Peter Kreeft: Infested with impurities

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All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. Isaiah 64:6

“Jeremiah says that “from the least to the greatest of them, every one is greedy for unjust gain; and from prophet to priest every one deals falsely” (Jeremiah 6:13). Worst of all, this is covered up: “They have healed the wound of the people lightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace” (Jeremiah 6:14).

Jeremiah’s fellow prophet Isaiah goes so far as to say that “we have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment” (Isaiah 64:6); “like filthy rags”… Not our worst but our best, our righteousness, is filthy rags, infested with impurities. Our generosity is mixed with self-interest, our passion for justice mixed with our lust for vengeance, our love for God mixed with our fear of God.”

Peter Kreeft in Making Sense Out of Suffering (Ann Arbor: Servant, 1986) 115.

Filthy rags. That’s what our generosity is like when it is mixed with self-interest. This description matches other biblical texts which reveal that generosity is the result of God’s work, not our work. All we can muster are righteous deeds infested with impurities.

So how can we make sure there is purity in our righteous deeds?

Pure generosity only flows from a surrendered heart not seeking gain or self-interest. Peace and blessing abound only when our lives our centered on the love of God.

To be sure we are part of the solution to what the world needs and not causing greater problems, or adding filty rags to the mix, let us ask God how our lives are infested with impurities.

Father, wash us and make us clean by your Spirit. Do this for your glory and for peace and blessing to the world we ask in the name of Jesus. Amen.