“The fool has said in heart there is no God” Psalm 14:1
This verse has often been applied as a scriptural indication that God rebukes atheists for denying his existence. While it is true that scripture clearly teaches that the knowledge of God is universal and as such atheism is unjustified (Romans 1), this is not the import of the passage. The psalmist has in mind the sort of person who goes ahead with life as though God doesn’t care. Such a person is ‘corrupt’, he does ‘abominable works’. Also he exploits people since God is not in his thoughts (v. 4; cf. also Psalm 10:4). The Fool simply does not do good. In other words, he is ungodly.
And what exactly is ungodliness? To be ungodly is to be unconcerned about God, and this issues in all kinds of wrong and sinful behaviour. We often associate the term with obvious evils like drunkenness, sexual immorality, or murder. We thus overlook inward sins like Envy, Lust, or Covetousness. But as both Moses (in the Ten Commandments) and Jesus (in the Sermon on the mount) pointed out, the inner sins are just as bad. According to our passage, the fool neither ‘understands’ nor ‘seek God’. And these both stem from the heart. Before God, they all condemn us and earn us the deplorable label of ‘Fool’.
The claim of the psalmist is simply this: A life of ungodliness is a practical denial of God. If we believe in God, we will give him the regard due to him by worshiping Him and obeying his commands. God does not want a mere admission of his existence. Everyone knows he exists, including demons (James 2:19 ). The real issue is whether we seek him and worship him. He created us so we can worship and glorify Him. As the Westminster Shorter Catechism puts it:
“The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever”.
When we ignore God and live our lives our way, we deny the purpose of our creation.
What better life can a person live than to submit to the will of his Maker? Godlessness is truly foolish. For if we have been created by a being who transcends us, and upon whom we depend (Acts 17:24-30), it is only logical that we submit to him. However, sin blinds our hearts, clouds our thinking and obscures our judgement (cf Eph 4:17-19). We elevate ourselves higher than God, just like our first parents, and seek to become our own gods. Sadly, we’ll later realize it was a wrong turn. The way of godlessness is the path to misery; sin is destructive.
The only way out is to submit to Him who is both the Lord and King of our lives. God calls us to be reconciled to Him through faith in Jesus and walk in newness of lives. Being reconciled with God, and having peace with Him through our Lord Jesus, we then obey his principles (2 Cor. 5:18-21). Whether it is in our relations with our spouses and children, in our work, or in dealings with neighbours, God’s law becomes our life. When we receive God’s offer of salvation, and his Spirit begins to work in us, we cease to be fools; we become Kings and Priests unto God.
And Kings are wise.