At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore (Ps. 16: 11)
Most men will proclaim every one his own
goodness: But a faithful man who can find?
Many a man proclaims his own steadfast love,Proverbs 20:6
but a faithful man who can find? (ESV)
Scripture teaches us that one of the consequences of living in a sinful world is that the citizens of that world grow acclimated to it. The abnormal has become normal. The twisted calculus of selfishness bends everything into the wrong shape, and as a result a straight line can look positively legalistic.
Now a handful of people will embrace wickedness as such. They get a kick out of embracing the perverse precisely because it is perverse. They have come to the place where Milton’s devil came—“evil, be thou my good.”
But most sinful people, while admitting to faults here and there, have a positive view of their own relative virtue. This is why persecutors feel persecuted. This is why bullies believe themselves to have been greatly wronged. This is why the person in the classroom or office or family who is the greatest affliction to all the others is a person who consistently feels greatly put upon.
Man is a creature who was designed by God to live in a narratival way. And so it happens that most men appoint themselves the role of protagonist in their own story. We are all like ten-year-old boys playing football in an empty lot—we all want to be the quarterback. With the advent of Bluetooth technology, all of us can now walk down a street accompanied by a soaring soundtrack, occasionally glancing at the reflections in the shop windows to see how our movie is going. We are the lead actor and the director andthe producer.
This proverb lets us know that our perception is grossly distorted. Judging from how we all proclaim how good we are, the world should be filled with that goodness. But the Word tells us that such goodness is really pretty rare.
Right after Paul tells us not to be conformed to the world’s pattern of thinking (Rom. 12:1-2), he moves immediately to make this point. “For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith” (Rom. 12:3). This caution is obviously necessary because the world, the flesh, and the devil are the three great flatterers.