I haven’t sung this one for a few years, but its words struck me again:
Nothing can I boast in,
My life is scarred with sin.
My works are filthy rags,
No merit can I bring.
What I’m wondering is, Are our good works just filthy rags? Or — as 1 Peter 2.5 seems to suggest — are they acceptable, and even pleasing, to God?
I suppose it’s probably a false disjunction. We’ve got to say both things about any good we might do as Christians. It’s the very thing God has rescued us to ‘walk in’ (Eph 2.10). And yet, having done it, we’ve not done anything meritorious — nothing to earn anything more than a ‘Well done, good and faithful servant’ from our Master.
So I guess my difficulty is with how best to put these two truths together. Should we speak of ‘the filthy rags prepared for us to walk in’?
I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t exactly fire me up to get out and do it. Worse, it sounds a bit like it’s saying what many pastors no doubt want to say, although they really shouldn’t — namely, that drying the morning tea cups (or otherwise slotting into any number of other roster roles) simply is doing the good we’ve been rescued for. On second thought, they’re ‘the wet rags prepared for us to walk in’!