If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.1 John 1:8-9
Meet Rosey– she’s a golden doodle which means she’s half golden retriever and half poodle. Except she’s not golden at all. When she was a pup, she was black. But as she’s grown into an adult dog, she’s now silvery-grey; a silverdoodle! Unlike our other dogs, Rosey almost never gets mad. In fact, the few times she has growled or snapped, it was because the other dogs were attacking her for no other reason than Rosey was probably over persistent in her desire to play. If Rosey was a character from Winnie the Pooh, she’d be Tigger; always wanting to jump and play except for when she’s scared. But a close second to play for Rosey is her love of loving me and my girls (but mostly me.) She loves to show affection when I get home and repeatedly tunnel through my legs over and over strategically stopping each time so I can rub her backside. Then when I sit down, she flops her huge body onto my lap to snuggle. Her love language is definitely physical touch!
At first blush, people say that Rosey’s love for me is the purest love imaginable; she’s man’s best friend (at least this man.) And while I do believe she does genuinely loves me, I also realize that when she snuggles with me and I stop petting her, she paws at my hand to keep going or nuzzles her snout under my wrist to get my hand started again; she doesn’t want me to stop showing her affection! So you could say that her love for me has selfish motivations; she covets my opposable thumbs that can rub and reach better than she can.
Do you know this word “covet?” I love this biblical definition of coveting: it’s a desire for things (good or bad) that is stronger than it should be—a kind of desire that reflects a lack of satisfaction in God. There’s this strange formula in the Bible that, on the face of it, doesn’t add up. Here it is: Jesus says the two greatest commandments are to love God with our all and love people around us like ourselves. So that’s the standard to please God. But then Romans 3:23 tells us that not one of us is righteous. That means that we’re not holy; that we do bad things and even good things for bad reasons. And then today’s scripture compounds the problem with us proving that we aren’t properly loving God and others: “if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves.” So even when we try to genuinely and perfectly love someone else, there’s probably some big to infinitesimal part of us that does it out of self interest. Like Rosey, we can love God and others in a covetous way; for what we get out of it.
But here’s the good news (it’s in the second verse for today:) if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. So the fact that no one is righteous is not a problem for God when we simply confess our too-strong desire for things. Isn’t that amazing? God takes our self-interested, imperfect love and makes it perfect when we confess our imperfection. He purifies and amplifies our imperfect efforts to love him and others with just our humble acknowledgment that we mess up. And as we grow in maturity, we grow in awareness of our self-interest and, ultimately, in our thankfulness that he is enough!
Questions to ponder
If you’re familiar with the characters in Winnie the Pooh, which character does your personality most resemble and why?
When you say or do loving things for others, what do you usually get out it? In other words, how does it make you feel about yourself?
How can being aware of your self-interest in loving God and others (that you love imperfectly) help you to avoid desiring things more than you should? Talk or think about how thankfulness enters this equation.