“The words of his mouth are iniquity and deceit: he hath left off to be wise, and to do good. He deviseth mischief upon his bed; he setteth himself in a way that is not good; he abhorreth not evil.” (Psalm 36:3-4)
These verses appear within a larger body passage in which David is considering within himself the observations that he has made about the wicked. He says (v. 1) that the transgression of the wicked “sayeth within my heart,” followed by a number of things he sees from dealing with the wicked men of this world. The psalmist is wisely considering and contemplating what he sees so as to avoid the errors and pitfalls of those who hate the Lord.
In the verses above, we notice something very interesting. David observes several things which are overtly wicked about the things these men do. They speak iniquity and deceit (v. 3), i.e. they are liars who seek to encourage and involve others in their sinful and iniquitous behaviour. Likewise, they (v. 4) meditate upon that which is evil and invent news ways in which to perpetrate sinful things, patterning their whole lives after the pursuit of sin and folly.
However, what we see here that is interesting is that David doesn’t just mark out the overt sinful things that they do, but also observes the things that they do not do. He notes what is lacking in their lives – the lack of these things contributing to their overall wickedness and sin. In verse 3, they leave off being wise and doing good. In verse 4, they abhor not evil. These wicked men turn away from the path of knowledge and judgment, and are not disgusted with and repulsed by evil and wickedness, either in their own lives or in the lives of others.
Hating evil is a cardinal trait of the godly man who is intent upon living for the Lord,
“Ye that love the LORD, hate evil: he preserveth the souls of his saints; he delivereth them out of the hand of the wicked.” (Psalm 97:10)
“Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.” (Psalm 34:14)
“Through thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way.” (Psalm 119:104)
“Hate the evil, and love the good, and establish judgment in the gate: it may be that the LORD God of hosts will be gracious unto the remnant of Joseph.” (Amos 5:15)
“Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.” (Romans 12:9)
The one who claims to be a Christian and who yet tolerates evil is one who is not letting the mind of Christ be in them. God hates evil. So should we. We should always hate and oppose sin and wickedness, in our personal lives, in the lives of others, in our nation, and wherever else. We cannot allow the spirit of sentimentality that pervades our modern culture to blind us to the necessity of hating evil and sin. We often hear “love the sinner while hating the sin.” This is true, in a technical sense, but unfortunately is often used as a cover for tolerating sin. Why, if we condemned someone’s sin or called them on it, then we’re not “loving the sinner”! Instead, we’re big, legalistic meanies who just aren’t loving! We use sentimentality and an unspiritual, unscriptural definition of “love” as an excuse to be neutral with regard to sin. When we do this, we’re not really abhorring evil, and indeed, are not even really being wise or doing good. If we allow someone to go on in sin without warning them, then we are really hating that person (Lev. 19:17, Ezek. 33:5).
The wicked omit these things in vv. 3-4 from their lives. Those who know the Lord should not emulate them in this. When we do so, we’re taking a neutral attitude toward the things of God – perhaps taking positive steps to refrain from overt sin, but not really abhorring that which God hates or seeking to incorporate wisdom proactively into our lives and walks.
Yet, we cannot be neutral in our attitudes toward the things which God Himself is not neutral about. Jesus said of those who try to sit the fence on matters of sin and righteousness,
“So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.” (Revelation 3:16)
We’re either on God’s side or we’re not. We can’t take a “middle course” designed to try to hang onto Jesus while conciliating a God-hating world. Either we’re all in for Jesus, or we’re really not in for Him at all. This presents us each with a choice – hate what God hates or else tolerate (and thereby tacitly love) what God hates. Hot or cold, there can be no lukewarmness as so many modern churches and Christians seek to hold onto. Be on fire for God and avoid the “net of neutrality” that would ensnare your testimony and keep you from being the witness and warner that you ought to be!