The Psalmist David says this, " . . . Preserve my life, for I am godly; . . . " Now this is certainly not ALL that he says. But he does say it, something which I believe few Christians would be willing to voice today. Right? I asked our Wednesday morning class this, and they all seemed to agree, that we are not prone to say such things. Yet, staring us in the face is this line in Psalm 86. It's not a misprint, and though we must always read a verse in its context, just quoting this line does not do the context any real harm.
So, what do we think about this? Was David an egomaniac? Hardly. It might be a bit of stretch to draw this conclusion without any further demonstration, but I think it is stated in such an unobtrusive manner that one cannot but imagine this to have issued from a normal spiritual frame of reference. If it was normal to David, why is it not normal to us? What are we afraid of? We think it sounds proud to make such a claim? Why? Again, I am probing here. Why would confessing that we are godly seem proud? I believe it is because we understand neither what constitutes a godly person, nor what constitutes pride.
Oxymoron?An oxymoron is a "figure of speech whereby two apparently contradictory terms appear in conjunction," like "falsely true," or the famous one from the Peanuts comic strip where Charlie Brown would emote, "Good grief!" So, isn't it an oxymoron to declare one to be a proud godly person? Really?! At the very heart of the matter isn't humility a requirement before someone could be considered godly? Again, I ask, what is the problem then? Are we to assume that only David could say this in the history of mankind?
Consider something else, we must be honest with our self-assessment. It is assumed in Scripture. For example, Paul urges the Galatian Christians, "Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted" (6:1). Simply put, how could he make this appeal unless there were those in the church there who could look honestly at themselves in the spiritual mirror and find a spiritual person?
Self-Righteousness or False Humility?
You know what I think? I think we have either fallen for the trap of 1) self-righteousness, or 2) false humility. First, self-righteousness. Who among has not known such? Maybe we'd admit we've been there ourselves? So, in an effort to avoid such false and nauseating Christianity, we never allow such holy declarations to come from our mouths EVEN IF we have been laboring hard in Christ to grow up in every way . . . into Christ" (Eph. 4:15). So, the fault is an overreaction, and that is a false way to think, and most often leads us into an equal and opposite error. Second, false humility. My Dad worked on the railroad with an older uneducated black man, but one who had a deep knowledge of love of Christ. He once told Dad in his unique way, "Him what can brag without lying, let him brag." OK, so no one is going to make a theology of such a saying. But I think he makes a good point. How, you may ask incredulously? Well, is our goal as true believers to grow holier, to grow up in Christ, to go from faith to faith (all biblical phrases)? Then when will we be able to say that we are in fact holy? Never? Really?? So, it's not really possible? God is just leading us along unwilling to tell us the truth that we'll never arrive? Who said anything about arriving? Heaven's holiness is one thing; earth's another. And we can be holy on earth. God help us to use biblical patterns and not fall prey to culture's inhibiting and false assessments. And that's what I think we've done. "Be holy as I am holy" is Scripture's word to us. And we will unwillingly deny it outright by our claim that we cannot be holy!! Really?!
One closing comment on David in Psalm 86. I said at the beginning that the phrase "preserve my life, for it is godly" could stand alone in that no other qualifier would necessarily be necessary (like that?). But simply for argument's sake, look at the words just before and after it, "I am poor and needy." And right afterward, "save your servant who trusts in you--you are my God." These are hardly words of a proud man are they? Oh, no, they bespeak humility in the right place.
Let us walk in faith and say so if we are not lying!!