Scripture Focus: Psalm 26.4-5
4 I do not sit with the deceitful,
     nor do I associate with hypocrites.
 5 I abhor the assembly of evildoers
     and refuse to sit with the wicked.

Reflection: Sitting with Sinners
By Erin Newton

When the Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” (Mark 2.16)

The radical action by Jesus was his casual interaction and friendly relationship with those deemed “bad.” He sat among the deceitful and the hypocrites.

Psalm 26 portrays the actions of an innocent person through a series of proclamations:

  I have led a blameless life.
            I have trusted in the Lord.
            I have lived in reliance on your faithfulness.
            I wash my hands in innocence.

The positive, righteous actions are countered by the ways the psalmist did not act. In the context of this psalm, these negative statements support the claim of righteousness. They reflect how the psalmist heeded the warning in Psalm 1—a crescendo against walking with the wicked, standing with sinners, and finally sitting with mockers.

Have you ever been somewhere and thought about how you might make a quick getaway? Someone calls your name in a coffee shop, and you begrudgingly turn to see who it is. Trapped! You remind yourself, “Don’t sit down. Just stand, and it’ll be easier to slip away.” Sitting with someone makes getting away harder.

The idea of sitting with someone in the ancient world was an expression of close association. It describes familiarity, comfortability, and acceptance of one’s company. The psalmist was trying to delineate a difference from those who did not love God. It is a plea against being viewed as “guilty by association.”

Jesus sat and ate with sinners. He touched lepers and bleeding women. He was comfortable associating with hypocrites. He was accused of being a glutton and a drunkard because of his friendship with the tax collectors and sinners (Matthew 11.19). Despite the judgmental attitudes of those who did not approve of his behavior, Jesus knew his presence among them was needed. Jesus was not afraid to be misunderstood by a bystander who spent more time judging him than listening to what he had to say.

With the starkly different approaches—avoidance or association—the psalmist and Jesus share a common trait. Both trust in God, lead blameless lives (one much less perfect than the other), rely on God’s faithfulness, and find joy in the presence of God.

The Christian life means we follow the narrow path of obedience, but we must also follow the way of love. It is possible to do both. 

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
You are my hiding place…you surround me with shouts of deliverance. — Psalm 32.8

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
1 Kings 8 (Listen 10:23)
Psalms 26-27 (Listen 2:39)

Read more about The Undeserved Banquet of the Gospel
We, the undeserving, motley, scandalous louts that we are, find ourselves with our feet under Christ’s table. Christ invites all to the banquet.

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