In light of some recent reviews here (particularly my last one and one forthcoming later this week), I have reflected on where I am a Pharisee. In what ways am I hypocritical? Where am I prone to judge others? Whom do I look down and say, “Thank you that I am not like that sinner.”?
I could turn the question on you. I think we are all universally prone towards legalism, judgmentalism and pride. A lot of it stems from insecurity. I remember several years ago meeting a couple in a group setting where we went around a circle and briefly introduced ourselves. A few days later I spoke with the husband, and felt the need to tell him what role I provided for the larger community. He very graciously said, “Thank you for your work.” We exchanged pleasantries and he left. And I was left wondering, why did I need to boast about what I did, my role, my accomplishments? Why did I have to prove myself?
Honestly, it was because I wanted to impress. I wanted to show him that I was something. I wanted to prove my worth. In in the case of this interaction, it was sort of laughable. If I had known who I was talking to, his spiritual maturity and accomplishments, I would have had good reason to be humble (I learned more about this person later). But I would be lying if I said this sort of interaction was an enigma. I want others to respect me, look to me for spiritual wisdom and guidance and see how smart, holy, gifted and charming I am (I especially want potential employers to see that).
The truth is I feel like a loser most of the time and I want to feel valuable. So I try to one up the next guy and prove that I am really something.
Most of you do it too. I know because I do it so much that I recognize when other people are doing it. The sad thing is we don’t have to.
If we were confident in the fact that God loves us–enough for Jesus to come live and suffer death for us–than we would be secure enough not to compare ourselves to our neighbor and try to one-up-them. If we really saw others the way God saw them, we would respond with snap judgements or dismissal but out of deep concern for their spiritual and physical well-being.
“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.” (I John 3:1, NIV). When worth needs to be earned, when love needs to be proved, when our likability is positively correlated with our material and spiritual accomplishments, than we become spiritually competitive pharisees who need demonstrate our essential lovableness. For those of us who begin to grasp our identity as God’s children–recipients of his Grace, made to be heirs with Christ–than we have nothing left to prove. We are able to give of ourselves freely, secure in the love of God
“I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.
Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.” (NIV)
Jesus loves me. Jesus loves you. Deeper and stronger and more fervently than we know, but as we know, we enter into the life he has for us and become all that he would have us be.