Recently my friend Mary told me about some good advice she had received from a fellow Presbyterian. As Mary was growing up sometimes she did not have enough to eat; like many families, Mary’s family faced challenges. Mary’s background did not embitter her. On the contrary, she learned about how God provides even through the rough times, especially in the rough times. Moreover when neighbors came to the door with food, she and her family learned first hand about God’s angels, people who became instruments of his peace. Today Mary and her husband and children have plenty of food. But often as she is driving home from shopping for the week, she looks back and sees her bags of groceries and feels guilty. She confided in a fellow church member and this is what he said. He knew of course that Mary and her family gave to others and to the church generously and many times even sacrificially but his advice was about what NOT to do. He said, “don’t try to justify yourself.” “What do you mean?” Mary asked. He answered, “Don’t say to yourself something like, “Well, I worked hard for my money, so I shouldn’t feel bad. Don’t say, ‘I deserve this.‘ Don’t justify yourself. Instead, just remember that Jesus justifies. We are clothed in his righteousness alone.”
I was glad my friend shared this story with me the other day. It reminded me of what we learn in First Corinthians, chapter one: “ God has chosen the foolish things of this world to confound the wise. God has chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty. And the base things of the world and the things which are despised...and the things that are nothing, to bring to nothing the things that are.” God did not choose me because I was wise, he chose me because I am foolish. God did not choose me and you because we were strong, he chose us because we are weak. When we go out into the wide world we mentally arm ourselves, “gotta be strong,” we say to ourselves, “gotta be smart.” But in truth our most valuable and most sure possession is not our street smarts or our strength, the possession that we have that is most sure, is the Lord’s wisdom and his strength. That’s what we can count on. We stand before the throne today dressed in his righteousness, his strength, his wisdom. Beautiful and lasting garments indeed, our boast is in him alone.