Is my sin better than yours?
If you have ever experienced one of those moments when you are "standing pretty" and you know it, you just might want to pay attention to what we will explore today. There are always going to be times when things seem to be going our way, when we can stand tall and be pretty well assured of the way things are going. On the other hand, there are also those moments when we doubt our every move, forget about who we are in Christ Jesus, and just about lose it all! When those moments come, we forget all about those other moments when we were "standing pretty" and knew it! We just about crumble under the weight of whatever is getting us down at the moment and presenting the "hassle" of the hour. I pretty much like how David, the young man chosen to lead Israel as their king, takes on life, learns from his mistakes, and just plain is a "real guy" with God and everyone else. Yet, if we examine his life closely, we find moments when he was "standing pretty", but then blew it in just about zero to sixty in under thirty-seconds! Been there, done that - - - wore the T-Shirt out! The Psalms are a book of prayers, songs, and pretty much "tender moments" with God. If we explore them frequently enough, there are treasures in them we will see immediately, and then there are little revelations of truth which might just "dawn on us" at some particular moment and we are left with one of those 'hmmmmm' moments. God can use those 'hmmmmm' moments to speak deeply, so use the "pondering time" as listening time!
Lord, don’t treat me like one of those sinners. Don’t kill me with those murderers. They are guilty of cheating people. They take bribes to do wrong. But I am innocent, so be kind to me and save me. I am safe from all danger as I stand here praising you, Lord, in the assembly of your people. (Psalm 26:9-13 ERV)
Okay, so this psalm begins with the words of David, asking God to actually judge him in order to prove he has lived a pure life. Not exactly the beginning of a prayer I'd usually prayer! In fact, I have those moments in time when I want God to NOT judge me based on how I have acted or what I have been thinking! I'd rather just quickly confess it, and then move on without God taking too much time to focus on the stuff in my life which I know clearly fell short of what I should have been doing, or how I should have responded. David kind of asks God to take a magnifying glass to examine him: "Lord, you be the judge and prove that I have lived a pure life. I have depended on you, Lord, to keep me from falling. Look closely at me, Lord, and test me. Judge my deepest thoughts and emotions." My deepest thoughts and emotions can be pretty fickle sometimes - not because I don't want to please God, but because I have made choices to do things my own way. Those are not moments I want to be standing this "self-assured" before God!
Yet, if we look at what David says in-between these beginning words and the end verses above, you will see David is doing a lot of comparing of himself to others - something we are all guilty of on an occasion or two! First, he tells God to judge his thoughts and emotions, which is definitely not a bad start to a prayer, but then he lays out a laundry list of ways he has shown he is "serious" about his walk with God. Isn't that just like us? We want to tell God all the ways we have been "shining stars" today. I don't judge David's heart here, but I can speak for mine - it might just be because I am hoping God will focus on all the "good stuff" I have done and not be so overly concerned with the other stuff which wasn't all that different than the "sinner" I am comparing myself to! If he can just get a "laundry list" of the good ways I have behaved and the good things I have thought, then maybe, just maybe the couple of other compromising moments might just not be put in the spotlight too much!
Read the psalm - the entirety of it - and you will see David laying out the ways he counts himself as a little bit different (and perhaps a little better) than the 'other guy'. HE washes his hands before entering into worship so HE is prepared and accepted. HE doesn't associate with the wrong kind of people. HE won't hang around with those who gossip, commit crimes, or the like. HE loves to go to 'church' and sing praises to God. It is a pretty long list of "reasons" he wants God to meet with him in his times of worship and to pay special attention to his needs. Dare I say, we are all sometimes guilty of making our "lists" of reasons why God should bestow his goodness upon us. After all...we don't take bribes, kill people, and the like! But...I am guilty of saying some "biting words" on occasion, thinking some not so "kind" thoughts about that person who just got on my last nerve, and secretly hoping the person who is driving like a maniac cutting in and out traffic on our way to work will just get a ticket or something! Now where is my mercy, grace, and/or purity? It flew right on out the window with the last breath I just breathed out!
Yes, you and I can approach God with confident assurance - - - but - - - it is solely and completely because of who indwells us, not anything we do or have refrained from doing! Our approach to God is based on the mercy he extends toward us because we are all sinners, unclean in some fashion, and in need of a Savior. Plain and simple - there is not truth quite so clear as that one! We may want to rephrase our prayers to God a little, though. As David said referred to "those sinners" who "murder" and "cheat" and "take bribes" and the like, we might just find we are guilty of the same kind of "setting off" of some types of sin as worse than others. If we are, we are dead wrong in our perception of sin, for any form of compromise is sin! There really aren't "levels" to our sin - sin is sin. Growing up in the Catholic faith, I was introduced to "levels" of sin (menial, grievous, etc.). Those "lower level" sins carried less of a "penalty" when you went to the confessional and received your "prayer list" from the priest. You only had to say a couple of "Our Fathers" or "Hail Marys" to get those taken care of! The "bigger" ones found you doing the entire rosary or even two!
If we can get one thing from our study of this psalm today it would be to remember there are no real "levels" to sin - sin is sin. We don't get off the hook just because our sin is "better" than another's! If God examines our heart, be assured we will need his grace to cover something there! It is that simple - we need God's grace - none of us is worthy of approaching his throne without it! Just sayin!