The Litmus Test

Day 110

Joshua 21:1‐22:20; Luke 20:1‐26; Psalm 89:1‐13; Proverbs 13:15‐16

The Litmus Test

Years ago, a dear friend and circuit court judge shared his insight when deciding difficult cases. He said, “When seeking to decide the greater of two goods or the lesser of two evils, I always look at motivation and ask, ‘Was this done in good faith or in bad faith?’”

In Joshua, we have a skirmish between the eastern and western tribes as they settle the Promised Land. The Reubenites, Gadites and half tribe of Manasseh separate to the eastern side of the Jordan, as instructed by Joshua. There they erect a high altar of remembrance.

When the western tribes learn of their scheme, they are enraged, and send a delegation of Phineas and ten tribal chiefs breathing threats of war. The eastern tribes acknowledged they had not built the altar as a sign of rebellion, but as a sign of witness to their children. There was no ill intent on the part of the eastern tribes. Once the western tribes understood  that there was no bad faith, they returned home in peace and settled their steaming brethren!

Similarly in Luke’s Gospel, we find the chief priests, scribes, and elders encountering Jesus. Their meeting is plagued with bad faith. They challenge Jesus’ authority and question the source of His authority. They seek to lay hands on Him and send spies, who “pretended to be sincere.” If you are looking for good faith on the part of His visitors, you will have to look to another story!

Rev. Scott T. Holcombe
St. David’s by the Sea Episcopal Church
Cocoa Beach, FL

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