Why do we sin?
Psalm 36 begins in a confusing way – depending on the version you are reading.
The old New International Version begins with “An oracle is within my heart concerning the sinfulness of the wicked.” The new New International version says I have a message from God in my heart concerning the sinfulness of the wicked..” The New Revised Standard Version however says: “Transgression speaks to the wicked deep in their hearts.”
Hmmm. Is God speaking about the wicked, or is sin speaking to the wicked?
It’s a thorny issue. The Hebrew text more closely favors the last translation with one caveat: transgression speaks not deep within the heart of the wicked, but “within my heart.”
This reading is what makes the psalm so difficult, but it is also what gives the psalm sense – and the answer to our beginning question: Why do we sin?
The reason we sin is because it is so easy. No one says: “I really need to work harder at being a murderer” or a slanderer, or an adulterer, or a liar, or an envious person. Give it a little time and without care, evil blooms from within.
Alexander Pope wrote:
Vice is a monster of so frightful mien
As, to be hated, needs but to be seen;
Yet, seen too oft, familiar with her face,
We first endure, then pity, then embrace.
The psalmist knows he is a sinner. He knows his sin springs easily, as if (but not) divinely ordained from deep within his heart. He knows the end of the sinner. And he is thankful that God still loves him. With God’s love, there is yet hope.