Reading Proverbs 20:1-30
One of my favourite stories is about two brothers who go to church. They are a couple of scoundrels who go Sunday by Sunday only to put a veneer of respectability over their shady business dealings. When one of the brothers dies, the other brother schedules a meeting with the vicar. He says, “I know you need some money to repair the stain-glass windows. I will gladly give you £5000, if, at my brother’s funeral you say he was a saint.” The vicar gives his word and the brother writes a check for £5000. I love what the vicar does next, he pays the money into the church account, then during the eulogy the vicar says these words about the dearly departed brother, “What can be said about this man? I knew him and can say with some authority, he was a cheat, a liar, an adulterer and a scoundrel, but, compared to his brother sitting on the front row, he was a saint!”
In today’s reading there are two proverbs that stand out to me, “Many claim to have unfailing love,
but a faithful person who can find?” (6) And, “Who can say, “I have kept my heart pure;
I am clean and without sin”?” (9). If we are honest with ourselves we know that really we are not so different to the two brothers. There are deep motivations that drive us, many of which may not be as pure as we want the world to think they are. Jesus wants to cleanse us of all unrighteousness, and change the motivations that move us. He has carried all our sin on the cross; thrown our sin as far as the east is from the west; buried it at the bottom of the deepest ocean and has placed a sign … “NO FISHING!”
David prayed, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting”. We see David’s son, Solomon, say a similar thing to his son, “The lamp of the Lord searches the spirit of a man; it searches out his inmost being.” (27 NIV 1984). Sin leaves the body through the mouth; we confess our sins, we resolve to turn from them and God cleanses. Maybe there are some motivations to our actions that we need to God to forgive and cleanse.
While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?”
On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Who can say, “I have kept my heart pure;
I am clean and without sin” (Proverbs 20:9)
Father, I am so grateful that you have sent your son for me. Thank you that he died, the righteous for the unrighteousness. That he who knew no sin became sin for us that we might be the righteousness of God. I realise that often my motivations are less than pure – please work in me and by your Holy Spirit bring life where there is currently death. In Jesus name. Amen.
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