A devotional writer from a bygone era believed it was crucial to carefully distinguish faultlessness from blamelessness, for while we cannot live faultlessly in this world, we may live blamelessly. Even the best deeds we do cannot be faultless when we ourselves are so very imperfect and when this world is so firmly arrayed against us. Yet we may still remain blameless before the Lord, even in light of our many imperfections.
A fictional illustration may serve. Let’s suppose a day came when my father, a landscaper, was hired by one of our neighbors to design and install a garden. He dutifully sat before his drafting table to create the design, he visited the nursery to purchase the plants, he stood in the garden and began to create the shape of the different beds. But then a serious illness overcame him and he was forced to remain indoors for days or weeks.
And though at the time I was merely a child, I was a son who loved his father, so took it upon myself to surprise him by completing the project on his behalf. I studied the plans as carefully as I could, I carved the shape of the different beds, I put down a layer of topsoil, I planted the ferns and hostas, the roses and euonymus, doing my absolute best to lay them exactly where the plans dictated. When my father recovered sufficiently to venture out-of-doors, I led him to that garden and happily presented the work I had done for him.
His reaction was both joy and concern. He felt great joy that I had attempted to serve and please him, that I had done my best with the little knowledge and minimal skill I possessed. But he felt concern that the job was done more poorly than he would have done it. He noticed that the flower beds were not quite the right shape, that the edges were ragged, that many of the plants and flowers were a little out of place. He knew that he still had work to do in order to make it right.
As I stood before my dad and proudly displayed the work I had done for him, I would have been blameless, even though the work was not faultless. The work was, in fact, the farthest thing from faultless, for it was clumsy, messy, amateurish, and in no way up to the standards my father could have maintained on his own. So, judged by his standard, it was a failure. But though the work was not faultless, I was still blameless, for I had done the absolute best I could with the little knowledge and little skill I possessed. My motives my good, my desires were good, and my work was as good as I could make it.
How would a father respond in such a situation? He would commend his son for his love, for his generosity, for his desire to honor his father. He would not castigate his son for his lack of knowledge or lack of skill, but rather honor his desire to please his father to the degree that he was able.
This aptly illustrates the work we do for God in this world. Such work is never faultless, for even our best deeds are still imperfect in their execution and still marred by some degree in their motive. Even our best work falls far short of perfect execution. But we may well be blameless before the Lord when we do our work to the best of our ability and when we do our utmost to cleanse our hearts and purify our motives. God accepts and treasures such work, not because it is perfect, but because it proceeds from faith and love.
Had I done that gardening on my father’s behalf, it is conceivable that he might have snapped some photographs of my work, then showed them to me much later in life. I no doubt would have cringed, for from a more mature perspective I would have seen just how amateurish my work was. I would have known that I could do so much better today. But his motive would not have been to mock me and not to express disappointment, but to remind me of how I had done the best I could with the little I had, and how I had done it all to honor the one I loved, and the one who loved me. And in that way, shouldn’t we believe that God treasures what we do, however feeble, however immature, however bungled and blundered it is? For though what we do is most certainly not faultless, it is any father’s joy to count his children as blameless.