Book 3 Chapter 12 Section 1-8
For those of us in the UK the last few months have been dominated by one news story – the MP’s expenses scandal. A number of MPs have now stood down from office and some are potentially even facing charges for abusing the expenses system. While it seems that the rules allowed a certain degree of flexibility, when viewed in the cold light of day many of the legally-claimed expenses appear ridiculous. So, after much finger-pointing and public displays of contrition, there is to be a full review of the expenses process. The man leading this review, Sir Christopher Kelly, stated that “we must have complete transparency” in a recent interview, so that MPs can be held accountable for what they claim.
Transparency is a funny thing, its great when you are the detective investigating a crime, but not so great when the alleged criminal turns the tables and claims an illegitimate arrest. This happened last weekwhen the BBC had to respond to a Freedom of Information request asking for its expenses, as a publicly funded body. No doubt enjoying the irony (and the view from the moral high ground), Conservative MPs say the BBC should publish details of all salaries on the grounds of “transparency”.
Calvin is all for complete transparency. In fact he believes that if we are truly transparent with our own hearts we will be forced to see the futility of trying to be justified by works. In this chapter Calvin challenges us to “look to ourselves without flattery or blind self-love.” He believes that if we can see the heavenly tribunal that is awaiting all of us we will not be tempted to measure ourselves by human standards of perfection. “For if the stars which shine most brightly by night lose their brightness on the appearance of the sun, what think we will be the case with the highest purity of man when contrasted with the purity of God?”
A true understanding of our condition forces us to give up any hope of our own righteousness before our Creator. Outward appearances will count for nothing, the only thing that will count will be “the true intent of the will”. This is a greater level of righteousness than outward observance of the law, it has to do with the inner man – our thoughts, desires and intentions. External comparisons will count for nothing as each of us stands alone, our every thought exposed to the penetrating eye of our judge. Which of us then will have the nerve to claim we are not deserving of the just punishment of a holy God?
What is Calvin’s solution to this predicament? Therefore “if we would make way for the call of Christ, we must put far from us all arrogance and confidence.” For “when we have entirely discarded all self-confidence and trust solely in the certainty of his goodness, we are fit to apprehend and obtain the grace of God.”
Everybody loves a scandal, its sells papers and writes headlines. But in the hysteria that followed the recent expenses revelations we would do well to remember that one day all our secrets will be revealed and all our thoughts laid bare. It’s good to want transparency, but we need to be prepared for what it will reveal. Every action, thought and intention of every day of our lives will be completely transparent for all to see. Not just where we may have bent the rules a bit, but where we outright broke them, thought about breaking them, and lived in rebellion to God’s kindness.
But before we despair of hope we must remember that there is a solution. For our greatest danger is not that we are stand before our Maker exposed, shamed and guilty – our greatest danger is that we enter the dock before we recognise there is a remedy. For at that point it will be too late. There is a Saviour for sinners, may we run to Him for forgiveness while we still can.
“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst.” 1 Timothy 1.15