Who can say, “I have cleansed my heart; I am pure and free from sin”?
“People have a tendency to be scumbags” is one of the first realities I teach in the classes I offer for high school homeschoolers. It’s an ugly assertion, but a sad reality (Jer. 17:9). Of course, people also have the capacity to do wonderful things…think beautiful thoughts…utter words of kindness and encouragement. However, our natural inclination is to do evil…think ugly thoughts…and speak words of death. The late Dr. Fuchsia Pickett, in her old age, said, “I have lived all these years and I have never heard a baby say ‘yes’ first.”
A good friend gave me some great advice a few years back when he exhorted me to always be suspicious of myself. He wasn’t saying I was always up to no good…just suggesting that I should never forget my capacity for it. The bible minces no words when it comes to accurately diagnosing our true nature. The sin of Adam has been passed on to all subsequent generations (Rom. 5:12) and as a result, man is always exhibiting that trait (Ps. 14:1). Job nailed it when he asked, “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? Not one” (Job 14:4).
There are two important lessons here – others cannot be fully trusted to have pure intentions, and you must not foolishly presume your own motives are pure. A prerequisite for wisdom is to be sober-minded about man’s nature. Holy cynicism is necessary to deal with human problems – a concept that is part of the bedrock of the U.S. Constitution, interestingly. Therefore, you must evaluate others’ opinions and thoughts by the measuring rod of Scripture. As Paul wrote in Romans, “Let God be true, but every man a liar” (Rom 3:4)!
But you cannot trust your own opinions or thoughts either. You must test your own ideas against scripture, too! With holy doubts about your own motives and thoughts, you will more faithfully heed Solomon’s exhortation to a multitude of counselors for your safety (Pr. 11:14) and more humbly receive correction (Pr 27:5-6).