1Only fools say in their hearts,“ There is no God.” They are corrupt, and their actions are evil; no one does good!
2God looks down from heaven on the entire human race; he looks to see if there is even one with real understanding, one who seeks for God.
3But no, all have turned away from God; all have become corrupt. No one does good, not even one!
4Will those who do evil never learn? They eat up my people like bread; they wouldn’t think of praying to God.
5But then terror will grip them, terror like they have never known before. God will scatter the bones of your enemies. You will put them to shame, for God has rejected them.
6Oh, that salvation would come from Mount Zion to rescue Israel! For when God restores his people, Jacob will shout with joy, and Israel will rejoice.
(Psalm 53:1-6, NLT)
The Daily DAVEotional
In this Psalm, David is pondering the moral implications of life without God.
Two observations are worth noting.
First, David plainly states that only a fool says in their heart that there is no God.
It’s interesting to notice that the fool doesn’t conclude God’s non-existence through reason or evidence but what makes a person a fool is that they say “in their heart” that there is no God.
What exactly is meant by this phrase “in the heart”?
I think the best way to think of the heart is the will – the control center of a person’s life. Your will, which equates to your desires, will motivate and compel you to act in ways that are contrary to reason and what you know is right. If you decide “in your heart” that you want to pursue a certain course of action (whether good or bad), nothing will convince you otherwise.
So in this context, the fool is someone who has decided that there is no God, despite whatever evidence may be presented. Reason and facts don’t matter because he or she has already made a decision of their will (a decision of the heart) what they intend to believe and how they intend to respond and move forward.
David says that belief there is no God is foolish. Why? Because it is a denial of that which is observably apparent, namely that we exist and the universe exists and that something grander and larger and much more powerful than the universe must have created it.
The second thing that David addresses is the moral implications of believing in no God.
Without God, there is no moral foundation. Hence, the actions of the atheist ultimately devolve to evil. It doesn’t mean that people who believe there is no god are not capable of doing good – they are. It does mean, however, that without the moral foundation that God alone provides, there is no anchor to call anything good. Therefore, moral values can easily shift, where things that were once considered evil are now considered acceptable, even good.
The implications of this are huge. David says that when God looks down on the human race he cannot find anyone who is truly good. This certainly contradicts the prevailing view on morality in today’s culture.
In our culture today, it’s popular to hold the belief that people are generally good and only do bad things because they are exposed to evil, corrupt or unfair environments.
These verses (particularly verse 3) explicitly refute this ideology, affirming that NO ONE is good. This does not mean that people are incapable of doing good things. What it means, however, is that no one is able to meet the standard of goodness as defined by God.
What is God’s standard of goodness?
God’s standard of goodness is himself – perfect righteousness. Humans are not able to meet this standard. Hence no one is good, not even one.
By the way, those who claim that people are good and only do evil things because of the influence of their environment, never explain how those environments were able to corrupt people in the first place.
In other words, if man is basically good, how did the environment that supposedly caused his negative actions become bad enough to influence his negative actions? This is never explained by those who believe in man’s goodness.
So to summarize, David says that a fool is someone who makes a decision of the heart to believe in no God. It’s foolish because it defies logic and reason and that which is observably apparent.
Secondly, without God, there is no basis to call anything good and therefore, people will make their own standards for what they think is right and wrong. These standards will be constantly shifting and fall far short of God’s standard for goodness, which is Himself. As a result, God says NO ONE is good. NOT ONE. We are all sinful and corrupt and have turned away from God.
As I look at the culture we live in today, I’d say David’s words look more like prophecy than ancient poetry.
What has been your standard of goodness that you’ve used to evaluate your own life?
What is your response to the idea that someone who decides “in their heart” that God doesn’t exist is a fool?
How would you respond to someone who makes the claim that people are basically good but they only do bad things because of the negative influences of their environment?
What would you say to someone who doesn’t believe in God but believes that they can be moral?
Photo by Dave Lowe