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I am a good person!

Our reading this week is from Job 31:

“Oh, if only someone would give me a hearing!
    I’ve signed my name to my defense—let the
        Almighty One answer!
    I want to see my indictment in writing.
Anyone’s welcome to read my defense;
    I’ll write it on a poster and carry it around town.
I’m prepared to account for every move I’ve ever made—
    to anyone and everyone, prince or pauper.  (
Job 31:35-37 MSG)

The whole of chapter 31 is Job making a case for his own righteousness.  He goes through every way that you could sin, by action or inaction, and points to how he met the letter of the law.  The gist of his argument is: "But, I am a good person!"  As I have counseled people on the fringes of faith I have heard this argument many times.  It is a strange thing, it is hard to see how wrong this thinking is from the outside of Christian faith, but once you have experienced the prompts of the Holy Spirit it all comes into perspective.  Allow me to illustrate this idea: 

One day, during study time, a teacher looked up and noticed a note being passed around the class.  He knew several of the kids were struggling with their academics and wanted them to have a space free of distractions to focus on their work.  He mustered up his best stern voice, and asked them to hand over the note.  He took the note and placed it in his desk without opening it, not wanting to embarrass anyone by reading a private letter.  He settled into his seat, proud of his actions.  He had defended the sanctity of the classroom by maintaining a distraction free environment.  He avoided the temptation of lashing out at the kids by reading the note out loud.  He respected their autonomy and privacy by not even reading the note.  He was a good teacher.  

As he sat there waiting for the bell to ring he noticed himself getting more frustrated.  Why won't these kids focus?  Even if they don't want to pass, they know they are distracting to the kids who do want to focus.  Don't they care about anything or anyone?  How can they be so inconsiderate? As the bell rang he called for the student he had taken the note from.  He briefly lectured them on how they should focus on their work and be more considerate of others.  He offered them the note, still folded and unopened.  The student refused the note, explaining that it was for the teacher.  The teacher opened it.  It was a homemade happy birthday card to celebrate that it was his birthday.  They had been passing it around so that everyone could sign it.  

In this story the teacher was so caught up in his own righteousness that he started judging the inconsiderate actions of his students.  In the process, he was being inconsiderate and judgemental himself.  When he realized that his students were not being inconsiderate of other youth, but radically considerate of his birthday, he was confronted with the reality of his own issues. The Holy Spirit is much like this, a voice within us that calls us towards Christ.  That voice has led me to discover the unrighteousness of many habits and actions I never questioned before my walk with Christ began.  As we become better people, we realize how far we were from the mark to begin with.  We all think we are good people, until we really get to know the Master.   

Lord, help us to see where we fall short so that our mercy and empathy will increase.  Lord, help us to know that we are forgiven, so that we share that grace with those we tend to judge.  Amen. 


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