This last week proved exceptionally busy, as it seemed I had to be in about eight different places at once every day. With no time to do grocery shopping, I put things off until the last second. On Saturday, I finally hit Kroger for replacement sundries.
Standing in the coffee and tea aisle, I heard a commotion, looked left, and witnessed a red-faced mother yelling to her child, “If you don’t shut up, I’m going to smack you in the mouth!”
On hearing this, I looked over at my son and thought, Thank God I’m a better parent than….
Then it hit me.
It doesn’t take much for us to compare, does it? The senses take in data and the judgmental wheels start grinding. Too often, they grind up others Jesus said are my neighbors.
I see an out-of-control parent fighting an out-of-control child and I think of that parent in terms of “I’m better than you.” I talk with a baby Christian who doesn’t have his doctrine down right and “I’m better than you” rattles around in my head, bouncing off every slightly off statement that newbie pronounces. I consider all the things I own, then look to some poverty-stricken soul in Africa, and I start singing the “I’m better than you” song.
Only that tune grates on the ears. Maybe not mine, but the Lord’s.
It’s easy to call it pride, but it’s more than pride. Even someone who considers herself a loser can still find someone to be better than. The poverty-stricken guy in Africa looks at the poverty-stricken child who lost a leg to a landmine and thinks, Well, at least I’m better than he is.
Isn’t this “Better than you” mantra the source of many of our problems in our churches? Get to the root of any church split and “Better than you” grows like a fungus. I wonder if the Godblogosphere promotes a lot of this poisonous “Better than you” smack that gets talked up on this blog and that. All it does is ruin people in their souls, though.
The Bible says this:
Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus…
When I considered that yelling mother in Kroger, did I have the mind of Christ when I trotted out the comparison? Not at all. Did I look to her interests in any way? Hardly. What I looked to was my own need to feel better about myself by judging another human being.
What is the mind of Christ in this regard? Humility—plain, unadulterated humility.
It pains me to say that I don’t know many truly humble people. Seems to me that the ones that overflow with this most godly of traits sport plenty of gray hair, as if being around long enough qualifies one to grasp humility. Perhaps it’s the fading of the flesh’s power that renders us more humble. All I know is that I could learn a few things from those senior saints.
What would a truly humble church look like? I would suppose that most persecuted churches know humility. Kind of hard to swagger with a boot heel on your neck. If that’s what it’s going to take to make for a humble Church in America, then perhaps we should be joining in prayer with our Chinese brothers who are praying that persecution comes to this country so that the Church here wakes up.
As for me, I would hope instead that our humility comes by another means, that the Spirit might change us from the inside. For all this talk of “Better than you” starts on the inside in the natural man, a straggler unwilling to budge save that Christ budges him for us.
This “Better Than You” talk kills us in the long run, makes us impervious to grace, blackening our souls. I suspect if we truly did esteem others better than ourselves, someone outside the Church might sit up and take notice.
I pray that’s sooner rather than later.
6 thoughts on “Better Than You”
“But though spiritual pride be so subtle and secret an iniquity, and commonly appears under a pretext of great humility; yet there are two things by which it may (perhaps universally and surely) be discovered and distinguished.
The first thing is this; he that is under the prevalence of this distemper, is apt to think highly of his attainments in religion, as comparing himself with others.”
“Secondly, Another thing that is an infallible sign of spiritual pride, is persons being apt to think highly of their humility.”
“The humble Christian is more apt to find fault with his own pride than with other men’s. He is apt to put the best construction on others’ words and behavior, and to think that none are so proud as himself. But the proud hypocrite is quick to discern the mote in his brother’s eye, in this respect; while he sees nothing of the beam in his own. He is very often much in crying out of others’ pride, finding fault with others’ apparel, and way of living; and is affected ten times as much with his neighbor’s ring or ribband, as with all the filthiness of his own heart.”
—Jonathan Edwards, Religious Affections
Yes, Edwards nailed it eloquently, didn’t he? Great words! Thanks.
I am SO GUILTY of this! Sometimes coming at it from the top, but most times from the bottom, the stupid “Woe is me, I don’t have it as good as . . .” And I spurn the gracious blessings of the Lord who’s given me more than 80% of the world has (at least). And I can get pretty prideful about churchy stuff too here in my alternative way of doing church. God forgive me. Thanks for the post, Dan.
It’s strange how the same disease can manifest itself from both ends. “Woe is me” and “Better than you” are chips off the same old block. Like kids with opposite personalities, they act different, but have the same parent.
We in America need to spend more time listening to people from other countries who visit our nation. Those folks see the problems that we miss. They’re more rooted in gratefulness than those of us in materialistic America can grasp.
Things have been tough for us economically, so we’ve dialed down much of our spending. Recently, I splurged and bought my wife a digital camera for her birthday. Even as I was shopping, I kept thinking how nice it would be if I could replace my old SLR with a “prosumer”-level Nikon or Canon digital SLR. Then I wouldn’t feel so stupid walking around with a 25-year old non-digital SLR around my neck.
I just called the HVAC company to come look at a problem of water collecting in the bottom of my AC unit. It’s all too easy to gripe about the problem, isn’t it? If only our kneejerk reaction in those cases was not complaining, but thankfulness that we even have air conditioning to make our already cushy lives even more comfortable.
Shhhhh! Humility will kill the blogosphere!