My socks told the story. The bottoms were more brown than white, with black specks and crumbs peppered generously all over. They were rather disgusting. So I knew it was time to steam mop. Again. I pulled out the mop and worked my way through all the tiled sections of our house, which is everything but the bedrooms. I felt a great sense of accomplishment, but then realized I was still wearing my dirty socks. Well, that wouldn’t do. I went to my room and opened my dresser to pull out another pair, and I hesitated. I had a couple pairs of brand-new socks, never worn. But did I really want to wear those? Any dirt left would certainly show up on those. Frankly, I didn’t want to know if the floors weren’t completely clean after all that effort. So I reached instead for a pair I’ve had for a while. Clean, but slightly discolored on the bottom. It would be better not to know.
Ridiculous, isn’t it? But I’d be willing to bet most of us do this same thing in terms of our spiritual housekeeping. We go to church, confess our sins, are assured of God’s forgiveness, and breathe in a grateful sigh of relief that God has cleansed us. We are forgiven! How wonderful! But let’s not start looking too deeply into the corners of our lives where sin still lurks. It’s better not to know about those dirty corners, or at least to ignore them and pretend they don’t exist.
In Psalm 139:23-24, David pleads, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” Whoa, David. Hang on a second. You’re asking God to examine your heart for sin? I’m not sure I’m ready for that quite yet. It’s so much easier just to know I’m forgiven than to face up to my hidden sins.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus shows us a real-life application of what it means to examine one’s heart. Specifically, He takes on the fifth and sixth commandments. Most of us probably haven’t murdered anyone or committed adultery, right? Think again. Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire… You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Ohhhh. That changes things. Maybe we have broken those commandments after all.
So what’s the point of this? Why examine our hearts for sin? Is God trying to shame us? Quite the opposite, actually. He wants to save us. James 1:15 warns that “desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” God knows that sin—any sin—has the ability to lead us down the path of ultimate destruction, and He loves us too much to allow that to happen. Romans 6:16 reminds us that “you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness.” I’d much rather be controlled by God’s Word than by my pet sins. So I can pray confidently with David that God would search me and know my heart, because I know God’s ultimate plan—that He would lead me in the way everlasting. That’s the path I want to travel.
But I think I’ll put on clean socks first.