READ: Psalm 36, Jeremiah 1-3, Matthew 8, Acts 15
What makes one wicked? Psalm 36 establishes the wicked as the one who does not fear (respect/reverence/awe) God (v. 1), who is proud of his sin and hatred (v.2), and who ceases to be wise and do good (v.3). Intelligence is not wisdom, for the wicked can be very clever indeed. Wisdom does what is right for others at cost to oneself. Intelligence tends to do what is best for one’s own interests regardless of the cost borne by others. The wicked person also lies (v.3), schemes, and does not hate evil (v.4).
What makes one godly? In contrast to the evil intelligence and selfish actions of the wicked, the godly (the one who looks and acts like God) is the one who lives out mercy, faithfulness, righteousness, and wise judgments (v. 5). Those who act like God in this manner have the following benefits: the precious lovingkindness of God, protection under the shadow of His wings, provision and abundant satisfaction by the fullness of His house, and pleasures from the rivers of God. Only the fool would live and act in such a way as to forgo these benefits–which leads us to a disturbing question….
What causes the godly to be wicked? The psalmist identifies two primary foes. These foes lead to the godly thinking and acting wickedly and thereby foregoing the benefits of being like God. One foe is internal, the foot of pride, and the other is external, the hand of the wicked (v.11). To be proud about being righteous is wicked. It is alarmingly easy for thankfulness at the goodness of God to slide into delusion that we have merited His favor. As soon as we think we have been blessed because in some small way we deserved it, or because we are better than others, we have begun to think wickedly. The wisdom of the righteous reminds him that he is prone to wickedness.
Christians are fairly well versed in the dangers of pride. The more subtle enemy is the bitterness arising from being attacked by the wicked. When the hand of the wicked comes against us, our latent wickedness prompts us to respond in kind. It is both possible and attractive to respond to evil attacks in an evil manner. The godly must exert intentional discipline not to respond to evil with evil, for the tool overwhelms the master and it is impossible to do wicked acts (even in self defense) without becoming wicked at heart. Many are the godly innocent who responded to unmerited attacks with wicked weapons. Their hurt led to their sin, and their sin over time led to their wickedness. May we diligently and vigilantly respond to evil with good–this is a primary indicator of the godly. This is the character of the God of the Bible, to love those that wound Him. No other god loves like this.