It’s tempting to read this psalm with an “us and them” attitude. The psalmist complains about “fools” who denounce God and do terrible things, and it’s easy to think, like the Pharisee’s prayer in Luke 18, Thank God I’m not like those people! But the psalmist quickly strips us of that defense. For the psalm is established on the principle, repeated twice, that “there is no one who does good.” No one. Not even me.
The key is that these “fools” don’t verbally denounce God; rather, their actions and lifestyles fail to reflect God’s priorities. When put that way, it is easy to see how the psalmist’s insight applies to us here and now.
Most modern societies are built upon concepts of self-reliance, autonomy, and personal responsibility. But when we strive for those qualities, they lead us to live as if there were no God. When we focus on achieving independence, we’re unlikely to rely on—or truly believe we need—God or others. When we’re looking out for ourselves first, we’re less likely to see, dismantle, or refuse to participate in economic and social systems that benefit us but hurt others. While we might say that we are Christians, our actions don’t exemplify the orientation of God’s kingdom.
Today, the psalmist, like Paul, reminds us that all of us have sinned and fallen short (see Romans 3:23). We all have perpetuated systems that divide and oppress. We all have lived as if we don’t need God. We all have loved our own comfort more than God’s justice and mercy for the world. So we must start here: examine not only our words but also our lifestyles, repent, and turn toward God’s ways.
God, help me see how I place my autonomy over your priorities, my well-being over that of others, and perpetuate injustice in our world. Help me turn toward you so that my life professes your goodness. Amen.
Jeremiah’s warning of coming judgment continues. The children of Israel have become foolish, have ignored God, and have become good mainly at doing evil. God is going to respond to this situation. The psalmist describes the state of all who are foolish: They deny God and follow their own corrupt desires, including oppressing the poor. The author of First Timothy, traditionally Paul, says that this was also his former way of life. He has been foolish and ignorant, a persecutor of the followers of Christ. In fact, he had been the worst of all sinners; yet Christ has shown him mercy, not judgment. Jesus tells two parables to reveal God’s heart. Rather than neglecting the ignorant, the foolish, and the lost, God searches to find each one of us.
Read Jeremiah 4:11-12, 22-28. How do your actions show others that you know God?
Read Psalm 14. When have you, like the psalmist, felt that no one knows God? How did you have faith that God would restore God’s people?
Read 1 Timothy 1:12-17. Recall a time when you felt unworthy of Christ’s full acceptance. How has that experience made you more grateful for Christ’s mercy?
Read Luke 15:1-10. In a world full of death and violence, how do you rejoice when God finds one lost person?
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