9What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin;
10as it is written, “THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE; 11THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS, THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD; 12ALL HAVE TURNED ASIDE, TOGETHER THEY HAVE BECOME USELESS; THERE IS NONE WHO DOES GOOD, THERE IS NOT EVEN ONE.” 13″THEIR THROAT IS AN OPEN GRAVE, WITH THEIR TONGUES THEY KEEP DECEIVING,” “THE POISON OF ASPS IS UNDER THEIR LIPS”; 14″WHOSE MOUTH IS FULL OF CURSING AND BITTERNESS”; 15″THEIR FEET ARE SWIFT TO SHED BLOOD, 16DESTRUCTION AND MISERY ARE IN THEIR PATHS, 17AND THE PATH OF PEACE THEY HAVE NOT KNOWN.” 18″THERE IS NO FEAR OF GOD BEFORE THEIR EYES.”
19Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God;
20because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.
As Paul sums up his explanation of why we need God, the last verse is a sobering one. Paul’s rant of sin vs. righteousness ends with what seemed to me a book being slammed shut. Fittingly, there is nothing more to say on the matter. It’s the controversial point that we don’t think about often enough. As we go about our days “doing good,” we tend to forget there’s nothing we can do to make us good.
We tend to fall into the rhythm of thinking that if we follow the Law, we will be pure, or more pure: “closer to God.” Paul says no. Nothing we do will make us closer to God. As he continues his letter, I’m anxious to see what he has to say about how we can have a relationship with God. I can guess at what some of that may entail…
Remember what he said a few days ago as we were reading? That our deeds do nothing regarding our righteousness? Sure, our actions may lead others to God. Our lifestyles can please or displease God. Even atheists can live “decent” lives. It’s not about living a good or bad life, it’s about recognizing that we are sinners and nothing we do makes us righteous. It’s only through the grace of God we are made clean.
So I ask you (and myself), what is it that you do to make you think you are holier than another?