It is easy to compare ourselves to others and come away feeling smug because we are not quite so obviously sinful as they are. We’re not that bad! We try to do the right thing!
But in our smugness, we grow complacent. Complacency draws us away from Christ. Our hope begins to rest in our self righteousness rather Christ’s righteousness and power to save.
“For in his own eyes, he flatters himself too much to detect or hate his sin.” (Psalms 36:2)
In our own eyes, we flatter ourselves too much to detect or hate our sin.
We forget that in God’s book, anger is as deadly as murder and just as death worthy a crime. We forget that we have been saved by grace alone, bought at a great and terrible price – the blood and suffering of the one who created us! It was our sin that nailed Him to the tree, our penalty that He paid!
Luke 18:9-14 records a parable that Jesus told “To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else… ‘Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men – robbers, evildoers, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me a sinner.’
“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Too often, our attitude is like that of the Pharisee. Even though we might never say or pray such words, our heart attitude is the same. We think and act as if we were somehow better than others.
Instead, our attitude should be like that of the tax collector or that of the apostle Paul.
Paul wrote in I Timothy 1:15-17 “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display His unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on Him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.“
And also in I Corinthians 4:7 “For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you did not?“
We have been saved by grace alone. Nothing we have ever done or could ever hope to do could result in our salvation. Justified by grace through faith, we are sanctified through the work of the Holy Spirit, not our own efforts. What do we have that we did not receive? Why then, do we act as though we have somehow made ourselves the way we are?
The sin here is the sin of pride! We take pride in our “righteousness?” While not always the most obvious sin, pride is just as deadly as any other. Pride was the cause of Satan’s downfall, and too often it is our downfall as well.
Instead of comparing ourselves to others, let us compare ourselves to Christ! Let us focus on His redeeming work in our lives, and like Paul and the prophet Jeremiah, say “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.” (I Corinthians 1:31)
~ A Servant of the King
To the praise of His glory!