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Seeking a More Virtuous Life

“Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” – James 4:8

As I was growing up, I was taught that we are all sinners and that choosing sinful behaviors are bad choices. No argument there. However, there was rarely a discussion about the long-term impacts of those sinful choices being bad for us. The focus was that I was wrong because I chose to do bad things, not that those things were bad for me. Mincing words? Perhaps, but it downplayed the positive results from virtuous choices. If we could truly believe in the goodness in our lives that would result from virtuous choices, why would we choose otherwise? Is it simply a desire for short term gratification? Our impulses or short-term outlook might be a component of choices for some of the deadly sins. Think wrath. However, that is too simplistic as there is a long-term component to all of these harmful behaviors. Are pride and greed always spontaneous behaviors? Sloth and envy seem to thrive on a long time frame. While we may choose these behaviors in moments of weakness, their staying power cannot simply be written off as results of impulsive or spontaneous choices.

One personally relatable explanation I’ve found for continuing to choose sinful behavior is James 4:8. The verse is not simply a command - “Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts,...” James provides an explanation as to why I continue to choose sin, “…you double-minded”, defined as sometimes choosing to live according to worldly wisdom and at other times trying to live according to God’s wisdom. We see plenty of messaging that provides us justification, rationalization and/or encouragement to pursue worldly wisdom. Worldly wisdom also seems to trend toward accepting and enabling harmful or destructive behaviors rather than helping and encouraging us to avoid, resist, or overcome. As a result, making virtuous choices can be difficult, but God’s wisdom is always there to help us if we choose to listen. James even starts verse 8 with that encouragement. “Come near God and he will come near to you.” That is good for us. Apparently, I need to get moving.

About Dave Rea Dave and Kathy started attending St Thomas at the Westmoreland campus. Dave is currently leading the Building and Grounds committee and prefers using tools over attending meetings.

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