But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and herbs of all kinds, and neglect justice and the love of God; it is these you ought to have practiced, without neglecting the others. (Luke 11:42)
When we pray the Collect for Grace on Wednesday mornings, we thank God for preserving us in safety and pray “that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity.” We also pray that “in all we do,” God will “direct us to the fulfilling of [his] purpose” (BCP 100).
The president of my company recently shared a simple barometer by which he evaluates actions — plus-one, zero, or minus-one. That is to say, is any given action positive for the company, neutral, or negative?
In the language of the New Testament, Paul urges us to “build one another up in love,” a plus-one activity for sure. When he writes in Romans about how “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God,” Paul calls out our minus-ones.
Jesus’ criticism today is even more subtle. What the Pharisees do is technically correct, but it has a minus-one effect. What the lawyers do serves only to build themselves up, and so it is also a minus-one.
Discerning God’s will for our lives, and aligning ourselves with that purpose, is not always simple — each of us is called to a particular life and a special ministry “to those among whom we live, and work, and worship” (BCP 543) — but taking time each day to check our direction is critical.
In our morning devotions, we set our sights on the plus-ones. In our evening reflection, we frankly acknowledge the minus-ones. Day by day we check in and “true up.”
In all we do, Lord, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose. Amen.