By Elizabeth Prata
(Podcast link below)
Sinning. Every human on the planet, no matter his or her age, is good at sinning. Hands down. Me included.
Look at this example from scripture.
Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’ You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that has made the gold sacred? And you say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gift that is on the altar, he is bound by his oath.’ You blind men! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? So whoever swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. And whoever swears by the temple swears by it and by him who dwells in it. And whoever swears by heaven swears by the throne of God and by him who sits upon it. (Matthew 23:16-21).
What this section of scripture is about is Jesus pronouncing woes upon the Pharisees. The Pharisees were one of the two ruling classes in Israel, the Sadducees being the other. The Pharisees had twisted the faith into something unrecognizable, laying incredible burdens down on the people, (like over 600 laws!) failing to minister to sinners, making sons of hell twice as worse as they were, and being total hypocrites. When Jesus pronounced His many woes upon them, this particular set of woes involved swearing by the LORD and lying.
The Pharisees had cunningly devised a way to appear to swear by the Lord but be able to get out of it later. As Romans 1:18 says, we all know the truth but we suppress it in unrighteousness. They knew what they were doing but they were devising evil in rationalizing what they THOUGHT were clever ways to wriggle out of it.
They THOUGHT that if they swore an oath by the temple and not by the gold of the temple, they could break their oath later with no repercussions. Or swear by the altar and not the gift on the altar, or by heaven and not by the throne in heaven. As President Bill Clinton famously said when he was trying to avoid an answer, “It depends on what the meaning of is is.”
Look how finely they were splitting hairs! They were dead wrong, as we read Jesus’ excoriation of their sly practices. All the hairs matter.
But you see how we as humans excel at sinning and rationalizing our sin. We’re really, really good at it. “It wasn’t that bad.” “It wasn’t a real promise.” “No one keeps promises anymore.” “I’m not gossiping, I’m sharing a prayer request.” “It wasn’t as bad as that other guy’s sin over there.” “No one saw.”
All rationalizations are simply self-justifications. And there is only One who justifies, Jesus. Our pitiful attempts to justify ourselves when we sin are just evil blasphemies and vain delusions. When we transgress God’s laws, we injure ourselves and dig ourselves deeper into the pit we will eventually fall into. (Matthew 15:14)
As I go through the day I ask Jesus to show me where I am sinning but I’m rationalizing it away. Where I am too ignorant or blind to see my own sin. I ask Him to help me sin less against Him tomorrow than I did today, by the Spirit’s conviction and strength. I am not only the Chief of Sinners, I am Queen of Rationalizations! Open the eyes of my heart, Lord. I pray mine and your walk grows purer with each day and each step. Paul was so wise to pray this for his people:
I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, (Ephesians 1:18).
Lord open the eyes of my heart so I may see and repent of the sins that lurk there.
All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the spirit. (Proverbs 16:2).
Your eyes are too pure to look upon sin but my eyes are too depraved to see holiness. I need Your eyes, Lord.