Friday’s Column: Supplemental Strength
When Harry Procter first marketed his Ivory soap in 1891, he used the simple slogan, “It floats!” Within a few years, however, he conceived of a new angle he could use to peddle Ivory to the masses. He decided to have an independent laboratory analyze his soap along with Castile soaps also available on the market in the 1890s. The laboratory’s conclusions were used by Procter to declare that Ivory was “99 44/100% Pure.” And that was Ivory’s new slogan. 1
The problem with that slogan is that there was no standard for comparison. Who defined what “pure” meant? Was it the independent laboratory that Procter paid to do the analysis? That does not pass the smell test. If paid to find a particular result, are you going to maintain your integrity and admit that there was no litmus test for soap purity? Thus, when you look at a package of Ivory soap today with its vaunted claim of being “99 44/100% Pure,” remember that is a subjective statement based on a clever marketing ploy. In other words, Ivory is pure only because it proclaims itself to be so.
If we are not careful, we can be guilty of doing something similar spiritually. That is, we might puff ourselves up, stating we are superior to those around us when we have no objective basis for our statement. Jesus cautioned us against such behavior. He told us not to do things to be seen of men in His Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6.1-6). He gave the parable of the Pharisee and the publican to caution us that we should not seek to justify ourselves by looking upon others with contempt (Luke 18.9-14). The sobering truth is that even when we have done everything commanded of us, we are to say, “We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done” (Luke 17.10b NASB). Indeed, Jesus calls us to second-mile service (Matthew 5.41).
Regarding the final judgment, Jesus warned that there would be some who would stand before Him and laud those works (of their devising) they had done. His response for them will be, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness” (Matthew 7.23 NASB). It is not as if the desires of God are unknown. He has declared them to us. And this constitutes the criteria for our judgment (John 12.48). Indeed, we must do the will of the Father (Matthew 7.21). As such, we have an objective standard by which to compare our lives. Beyond that, we are to show mercy. We must walk in the same love as Christ had for us (Ephesians 5.1-2). That was a generous love putting our interests ahead of His own. In like manner, we must avoid allowing the abuse of our Christian liberty to cause another to stumble (1 Corinthians 8.9). Only when doing such, can we begin to say that our righteousness is not like filthy rags (Isaiah 64.6).
Fortunately, we do not have to guess whether we are living lives pleasing to Him. Hence, even if we cannot quantify our purity with an exact number like 99 44/100%, we can still rest assured that the blood of Jesus Christ has us thoroughly cleansed (1 John 1.7). In the interim, we plead with David, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (Psalm 51.10).
1 “Ivory (Soap).” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 10 June 2020, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ivory_(soap).