Franciscan Spirit Blog

Psalm 36: Sin Speaks to the Sinner

Psalm 36 states clearly that sin itself speaks to the sinner, but speaks from within the sinner’s heart.

The Book of Psalms was composed many centuries before Jesus’ time. The psalms are beautiful prayers that fit every condition and circumstance of life. They praise the Lord’s goodness and cry out in complaint and despair for the suffering we experience. The Book of Psalms, inspired as it is by God, gives us a powerful insight into human nature. The imagery is strong and so telling in its description. One such example is the opening verse of Psalm 36, entitled “Human Wickedness and Divine Providence.”

The opening line reads, “Sin directs the heart of the wicked; their eyes are closed to the fear of God.” It applies when we hear about or witness an individual’s deliberate act of evil against poor, innocent, and defenseless people. What I find so startling is how Psalm 36 seems to give life to the word sin as when it states that “Sin directs the heart of the wicked.”

Psalm 36 states clearly that sin itself speaks to the sinner, but speaks from within the sinner’s heart. Keep in mind that it is good people who are tempted, not bad people. That’s why it is so important to understand that temptation itself is not a sin. After all, Jesus himself was tempted many times in his earthly life.

Temptation is an attraction to sin and, given our wounded human nature, it is very normal to experience attraction to sin. For example, no one I know likes cod liver oil. Most people gag at the thought of a spoonful. Few would be tempted to indulge in a taste. But to spread gossip, to lie out of pride, to eat a hot fudge sundae—now these are forms of temptation. Good people are tempted by the attractiveness of sin. But Psalm 36 says that truly bad people are not tempted. If Satan sought to tempt, he would not waste time on a true sinner. Dedicated sinners don’t need temptation.


The Choices We Make

It is important to know the struggle with temptation that good people have only means that they are seeking to live good lives. That’s why they are tempted. Con artists, cheats, and investment robbers never have to worry about temptations because they have made the decision to rob others. They probably even sleep well at night. Good people experience guilt. Dedicated sinners do not.

But we also know that the evil decisions people make in life are the decisions they carry into eternity. So, in the end, they have chosen their eternity. They are not rejected by God. It is they who reject God.

Interested in the psalms? Keep reading!

Praying the Psalms

Psalm 25: GPS for My Soul

Seven Days with the Psalms

Psalm 127: ‘Unless the Lord Build the House’

What Was Lost: Seeking Refuge in the Psalms


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