Are you an atheist? “Well, of course not,” you say. “No way would I be an atheist! I know that God exists.”
“The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.” (Psalm 14:1) This verse is often used to teach that a person who does not believe in the existence of God is acting foolishly. I couldn’t agree more! A person who says there is no God is a fool. But, is that really what Psalm 14:1 teaches?
If you read further into Psalm 14, you’ll notice the psalm describes the fool’s behavior; he is corrupt, he has done abominable works, there is none that doeth good, they are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy. Also notice that reading Psalm 14:1 from the King James Version, the words “there is” are in italics. This italics indicates these words were not a part of the original text but were inserted by the translators to help convey the meaning of the text. Without these words, Psalm 14:1 would read, “The fool hath said in his heart, no God.” Is the fool in Psalm 14 one who denies the existence of God? Or is he one who, in rebellion, lives as if there is no God? Is his conduct such that it fails to convey his belief in God to others?
Let’s look at three passages where men believed in the existence of God, but acted like atheists. First, from the book of Exodus, chapter 14. When the Pharaoh found out that God’s people were fleeing from Egypt, his heart was turned against God and he decided to pursue God’s people. When the children of Israel saw the Pharaoh and his army coming after them, they became very afraid the – KJV says they were sore afraid. They thought they simply had no way out – no way of escape. Their backs were to the Red Sea and the Egyptian army was quickly drawing closer to them. They began to chastise Moses – “Why didn’t we stay in Egypt? Why did you take us out here just to die in the wilderness? Were there no graves in Egypt?”
Now notices Moses’ response from Exodus 14:13-14 – “13 And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will shew to you today: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen today, ye shall see them again no more forever. 14 The LORD shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.”
What was wrong with their thinking? They wondered why Moses took them to where they were, yet they were exactly where God had led them. They thought the Red Sea was an insurmountable object, yet God led them right through it. They saw nothing in store for them but death and defeat. Oh, they believed in the existence of God. But they were acting as if God was unaware and uncaring about their situation. They had no faith that God would deliver them through their hardship. There were acting like atheists.
Keep reading and you’ll find out that God parted the sea, allowing His people to cross on dry ground. When the Egyptians followed after them, God brought the waters together again, overthrowing the Egyptians in the sea.
Sometimes, life can throw us a curve. It may be financial struggles, health problems, marital problems, or difficulties with our jobs. You and I can experience such hardship that we see no way out. We feel hopeless and helpless. We still believe that God exists, but we forget that He is always there to carry us through life’s struggles. You might say we become practical atheists. Oh sure, we believe God exists, but we act as if there is no God. But remember, God may not take you around your Red Sea, but He will part it for you and carry you through it.
Next, consider Matthew 6:25-33 – “25 Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? 26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? 27 Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? 28 And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: 29 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? 31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? 32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. 33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”
In verse 24, Jesus said that no man can serve two masters; he will hate the one, and love the other. He went on to say “Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” The word mammon refers to material gain or financial profit. Among Jesus’ audience there must have been some who placed unnecessary thought on the things of this world. Jesus assured them that God would take care of them, just as He cares for the fowl of the air.
If we’re not careful, we can take on this same attitude today. We can become overly concerned with the things of this world. We take on a desire for material gain because of our concern over meeting our simplest needs. Someone stays up late at night, unable to sleep because they are worried about making a living. With prices going up the way they are, how will the bills be paid? Have you been to the grocery store lately? Prices are out of sight! How will I be able to keep food on the table? Then there’s the unexpected visit to the hospital, doctor or dentist. How am I supposed to make ends meet?
Sometimes we forget that God is there the whole time, taking care of us. We believe God exists, but we act as if He doesn’t – we act like atheists.
Next, let’s look at James 4:13-17 – “13 Go to now, ye that say, Today or tomorrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: 14 Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. 15 For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that. 16 But now ye rejoice in your boastings: all such rejoicing is evil. 17 Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.”
James wrote about a man who had big plans. This man was going to start a business venture and, over the coming year, make a big profit. But this man needed to be reminded that his life was a vapor that was here for a short while and then vanishes away. Sadly, in his boastings, the man left God out of his plans. He should have been saying, “If the Lord wills, we will do this or that.” James describes this attitude – boasting of the future and leaving God out of our plans, as evil. It reminds me of Proverbs 27:1 – “Boast not thyself of tomorrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.”
Now notice verse 17, Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” I have often heard this verse used to teach that there are sins of omission. That is, we sin not only by the things we do; we can also sin by the things we do not do. While this may be true, I don’t believe this is what this verse is teaching.
The ESV translates James 4:17, “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” I believe this conveys the meaning of James 4:17 more clearly. If boasting of our plans, while leaving God out of our plans, is evil, then the “good” of verse 17 would be to include God in our plans.
Sometimes we can make great plans for our future, but leave God out of our plans. When it comes to planning our future, we believe God exists but sometimes act as if He doesn’t. We act like atheists!
Although we believe God exists, we act like He doesn’t when (1) we forget that he will help us through the struggles of life, (2) when we forget that He will provide all of life’s needs (3) when we forget to include God in our plans.
Now do you understand why I began by asking the question, “Are you an atheist?”
If you say, “of course not! I’m not an atheist, then make sure you don’t act like one.