise is whether or not they seek God.
When I notice a sin in my life, my first response should not be to try to do better. My first response should be to seek God.
God is a loving Father who seeks not to torture me with harsh punishment but guide me with gentle discipline. I can confess to Him and be forgiven. I can rely on His Word and His Spirit and His people to guide me in a better way.
I should seek God because I can trust God.
This is less concrete than a 5 Steps to Living a More Virtuous Life plan, which can be frustrating. But isn’t it also more freeing?
A life of godly wisdom is not based on rules, it is based on relationship.