"Come, ye weary, heavy laden,
Lost and ruined by the fall;
If you tarry till you’re better,
You will never come at all."
No matter how far you've climbed up the ladder of relative righteousness, you will always have further to go. And, now matter how far you've climbed, you realize that your motives (apart from Christ) are just as wicked as the person who is on the bottom rung.
It's true. No matter what you do, apart from Christ, is nothing less than falling short of God's glory. I, in my flesh, hate this truth because I personally want to be "better off" than other sinners. While God has showed that His ways work best in this world - causing it to operate more properly, it is also true that we, in our flesh, always seek to glorify ourselves. So, whether we do outward evil or whether we do "good" in our flesh, we do these things for other people's, thing's and/or our own glory. Hence, without Christ, our good is only relative (something we compare with others). We are tainted, taunted and tormented by sin, and we are all in need of a Savior just like anyone else.
Therefore, all of us should be wearied by our own pursuits. Living life in this world shows us that we were meant for so much more than pain, heartache, injustice, sin. We were meant to know Someone greater. We are lost. We have been utterly ruined by the fall - completely unable to glorify God in our own strength.
The last two lines of this stanza prove our sinfulness and also give us great hope. In our own efforts, we'd choose to wait until we're better off. Have you ever done this before? Have you ever said, "I feel like I can't read my Bible because I'm such a big sinner"? Have you ever not confessed your sin to God because you feel like you're just going to fail again? Maybe, instead of not doing things, you just try harder. You pray for forgiveness and you say, "I'll never do this again, God." And, instead of really trusting in Christ's righteousness to cover you, you let a vain promise give you assurance that God will forgive you. Sometimes we can read our Bibles and pray because we think that if we do these things, we're obviously "good" with God. But, we can even do all the right things while ignoring God Himself. What's the answer? God tells us to humble ourselves. This hymn brings out our tendency towards self-sufficiency. We don't want to be humbled before God. Instead, we keep waiting until we're better because we hope to clean ourselves up enough to ensure that God will not find sin dwelling within. Yet, that day will never come.
"If you tarry till you're better, you will never come at all."
There's hope in this phrase. Listen. Heed the words. You know this is true of yourself, and God knows this, too. Stop straining for God's love. Instead, embrace Christ, repent and trust. God doesn't expect you to wait until you're better. He wants you now - just the way you are. He wants to rescue you and pour out His love on you.