"My dog's bigger than your dog! My dog's bigger than yours! My dog's bigger cause he eats Ken-L-Ration! My dog's bigger than yours!" Remember that commercial jingle?
Or how about this one~"I can do anything better than you can! I can do anything better than you!"
Remember those lyrics?
A few weeks back our interim pastor, Dr. Richard Shaw, preached about the idol of superiority. Many times superiority is seen in areas all around us. Did you ever say "My dad can beat up your dad!" or something along those lines? This idea of being better comes in very early in our lives. Have you ever thought that you may have this idol within your spiritual life?
The story comes from Luke 18: 9-14 and Luke 19:1-10. The first setting is the temple as 2 men come to pray. A Pharisee who prayed multiple times, loved his country and loved his faith was in the temple praying to God. The second man was a tax collector who had also come to the temple to pray. The Pharisee prayed to God (but was probably only talking to the ceiling!) but his attitude was not one of reverence or holiness. His prayer was "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." (Luke 18:11b - 12) He thought that all of those actions made him holy. His holiness came from his belief that he had not broken the law and that he did all the things required by the law - tithe, fast, pray, no work on the Sabbath, etc.
The tax collector came into the temple and would not even raise his eyes. He stayed off to one side all alone. His prayer - "God, have mercy on me, a sinner." (Luke 18:13b). He knew there was nothing in his life that God should look at him with favor.
Jesus tells us in verse 14 - "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."
The Pharisee's "holiness" came for his actions, which are not wrong, but his attitude was wrong. His attitude was that of superiority - not holiness. Holiness should be an attitude of humbleness and shame as we look at God's holiness and our complete lack of holiness on our own. The tax collector KNEW he had broken many of the laws - in fact possibly all at some point in time. He could not stand in the temple before the holy God as anything more than a sinful man! His cries for mercy went far above the ceiling of the temple, straight to the heart of the Heavenly Father.
The other story is one many know from childhood. "Zacchaeus was a wee little man and a wee little man was he. He climbed up in the sycamore tree, for the Lord he wanted to see..." You may be able to finish the song. Luke 19:1-10
Zacchaeus was also a tax collector. Tax collectors were not the top of the pyramid in Jewish culture. They were Jewish men, but collected taxes for Rome. In doing so, they often collected more than was required and kept a portion for themselves, getting wealthy off their own countrymen. They were seen as traitors and thieves among their people.
Jesus was coming through the village where Zacchaeus lived and Zacchaeus wanted to see him. He was not a tall man and people were certainly not going to let him through. As Jesus was going through, Zacchaeus climbed up into a tree so he could see above the other people. He wanted to see Jesus. As Jesus walked by the tree, He stopped and looked up into the leaves of the tree and saw Zacchaeus sitting there. He told Zacchaeus to come down, that He would be going to Zacchaeus' house. Zacchaeus knew what he had done in his life, but he wanted to see Jesus and to spend time with Him! Jesus also knew what Zacchaeus had done. Had Zacchaeus had a different response, this story could have had a much sadder ending! But Zacchaeus told Jesus that he would give half of everything he owned to the poor and he would repay anyone he had cheated 4 times more! What a response! What a change!
When Jesus comes into a life and is gladly welcomed and accepted - that life is changed! The person cannot leave the encounter with Jesus and not be changed! The changed life does not give any person the right to feel they are better than someone else who has not had an encounter with Jesus.
Every person on this earth makes decisions and choices that are wrong. No way out of it! But when you or I sees ourselves as better than someone else because of our education, or what we've done, or where we are - we bow to the idol of superiority! An attitude of holiness should draw people in and give them a desire to find out more about the source. It should always draw a person to God - not push them away. Many may not want to have anything to do with it as holiness certainly brings to light areas of wrong/bad choices and behaviors. But there should never be any thought that I am any better than anyone else. I am a sinner, saved by grace through the blood of Jesus Christ! Nothing more!
Father - help me to leave that idol of superiority behind!