Tagged: works

Romans 10:5-15

This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on August 13, 2017.

We’ve all had that feeling: when a costly misstep leads us to question our place in the home, at work, or in society.  For many of us, most days are filled with confidence—we feel we are doing a good job of parenting and being a good spouse; we are living up to the expectations of our employers, and we are serving our society in commendable ways.  But then comes the blunder that leads to sharp self-criticism; the missed goals and targets for the year that causes us to question whether we are up to the task; or the bad news about our children that raises questions about our parenting or our marriage.  We work hard and strive to be a success at everything we do, but any of the above can lead to even the most confident among us asking whether we are good enough.  We can become gripped and overwhelmed by the shame we work so hard to avoid.  When our lives are built on doing and achieving, failure to produce successful works can result in shame.

In Romans 10:5-15 Paul contrasts the type of righteousness that Israel has sought to achieve through the Law with the type that God has provided through faith.  The former type of righteousness Paul labels as being generated from human effort; according to Paul, Israel sought to establish her own righteousness (Romans 10:3).  This type of righteousness is pursued through human effort, and it is achieved through fulfilling the requirements of the Law.  In Paul’s own words, this is a righteousness “that comes from the Law” (Romans 10:5); it comes by a person doing and living by the Law.  But such righteousness can be far from many, especially for those who do not lay claim to the Law by birth.  In this pericope, one of Paul’s biggest issues with this type of righteousness is that it is not “near” to everyone.  And by this Paul reiterates a point he has made earlier in Romans that the Law is the possession of only one group—the Jews.  Thus, if righteousness is based on the Law, then it would leave out non-Jews, and this would, in turn, suggest that God is a God of Jews only: “Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith” (Romans 3:29-30).  In other words, God has to have a basis for establishing righteousness that would apply equally to both Jews and Gentiles.  This is what Paul calls in Romans 10 “the righteous that comes from faith” (Romans 10:6).

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