When Tolerance Is No Virtue

“He plans wickedness upon his bed; he sets himself on a path that is not good; he does not despise evil.” (Psalm 36:4)

The first verses of Psalm 36 describe the ungodly person. Verse 1 labels him the “ungodly”, and says “there is no fear of God before his eyes.”  The following verses describe this person in even more detail.  The present verse (:4) lists three additional qualities of the ungodly:

1) That he plans wickedness on his bed.  The word translated “plans” here means to “think” or “account” (BDB).  In other words, this person meditates on evil things.  This is a reminder that it matters very much what you think about. You need to fight the battle of the mind.

2) He also “sets” himself of paths that are not good. It matters where you stand, and who you stand with.

3) Very tellingly, the final quality of the ungodly in this verse is that he does NOT despise evil.  The Hebrew word for “despise” means to “refuse, reject.” (BDB)  Rather than a sin of “commission” per se, this is a sin of OMISSION: that of NOT rejecting evil.  This contains a word of warning for our times: acceptance and toleration of evil is NOT a godly quality.  Psalm 36 tells us that one of the marks of the man who has no fear of God is that he does NOT reject evil. He accepts it; tolerates it instead.

Now tolerance can certainly be a virture. People will always disagree on various matters, and it is necessary for those living in society together to exercise a certain degree of toleration on many things — or that society will not be able to function successfully.  We should respect and tolerate various opinions and preferences on a number of things — but not what God has clearly labeled as sin in His word.  When we accept what God has prohibited, it is not a sign of benevolent toleration, but of wicked compromise — and according to Psalm 36 it says something very troubling about the kind of people we really are at heart.

About Shawn Thomas

My blog, shawnethomas.com, features the text of my sermons, book reviews, family life experiences -- as well as a brief overview of the Lifeway "Explore the Bible" lesson for Southern Baptist Sunday School teachers.
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1 Response to When Tolerance Is No Virtue

  1. Cliff says:

    Your first point on here, about it mattering what you think about, made me think of something I heard Chip Ingram say several years ago that has stuck with me. He said, “The greatest decision we will make everyday is what we allow to enter our mind or thoughts.”

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