How Our Works Testify on Our Behalf

Thursday of the 5th Week of Lent

Exc 32: 7-14; John 5: 31-47

Dc. Larry Brockman

“If I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is not true”.  Those are pretty strong words for the Son of God.  And if they apply to him then how much more so do they apply to others.

And yet, the world is full of people who testify on their own behalf in order to get ahead.  That seems to be the rule for politicians, especially in this election cycle. Why do you suppose that Jesus said what he did?  What is it about testifying in our own behalf that is so flawed?

Well, it’s like this.  Our talents, wealth, health, and accomplishments, are all gifts from God.  To the extent that we exist and can do anything, it is all dependent on God.  We cannot take a breath, utter a word, conceive of a thought, or perform any deed, good or bad without the cooperation and consent of God.  God is the giver of all life and wills that we possess life and our other gifts.

But here is the catch.  He also gives us free will.   And that leads to a choice about how we manifest the grace and animation that result from God willing our lives.  It’s all up to us how and whether we use the gifts we have been given wisely.

Notice that the works that Jesus did testified on His behalf.  That’s exactly what he said, isn’t it.  Jesus doesn’t have to testify on his behalf because his actions speak louder than words.  And if those actions are in harmony with God’s plan, as Jesus actions were, they lead to God’s ultimate goal- everlasting life with him in His Kingdom.

So also, the works that we do testify on our behalf.  They are out there for all to see.  Indeed, our works testify on our behalf better than anything we can say about them.  They testify to the truth about who we really are.  We can have and exhibit tremendous “faith”; but if doesn’t manifest itself by what our works testify then it comes to nothing.

Now Jesus moves on to talk about praise.  First, he criticizes those who accept human praise, but do not seek the praise of God.  These are identified as people who praise the testimony of those who testify on their own behalf!  You see, if people pat each other on the back about how great they are, without recognizing God as the real author of their accomplishments and without seeking His approval, then they are bound to be led astray by their own pride and the devil.

Look at what happened in our first reading.  Moses goes up on the mountain to consult the Lord on what is next after the Israelis are delivered from the Egyptians.  But Moses is the bridge between God and the people.  Without Moses, the people are left to their own devices.  And so while he is away, the Israelis drift away from recognizing who it was that was the driving force behind their deliverance.  They are like the mob of sports fans who meet the triumphant team after the championship.  It’s as if they feel that they, not the team, won the championship.  So, the Israelis constructed their own god to represent their collective power.  It was a product of their own pride, of their own making.  But it was a false power and a false god.  They had conveniently forgotten the truth.

Indeed, if you testify on your own behalf, you are bound to get it wrong.  So, during this special time of Lenten reflection, consider your own life.  How do your works testify on your behalf?  Because that is who you really are.

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