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The Two Marks Of A Truly Wicked Person

by James Johnston

How Do You Tell If Someone Is Truly Wicked?

Taken from The Psalms: Rejoice, the Lord is King, by James Johnston.

 

 The Bible points to these two signs.

The psalmist describes two sides of the character of the wicked in Psalm 10:2–11. Structurally each description is five verses long and ends with the inner thoughts of the unjust oppressor, “He says in his heart” (10:6, 11).

Two words summarize these wicked oppressors: arrogant and aggressive. Their pride and violence spell disaster for anyone who stands in their way.

First, the wicked oppressors are arrogant. The trouble they cause flows out of self-importance.

In arrogance the wicked hotly pursue the poor; let them be caught in the schemes that they have devised. (10:2)

Where does this abusive pride come from? For one thing they forget that the rich and poor were both created by God. We did not make ourselves. We did not choose which family we were born into and the opportunities we were given. We did not decide how intelligent we would be, how wise we would be, how self-motivated we would be. All this is from God’s hand. The writer of Proverbs says, “The rich and the poor meet together; the Lord is the maker of them all” (Proverbs 22:2). The wicked forget this. They like to view themselves as self-made men, like sharks made to swim at the top of the food chain. This pride is Darwinian at its core—a survival of the fittest that grinds the poor into the dirt. And in their arrogance they think God will never do anything. They have nothing but contempt for God and laugh at any idea of judgment. In fact, they do not worship God. They worship themselves.

For the wicked boasts of the desires of his soul,
and the one greedy for gain curses and renounces the Lord.
In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek him;
all his thoughts are, “There is no God.”
(10:3, 4)

The word “for” (v. 3) tells us why the wicked pursue the poor. They turn on the poor and the helpless because they first turned against God. What does it mean to boast in your desires? That is an unusual phrase. The wicked are proud of their desires. Their cravings are a virtue. After all, didn’t they succeed because of their will to win? Their greed got them where they are.

One of the most powerful illustrations of this came from the 1987 Oliver Stone movie Wall Street. The main character, Gordon Gekko, was modeled after high-powered traders who ran the financial markets like masters of the universe. In one famous scene Gekko delivers a speech to the nervous shareholders of Teldar Paper Corporation:  Greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures, the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge, has marked the upward surge of mankind and greed, you mark my words, will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the U.S.A.

This quote struck a chord because it hit so close to home. The spirit of American materialism declares that greed is a virtue, that in fact greed is the foundation of success. This is the mind-set of the man or woman who boasts of the desires of his or her soul. They boast because they believe it is a good thing never to be content, never to be satisfied, always to want more. And in their greed they grind the poor into the ground to get what they want.

It is sobering to notice that these wicked men and women renounce God by his personal name, Yahweh (“the Lord,” v. 3). This implies that these oppressors are not foreigners; they are Israelites who knowingly reject the God of Israel. In their greed they loved money and possessions more than God. In their pride they did not look for him. Finally they denied that God even exists.

Greed and pride can turn your heart away from God today too. You may have grown up knowing the Bible, but you are living for yourself. Jesus said, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36). The wicked boast in their desires, but the Scriptures say, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:31).




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The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

John 10:10