A Few Thoughts About Thinking: “Tons Of Wicked Little Thoughts Merrily Appear”

Boston, May 2015

When I was little, John F. Kennedy’s administration popularized Learner and Lowe’s Broadway play, Camelot. My father, always the one to buy fashionable items, purchased the record album, featuring the original cast. Hence I grew up knowing and loving all the songs (rarely understanding their full implications).

Early in the story, Guinevere sings about “the lusty month of May” “when tons of wicked little thoughts merrily appear.” In contrast to the sexually charged lyrics, the lighthearted tune creates a feeling of innocence. Those tons of wicked little thoughts can’t really be that wicked, the music assures us.

Tell that to Guinevere years later as her merrily wicked thoughts lead her to adultery so vile that it destroys King Arthur’s kingdom.

The Bible has a lot to say about the influence our thoughts have over our actions. Sin begins with thoughts that feed our lusts, our greed and our pride. Watch the progression that James describes:

13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. ~~James 1:13-15 (ESV)

Jesus elaborates on this progression by showing us the origin of our evil thoughts:

18 And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, 19 since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) 20 And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. 21 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” ~~Mark 7:18-23 (ESV)

Aside from the control of the Holy Spirit, our thoughts will inevitably defile us. So in thinking about thinking, we must begin by acknowledging the destructive power of human thought. Just as Guinevere took down her husband’s kingdom with her tons of wicked little thoughts, so we violate God’s kingdom with our thoughts.

Later in this series we’ll talk about how the Lord replaces our wicked thoughts with thoughts that honor and glorify Him. Please don’t worry that I’ll neglect His redemptive work in the minds of His people.

At this juncture, however, we need to understand why He needs to redeem our thoughts. In truth, tons of wicked little thoughts merrily appear to us several times a day, luring us into sin. Although God indeed declares Christians righteous through the shed blood of Jesus, we still struggle against the residue of our flesh. That being the case, we must recognize that our thoughts are all too frequently wicked, and therefore potentially destructive.

Funny how a lighthearted little song can reveal such a sobering truth.

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