I have 853 friends on Facebook and 746 followers on Twitter. I even have 305 GeekBuddies on BoardGameGeek. And, if I'm really honest about what's going on inside my head, my life is better than 90% of them.
That's right - I said out loud (ok, I typed it) what we all pretend doesn't go through our heads every time we pull up a social networking website. It's that sense of smug superiority that bubbles in our hearts as we view someone else's life & life choices:
- "My kids are smarter/prettier/better behaved than their kids."
- "My job is cooler/better paying than their job."
- "I'm still married & they're divorced."
- "I believe in Jesus and they don't."
This is still pride and it's still deadly. It's just harder to see because it takes the form of the subtle putdown rather than the obvious puffing up. The unstated rationalization is "I'm not being proud; I'm just glad my life isn't like theirs."
We may couch it in spiritual clichés - the classic is "There but for the grace of God go I." Honestly, that's mostly Christian-ese code for "Thank God I'm not like them."
Of course, there's a Bible story (Luke 18:9-14) that sounds rather like this...
Jesus told a story to some people who thought they were better than others and who looked down on everyone else:
Two men went into the temple to pray. One was a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood over by himself and prayed, "God, I thank you that I am not greedy, dishonest, and unfaithful in marriage like other people. And I am really glad that I am not like that tax collector over there. I go without eating for two days a week, and I give you one tenth of all I earn." The tax collector stood off at a distance and did not think he was good enough even to look up toward heaven. He was so sorry for what he had done that he pounded his chest and prayed, "God, have pity on me! I am such a sinner."
Then Jesus said, "When the two men went home, it was the tax collector and not the Pharisee who was pleasing to God. If you put yourself above others, you will be put down. But if you humble yourself, you will be honored."
It doesn't matter if it's in front of a temple altar or a laptop – the Message translation says it well: "If you walk around with your nose in the air, you're going to end up flat on your face, but if you're content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself."
Another Reason To Stay Humble
Heard on the radio a few years back - a chunk of Elvis' hair sold at auction for $115,000. Really.
I'm willing to bet that exactly none of my readers would pay $1.15 for a chunk of my hair.
Quote of the Week
The Christians are right: it is Pride which has been the chief cause of misery in every nation and every family since the world began. Other vices may sometimes bring people together: you may find good fellowship and jokes and friendliness among drunken people or unchaste people. But Pride always means enmity - it is enmity. And not only enmity between man and man, but enmity to God.
In God you come up against something which is in every respect immeasurably superior to yourself. Unless you know God as that - and, therefore, know yourself as nothing in comparison - you do not know God at all. As long as you are proud you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on things and people: and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you.
That raises a terrible question. How is it that people who are quite obviously eaten up with Pride can say they believe in God and appear to themselves very religious? I am afraid it means they are worshiping an imaginary God. They theoretically admit themselves to be nothing in the presence of this phantom God, but are really all the time imagining how He approves of them and thinks them far better than ordinary people: that is, they pay a pennyworth of imaginary humility to Him and get out of it a pound ’s worth of Pride towards their fellow-men. I suppose it was of those people Christ was thinking when He said that some would preach about Him and cast out devils in His name, only to be told at the end of the world that He had never known them. And any of us may at any moment be in this death-trap.
...Whenever we find that our religious life is making us feel that we are good - above all, that we are better than someone else - I think we may be sure that we are being acted on, not by God, but by the devil.
from Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
A version of this post appeared in the NewLife Community Church newsletter back in 2009... it's been updated because I like you.