Transgression speaks to the wicked deep in his heart; there is no fear of God before his eyes. For he flatters himself in his own eyes that his iniquity cannot be found out and hated. The words of his mouth are trouble and deceit; he has ceased to act wisely and do good. Psalm 36:1-4
How does the way of the wicked unfold? There is an evolution. Anyone who treasures wisdom and carefully watches the lives of others play out can see the progression. It’s sobering. I have seen these stages materialize in myself and I see this same sequence in others, Christians included. Here’s the map downward into wickedness.
- It starts with no fear of God. While ‘fear’ often means ‘reverence’ in scripture, that is not the word meaning here. This time, ‘fear’ means ‘terror.’ If I see no present evidence of a God who holds me accountable for my sin, I might assume He won’t. Biblical warnings are ignored and, worse yet, ridiculed. Terror of God is absent and therefore sin is conceived without any fear of consequences.
- Then, I’m driven to flatter myself. Privately, I think I’m a great person and a snob is born. Publicly, I may even boast about it. When God gives a platform, never should it birth a bragger. Unfortunately, I know a pastor who tells his people often how brilliant his professors said he was in college. He even goes so far as to say that he was encouraged to go to an Ivy League school to pursue an intellectual field instead of the pastorate. What he does not see is that his choice to continually flatter himself is described in Psalm 36.
- When I become a bragger, a general bent toward deceit follows next. I’ll think nothing of telling one-person one thing and someone else something differently entirely. My guiding paradigm will be whatever makes me look good to protect my reputation. If I’m a leader, everything beneath me implodes.
- Lastly, wisdom erodes. In the first stages, wisdom can appear to be present but eventually, my conscience sears. The cycle of sin and the resulting stronghold in my life turns me into a foolish person who runs her world recklessly.
I do not know if you find yourself in this progression. At times, I have. I was careless with my sin. I made poor choices with the awareness that all I had to do was tell God I’m sorry. I took advantage of His grace and I possessed a lazy view of His justice. As a rule, I want to be able to see myself at the beginning of this journey downward, humble myself before an all powerful and merciful God, and make a course correction.
I see the map. The way down is not abstract because You laid it all out for me. Pave my way with warning signs if I start down the wrong path. In Jesus name, Amen