Hope for Fools

January 24, 2024

Hope for Fools

What is Martin Luther best known for? The 95 Theses and the beginning of the Reformation, the doctrine of justification, or his attacks against Papal authority are all likely answers. But we could also add his humor. If Luther were alive today, he would make a great standup comedian. Why did he employ humor so much? One reason was because he recognized just how ridiculous man’s attempts at autonomy were. Psalm 2, God laughs at would-be self-independence. Psalm 14 shows how we are meant to laugh because of the foolishness of man.

 1The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none who does good.” At first glance, this appears to be speaking directly about atheists. They believe there is no God. To hold to such a position, the psalmist declares as foolish. For example, how do we make sense of self-evident or moral truths? If there is no God, no personal and triune being who communicates the final standard from which to judge falsehood, then can anything really be self-evident or true? Isn’t math, science, and morality ultimately left in the arena of opinion? Isn’t the statement, “might makes right,” then correct?

And what grounds this in irrationality is that nobody actually lives this way, not even the atheist. They do not want truth to be mere opinion or simply determined by people in power. At the end of the day, they can’t play by their own subjective rules. They must borrow from Christianity to make absolute claims about God, morality, and life. This underscores the foolishness of their position.

However, Psalm 14 is not primarily about the atheist. It’s focused on the one who says, “I believe,” but then does not live as if God really matters. This person says, “He may exist, but he doesn’t affect my day to day, except of course when I need him for something.” God basically becomes a lucky rabbit’s foot, a cosmic bellhop, or a spiritual psychiatrist, dispensing experience pills. The real fool in Psalm 14 is the one who says, ‘they believe,’ but you wouldn’t know it from the way they live. That’s why, 2 The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. 3 They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one

Paul picks up on this language in Romans 3:10-12 and uses it to emphasize the universal sinfulness of humanity. He says, “None is righteous, no, not one.” All of mankind is the fool of Psalm 14. And God has seen it for himself. He has looked down to find sin abounding, with no one understanding and no one seeking after him. Clothed in his own wicked self-righteousness and self-importance, mankind is the epitome of foolishness. A fool does not recognize the obvious truth—he or she is woefully undone.

The psalmist is focusing on the person who comes to church; yet lives contrary to their confession. Their lives bear little to no fruit. They live like fools. They forget, faith without works is dead (James 2:17, 26). As Christians, we are not saved by our works. But our salvation in Christ ought to compel us to gratefully work for God’s glory (2 Cor. 5:14-15). Christianity leaves no room for ‘practical atheism.’ We are to earnestly pursue godly fruit. Do you know how we can have it? Prayer. Cry out to God for growth. The Word. Be instructed by Scripture. It will mature you (2 Tim. 3:17). And reflect on Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. Thank God for Jesus’s person and work. The more you eye Christ the more you will be transformed by Christ (2Cor. 3:18). Persist in these things. Don’t give up. Keep going each day. Pursue faithfulness and watch what will happen. By the Spirit, the foolish person will be changed into a prudent person, who is wise unto salvation (2 Tim. 3:15). In Christ, there is hope for fools, even you and me.

—Pastor Clif