I realize, as I have gotten into the reading of psalms as a devotional practice, that my reflection does not necessarily match the intent of the Psalmist. While I read the entire Psalm and try to understand it, the verse or phrase that I select out may have caught my eye because of something going on in my life, something in the news, or a concern that someone else may have brought me, and may not be related to the subject of the Psalm as a whole. In fact, once I pull the verse out of context, my thoughts on it may not even fairly represent what that very verse meant to the Psalmist. While this would not be a legitimate method of Bible study, it is an age-old way to use Psalms, not dissimilar from the way a mantra might be used in meditation. Initially, the mantra has a certain meaning, but in repetition, the mind moves beyond the literal meaning and the mantra becomes a gateway for an expansion of thought. This is the case in the following reflection. In context, the sense is that “God vindicates the righteous,” a sentiment that might prompt feelings of self-righteousness. My translation, “God judges the righteous,” rather invites us to be self-critical.
“God judges the righteous …” (7:12)
No matter how much good we might have done, beware the self-righteous feeling that we have done our job with unsurpassed excellence and we may now pat ourselves on the back and stop doing the work.
No matter how righteous we might be, we are still judged by God. Are we good because goodness is Godly, or are we good because we are seeking reward?
If we didn’t get emotional satisfaction from doing good works, would we still do them? If we were not appreciated, would we still act on our good impulses?
My High School science teacher had a poster on his walls, which said something like, “The mark of a truly good person is what he does when he knows no one is watching.”
Is God watching everything we do, 24/7 (or 24/6, if God rests on Shabbat)? Is God the equivalent of a super-efficient NSA, sucking up information to be used against us in a Divine court of law, should we someday stumble?
It is theologically problematic to endow God with the quality of human watchfulness, but it is part of the my understanding of what it means to be boundless and infinite that all moments, all space, all knowledge, are part of the Divine.
Every action that I take affects the infinite fabric of reality. Once done, an action cannot be undone. If it causes damage, the damage might be reparable, but it still leaves a mark.
No one should be so self-centered as to believe that his goodness is unblemished, but no one should be so arrogant as to believe that she has no goodness at all.
Rather, live life as if every action is an opportunity to reinforce our goodness and make up for the times that we could have done better.