Ah, it is good to be back in Mark, and for the coming Sunday we have his dandy list of no-no’s that have their origins nowhere else but in our own hearts: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly, these come from within and they are what defile us. Oddly enough I have a few friends who have claimed that it’s all God’s fault. He was testing them with these temptations and they were just too weak to refuse. They wonder why God would do such a thing, but they have no doubt that it is God’s doing. I think maybe we see a bit of that with more than a few politicians as well. I recall trying that excuse myself in younger days, but was fortunate to have some stern voices advising me otherwise.
However, self satisfaction has to be placed very deep in the back of a closet on a high shelf. How many ways are there to commit fornication? Put another way, how many ways are there to sell one’s self for a few bucks, and how many ways are there to try to buy the favors of another? How many ways are there for us to apprehend for ourselves something, anything, that is not ours to have or use? How many ways are there to murder another in small bits and pieces with our words and actions? How many ways are there to “cheat” on our friends, co-workers, neighbors and loved ones? You get the idea; I don’t have to go through the whole list. The point is that these are very common sins of which we are all guilty in one way or another.
Isn’t that what James is getting at in his opening words, that we have to be a lot more intentional about being doers of the word and not just hearers who deceive ourselves?
Thanks be to God that it’s not entirely up to us. A bit later on in Mark we will come to those wonderful words of reassurance that if it was up to us we would never make it through that narrow gate: if it was up to mortals, no one would make it, but with God all things are possible.
I don’t have to be perfect, but I do have to be intentional. As a practicing curmudgeon, that is not always easy, but I shall try.