This morning I came across a short list by Edward Skidmore, written by his wife, Susan entitled “7 Ways To Rationalize Your Way To Ruin”
1. Everyone’s doing it.
2. I’ll just try it once.
3. It’s just a little lie.
4. No one ever needs to know.
5. No one will really get hurt.
6. If I don’t someone else will.
7. I deserve it.
Sound familiar? Know anyone who’s justified their behavior with these rationalizations? Does it hit a little too close to home?
The Pharisees in the New Testament were masters at justifying their actions. Of putting on a show of piety. And of possessing ulterior motives for their words and deeds.
On one occasion Jesus warned them of the danger of riches while neglecting “the true riches” with these words. “No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” (Lk. 16:13).
Their response? “Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, also heard all these things, and they derided Him.” (v. 14)
The word “derided” literally means “to turn up one’s nose.” While they proclaimed spirituality and professed to trust God, they valued wealth. And measured their lives by their possessions. In fact, they taught that riches were a sign of God’s favor. Sounds strikingly familiar, doesn’t it?
To these sneering, religious hypocrites, Jesus’ response was pointed and piercing. “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God” (v.15).
Those four words jumped off the page to me–“God knows your hearts.”
Think about it.
The wise man counseled, “Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life’ (Prov 4:23).
It is possible for us to rationalize our behavior and deceive our own heart. The Bible often addresses that possibility. As Israel stood on the brink of inheriting the Promised Land, Moses warned, “Take heed to yourselves, lest your heart be deceived, and you turn aside and serve other gods and worship them” (Deut 11:17).
Hundreds of years later the prophet Isaiah would speak of God’s people having turned away from Him because of a “deceived heart” (Isa 44:20). To the Edomites, Obadiah wrote, “The pride of your heart has deceived you” (Ob 1:3).
Jesus reminded the religious people of his day (and you and I) that it is possible to honor God with our lips, while our hearts are far away from Him. (Matt 15:7-9)
God knows your hearts.
Why do I do what I do?
Why attend worship services?
Why make financial contributions to the Lord and charitable causes?
Why read the Bible?
Why be nice to others?
Why engage in ministry?
Why accept (or reject) what a Preacher proclaims?
Why write a blog post like this?
God knows our hearts.
Are we sincerely seeking to serve Him?
Are we trying to impress others?
Are we pursuing the praise of men?
Are we seeking to soothe our own conscience?
Are we concealing and covering up sin in our lives?
Are we rationalizing our behavior with lame excuses?
Are we really working to become more like Christ?
Only you and I can individually accurately answer those questions. But be assured of this frightening fact. God knows your heart.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman