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The title I have given to Psalm 14 is, “Practical Atheism Exposed.” What is practical atheism? When someone claims to believe in God, but their actions show a complete disregard for God, they could be called a “practical atheist.”
James, the brother of Jesus, didn’t use the term “practical atheism,” but he could have. Instead he said, “So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead” (James 2.17). Faith without proper action, acts as if there is no God.
As we pray this Psalm, it is important to take a spiritual inventory of our lives. Let’s be sure to ask ourselves how our behavior may resemble that of the “bad guys.”
What Makes a Fool?
As we read the first verse, let’s consider what makes a person a fool?
Fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.”
They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds;
there is no one who does good. (Psalm 14.1)
A fool can be very intelligent, shrewd, or powerful – or not. What makes a person a fool is that they make decisions based on the wrong assumptions about life.
For example, I wear glasses. My glasses determine the way I see the world. If the prescription in my glasses is wrong, I will not be able to see the world clearly. A fool is someone who has put on mental glasses that don’t allow him to see clearly what is really real in the world.
Fools may claim to believe in God, but their actions show that they assume God will never hold them accountable for their behavior. Their actions reveal the state of their inside condition, what the Bible calls the “heart.”
Jeremiah said this about the kind of behavior of the fools.
They have spoken falsely of the Lord,
and have said, “He will do nothing.
No evil will come upon us,
and we shall not see sword or famine.” (Jeremiah 5:12)
The question we need to ask ourselves is do we think God “will do nothing” about our sin? Will he not hold us accountable?
As we take an inventory of our spiritual life, we can use this Psalm to suggest questions that reveal how we might be like the “fools” spoken of in the first verse.
The Lord looks down from heaven on humankind
to see if there are any who are wise,
who seek after God.
They have all gone astray, they are all alike perverse;
there is no one who does good,
no, not one.
Have they no knowledge, all the evildoers
who eat up my people as they eat bread,
and do not call upon the Lord? (Psalm 14.2-4)
Let’s prayerfully answer these questions to get an idea of our spiritual condition.
— Question: Do I seek after God? What is the real state of my prayer life? For example, how many minutes do I spend scrolling through Facebook? How many minutes do I spend in prayer?
— Question: In what way is my behavior good? In what way are my actions not so good?
— Question: Do I know God in a personal, experiential way? Do I align my life with the plans and purposes of God and know him through experience? Or, do I mostly “know about” God from tradition or through what other people say about him?
— Question: How do I treat other people? Do I appreciate them and love them as I love myself. Or, do I use people to fulfill my own self-centered desires?
— Question: The last phrase of verse 4 asks about our prayer life for a second time. Prayer must be very important to be mentioned two times in three short verses. Does my prayer life reflect a deep desire to know and to do God’s will?
The Wages of Sin
Romans 3.13-18 quotes this Psalm as Paul makes the point that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3.23).
Paul could easily have been thinking of the next two verses in the Psalm when, he wrote, “For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6.23).
There they shall be in great terror,
for God is with the company of the righteous.
You would confound the plans of the poor,
but the Lord is their refuge. (Psalm 14.5-6)
Paul makes it clear that no one is righteous and along with this Psalm notes that death and terror await us. It is worthwhile to remember that the first four verses of Psalm 14 have the “fool” believing that he or she can escape God’s judgment.
The great revivalist, Billy Sunday, often said, “Don’t pop up your spiritual umbrella and have these words fall on everyone else but you.” Let’s revisit our spiritual inventory and see if we should be concerned about our relationship with God.
The good news of Paul’s message is that Jesus provided a way for people to be righteous. The entire statement of Romans 6.23 is: “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Praise God! When we enter into a personal relationship with Jesus, we find ourselves in the “company of the righteous” and have God as our “refuge.”
Pray for People
After taking a serious inventory of our own spiritual life, we are ready to pray for other people. Many of the Psalms from Psalms 3 to 14 speak of the helpless, the vulnerable, and the like. They are the victims of the powerful “who eat up [God’s] people like they were nothing but bread” (verse 4).
We use the last verse to ask God to deliver the oppressed in such a way that they will rejoice.
O that deliverance for Israel would come from Zion!
When the Lord restores the fortunes of his people,
Jacob will rejoice; Israel will be glad. (Psalm 14.7)
May We Pray for You?
Thank you for being a part of this study. If you have a prayer request, Maywood Baptist Church has a prayer team who would be honored to pray for you. Please email me at email@example.com or private message me on Facebook. I will pray for you and give the prayer team your request.