Another Misused Bible Passage

Every April Fool’s Day someone posts Psalm 14:1a:

Fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.”

The uncharitable, judgmental, and obvious insinuation is that anyone who doesn’t believe in God is a fool, which misses the entire point of the psalm.

The word translated “fool” in the Hebrew scriptures carries the connotation of moral corruption, not intellectual doubt or disbelief. The point of Psalm 14 is that corrupt people, — those who oppress the poor, amass wealth through exploitation, create and sustain wars, and exalt themselves over others – are acting as if they will never have to answer to God.

They are corrupt; they do abominable deeds;
    there is no one who does good.

When the psalmist says:

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.

Of whom is he speaking? Who are the people who are corrupt?

I’ve heard these verses quoted out of context numerous times to conclude that all humankind is evil, totally depraved, worthless. (You are not totally depraved. A good God created you and pronounced you “very good.”)

The psalmist is not talking about everybody. In context, the psalmist is pointedly referring to “those who do abominable deeds,” those who are described in the rhetorical question:

Have they no knowledge, all the evildoers
    who eat up my people as they eat bread
    and do not call upon the Lord?

The “fool” is not the atheist or the agnostic. The fool is the person who perpetrates injustice because they are unaware that they will someday answer to a holy God who loves and cares for the poor, the war-torn, the mentally and physically ill, the incarcerated, the homeless, the displaced, the “least.” 

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.

There are many honest, seeking, moral, kind atheists and agnostics in the world. I dare say they are likely to press into the kingdom before the self-righteous religious. 

What would happen if we Christians lived our lives, posted our posts, and spoke our words in the awareness of the presence of the God of perfect love? What would happen to our world if those in power maintained an awareness of that same God?

++++++++++++++++

14:1Fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.”
    They are corrupt; they do abominable deeds;
    there is no one who does good.

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?

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.

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. (NRSVUE)

About Dr. Larry Taylor

Radical Anabaptist Jesus Freak Red Letter Christian, sailor, thinker, pastor, teacher, chaplain, counselor, husband, father, grandfather

Posted on September 7, 2022, in Christianity. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: