Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.
In looking at the matter of the unthankfulness found in verse 21, we touched on this concept yesterday, but I think that it is important enough to meditate on for at least one more day. This verse not only shows us the danger of unthankfulness, but it shows us the path to unthankfulness and it shows us the results of unthankfulness.
When anyone knows God and fails to give Him the glory, they begin to travel down a dangerous road. After failing to glorify God, they start to think of themselves as the source of the good things in their lives. That causes them to become “vain in their imaginations.” Once pride creeps in, they have a very hard time containing it. Once they allow pride to get even the slightest toehold in our lives, it soon begins to consume them. After being consumed with “vain imaginations,” we now find that they have their “foolish hearts darkened.” Once we start giving ourselves glory for what God has done, we start to ignore God altogether, and that is going to result in a darkened heart every time.
The end of these verses tell us that these people “became fools.” They thought they were wise. They were lifted up with pride and started to give themselves the glory that belongs to God alone. They thought they were in control, but the more wise they thought they were, the more foolish they turned out to be. There is example after example of this throughout history, and we could all probably give a few examples of people that we have seen go down this road. May we avoid this road and may we be always thankful and always glorifying the Lord.
Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
We have looked at this verse around Thanksgiving time, but we would be wise to consider it all year long. In this passage, Paul is giving the Romans a summary of man’s straying from God. He is detailing each step along the way in mankind’s rejection of God.
This verse tells us that, when they did know God, they didn’t glorify Him as God. They knew God, but they didn’t glorify Him. We can see a lot of that in our churches today. Many people know God, but they don’t love Him as they ought, they don’t live for Him as they ought, and they don’t glorify Him as they ought. But we will turn our attention to the next part of the verse: “neither were thankful, but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.” Not glorifying God made them unthankful, which led to vanity, which lead to their foolish hearts being darkened.
It seems odd that a sin we might consider “small,” plays such a prominent role in mankind’s rejection of God. This simple little matter of not being thankful is right in the middle of this mess of sin and unrighteousness. But it seems that the little sin of unthankfulness is right in the middle of a lot of “bigger” sins.
We need to be thankful. We need to be thankful for all that God has given us and we especially need to be thankful for all that God has done for us. When we become unthankful, we become vain. We start to think that we are responsible for our own blessings. We lose sight of where everything we have came from: the Lord Jesus Christ.
It’s good to be thankful at Thanksgiving, but we need to be reminded to be thankful all year long!
Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. He that sitteth in the heaves shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure.
“The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his anointed.” Isn’t it interesting that the “kings of the earth” are often the ones who hate God the most? They try to “break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords…” They refuse to acknowledge that there is a King above them. They don’t like the thought that they have to answer to someone other than themselves. So, they do what they can to destroy God and His rules and laws.
We see it every day in the nations of the world. Rulers are constantly trying to do anything they can to separate themselves from God, and, by extension, from His people. We see things going on in our governments and we might be tempted to start worrying about it.
But when we see all of that and it begins to weigh heavy on our hearts and minds, we need to remember this passage and this statement by the Lord: “He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh.” God sees all of the governments of the earth trying to reject Him and His laws. God sees all of that and he laughs. The knowledge that we serve that God should make us smile every day!
Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools
If there is one verse that seems to sum up our modern world, this is probably it. There has never been a time in which people have been more “advanced.” You can look around at some of the things we enjoy today that wouldn’t have been dreamed of even one hundred years ago. We have computers and cell phones that function as computers. I was talking with someone about Skype the other day. It is a simple live video messaging system that would have been looked at as “futuristic” even twenty to thirty years ago. Now, nearly everyone has it and it’s even free. We are living in a time of amazing technological advancements and scientific innovations. And yet we are living in a spiritual dark age.
With all of our advancements, we seem to have forgotten God. We seem to have surrounded ourselves with things that make us forget or ignore God. We think that we are wise, but we are surrounded by world filled with fools.
“Science” has rejected God and has rejected any notion that there even is a God. The “most brilliant minds” in the world are almost all avowed atheists. If that is not a perfect example of “professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,” I don’t know what is.
Man has decided that he is wise. He has decided that he is wiser than the Lord and that he is wiser than the Bible. This “wisdom” is nothing but Godless foolishness. We would be truly wise to avoid it at all costs. Our wisdom should be the wisdom from above, the true wisdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, as given to us in the Bible. That is wisdom that will never end in foolishness.
Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead so that they are without excuse: But that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
God has given man an infinite variety of reasons to believe in Him. He has put in man a natural belief in God. Even the savage in the jungle naturally believes in a higher power. Every civilization since the beginning of history has believed in God. Most of them did not believe in the true God, but quickly got mixed up in worshipping false “gods.” But they still knew in their hearts that there was something. God has also created a complex and beautiful world for us to observe. We can look anywhere and see the handiwork of God.
God has given many things, both in ourselves and in nature, to point us to Himself. But many in the world still reject God. Many have “darkened hearts” because they rejected all of what God has shown them and given them. Man has to try to convince himself that there is no God. Man has to work to convince himself that God did not create the world. But whatever man tries to convince himself of these things, the Bible says that he is “without excuse.”
When we stand before the Lord, we will have no excuse. God has showed himself to us in a variety of ways. If we reject them all, we have no one to blame but ourselves. He has given us all that we need, and we will have no excuse.
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness: Because that which my be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.
Much is made (and rightly so) of the goodness, mercy, grace and longsuffering of the Lord. He is a good God. He is a merciful God. He is a graceful God. And He is a very longsuffering God. All of those things are true and all of those things need to be talked about. But God is also a righteous God who will judge sin. The Bible has much to say about the wrath of God, and these verses tell us quite a bit.
“The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men…” God is “plenteous in mercy” if we will turn to Him and we can find forgiveness with Him. But we do need to remember that there is reason we so desperately need mercy and forgiveness. We need to remember that God a holy God. And we see His wrath wherever we see unrepentant sin and unrighteousness.
Just as the mercy, grace and love of God are so wonderful that they may be difficult for our human minds to understand, the wrath of God is so terrible that it may be difficult for our human minds to understand. The wrath of God is something we never want to experience. It is something that we never want to see anyone around us experience.
When we read the Bible and truly get a glimpse of the wrath of God, we will be even more thankful for all of His mercy, grace, love and forgiveness. And we will work even harder to stay away from the things that we know will bring the wrath of God on our lives!