the Song of the Sanctimonious

Psalm 26
as retold by Deborah Beach Giordano
© March 7, 2012

Treat me as one of Your favorites, Lord;
for I have lived righteously;
I have always believed in You.

Test me, Lord, go ahead and challenge me;
look into my heart and read my thoughts.
I’ve always trusted in Your love;
I have followed You unceasingly.

I have ignored the worthless
and avoided liars and cheats.
I have hated being around evildoers
and have shunned the wicked.

For me, confession is just a formality;
I have nothing to repent
and don’t need to be purified before coming to You;
I cannot be convicted of any wrongdoing.

Mine is always one of the loudest voices
when the congregation sings hymns to You, Lord.
I love to come to church and sit
enjoying the sense of holiness.

Don’t toss me out with the sinners, O Lord,
or put me in with the bloodthirsty
who delight in hurting others,
or those who trade their integrity for riches.

As for me, I will live righteously.
Rescue me, O Lord, have pity on me.
Unwaveringly I will praise You
where everybody can see.
~ Psalm 26, as interpreted by Deborah

Nobody is as good as this guy claims to be.

His self-aggrandizing psalm reveals the sinful truth beneath the outward show. The form of “righteousness” he celebrates is mere narrow-mindedness and a lack of simple charity.

He is proud of having ignored “the worthless” — but who does he consider to be of no value: the impoverished, the ill, the aged, the weak? And who is he to judge? Our ever-so-holy writer claims to hate the company of evildoers; when he meets those of whom he disapproves, does he show his distain by snubs and sneers of smug superiority?

This one who insists he is “always faithful to the Lord,” brags that he shuns the wicked. He has spent his whole life avoiding those who stumble and fall, the lost and the least, the poor and the meek — the very ones that Jesus the Christ persistently sought.

Yet toward the end of this paean to his own nobility the writer’s façade cracks; we see the self-doubt beneath the bravado. He pleads with God not to categorize him as one of those to be thrown out like yesterday’s newspaper. Our psalmist appears to suspect that he may not be as faithful as he claims. And in that doubt, I believe, lies his salvation.

Having doubts about our own goodness is a blessing; it causes us to give serious consideration to what we’ve done and what we have not done. It is all too easy to deceive ourselves into believing we are “righteous,” because — like the psalmist — technically there’s been no wrongdoing; we haven’t violated any laws, we haven’t stolen any oxen or lusted after our neighbor’s hi-def television or murdered anyone. But our faith requires far more than that.

We cannot avoid wrongdoing by doing nothing. We are called to be compassionate, caring, merciful, and forgiving; we are to be people of prayer and pray-ers at work in the world.

If we give thought to our actions, if we doubt our own goodness and remember our failings, if we examine our hearts, and strive to do better each day — all is well. For our lives are always under construction, as we grow closer to the image of our Lord.

Trust in God and doubt yourself. There is always room for improvement.


About inklingscommunity

I am a struggling Christian, committed pacifist, near-obsessive recycler, incurable animal lover, inveterate tree-hugger; a nature mystic, a socialized introvert, an advocate for the vulnerable, an opponent of exploiters.
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