The cream rises to the top.
You have no doubt heard this saying. There is truth in it. The implication behind it is, of course, that the best part will rise to the very top of what it was submerged in.
The scum also rises.
Yeah. Not pretty. But true.
What rises to the top of a solution (good or bad) is usually skimmed off. The good is removed from the rest of the solution to play a particular (and often more appealing) role. Cream skimmed from non-homogenized milk can be churned into butter for spreading on warm toast or sautéing delicious meats or vegetables. It can be whipped into delectable whipped cream to make desserts even tastier.
On the other hand, when silver, or gold are refined by a hot fire, the impurities rise to the surface and are skimmed off. That dross, or scum, is then thrown out as refuse. What is left is pure and valuable, and useful.
“Take away the dross from silver, And it will go to the silversmith for jewelry.”
While these things are both true in a literal physical sense, let’s look at the figurative manifestations of this in secular society, and even in the Church.
Although we tend to think that those most deserving among us—the brightest, the best, the purest—will rise to the pinnacles of success, we must not forget that the worst stuff in the mix will also rise to the top. We would do well to hone our skills to recognize both.
When you see either of these “truisms” there is often an always included. However, it isn’t always so. Think homogenized milk. Once homogenized, the cream will no longer separate from the rest of the milk and so it doesn’t rise to the top. It essentially becomes a permanent part of the mixture.
So with scum. It doesn’t always rise to the top. It might remain in solution with the rest of whatever it is in.
Sometimes the good and the bad just remain a part of the rest of the group. We may see glimpses of them from time to time, but for the most part they just blend in. During times of pressure and stress, both the good and the bad will begin to separate. Trouble is, if they both rise together, it may be difficult to distinguish one from the other. We must be careful to really look at those who are rising up (through the elective process, upward mobility, entrepreneurial or academic success, popularity, beauty, eloquence, sports, celebrity, social influence, protests, revolution, etc.) to determine if they are cream or dross. Both should be skimmed from the surface. Let the good rise to places of honor and may the bad be pushed aside in order to protect the rest of society.
The god of this age, aka the devil or satan, seeks to bring the dross to the surface to appear as cream to fulfill his evil purposes through deceit. This has always been his chief tactic against the undiscerning. Pray for the gifts of wisdom and discerning of spirits to aid you in seeing the truth around you whether it is of Christ or of the devil.
“There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. …And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, …to another discerning of spirits…”
1 Corinthians 12:4, 6-8a, 10c NKJV
“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”
1 John 4:1 NKJV
Individually, we all have both cream and scum within us. In times of personal pressure, what rises to the top? Let us all pray that God would refine us as silver so that He can scrape off the dross that rises, and in the process, purify what remains. May He grant us times of peace so that the goodness of Christ within us rises as cream to the surface of our lives to glorify Him and bless others.
Lord, we ask for wisdom and discernment to navigate our world according to Your will, and not be taken in by the devil’s deceit. Refine us with the fire of Your Word so that others will see the purity of Christ in us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
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