If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:8-9
The ancient Greek philosopher, Diogenes, was a man on the self-appointed mission of pointing out the flaws and failures of others. Although we have none of his writings, history tells how, fulfilling his mission, Diogenes challenged Plato and made fun of Alexander the Great. His most famous escapade was walking around in the daylight with a lit lantern as he tried to find an "honest man."
To the best of my knowledge, he never found such an honest individual.
If that is the case, Diogenes might be pleased to read a recent edition of Scientific American, which tells of a study made by psychologists from the Universities of Chicago and Virginia. According to them, "most of us think that we are better than we actually are -- not just physically, but in every way."
And how did the psychologists come to such a conclusion? Simple: they showed people varying pictures of themselves. One of those pictures had been left untouched, while the others were doctored to make them look better or worse. Amazingly, when people were asked to pick the "honest" photograph, they almost always picked one which made them look better.
Scientific American says this is a self-preservation phenomenon called "self-enhancement." Self-enhancement is what makes 93 percent of people say they are better-than-average drivers; it is what makes 94 percent of college professors say they do "above-average work"; it is what makes most people think they are less likely to catch the flu than are others.
Now I should tell you this self-enhancement is not a new thing. Although Jesus didn't use the word, He certainly understood the concept. When the disciples were arguing as to which of them was the greatest, Jesus reminded them that if anyone had a claim to greatness it was He. Still, Jesus pointed out He had come into this world as One who was dedicated to serving others, and they would be wise if they did the same (see Luke 22:24-27).
Amazing! Both Diogenes and Jesus agree the world doesn't have any truly and totally honest people. You should also know that with this agreement the similarity between the two ends.
Diogenes received his satisfaction, his positive strokes, from pointing out the faults and failings of others. Every generation in history has seen many other such self-appointed judges. These judges feel good by making others feel bad; they think themselves tall by showing others as being small.
Jesus was not like that.
Using the Law of God, He let people know they were lost and, on their own, were helpless to change things. He held up God's Law as a mirror, so we might not hide behind any false and faulty attempt at self-enhancement. He let us see the condemned creatures that we were.
But then Jesus did something quite unexpected. He did something no self-respecting Greek philosopher would ever do: Jesus offered Himself as the payment price to win our forgiveness and to change our lives now and forever.
All of this means that if Diogenes would begin his search today, he still might not find any honest men, but he would -- because of the blood of Jesus -- find many forgiven souls.
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, I give thanks that You not only have shown me my sins, Jesus has died to remove those sins. May I live my life in thanks. In Jesus' Name I pray it. Amen.
In Christ I remain His servant and yours,
Pastor Ken Klaus
Speaker emeritus of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries