While envy may be the green-eyed monster, pride is a chameleon. It comes in a wide swath of colors, myriad sizes and innumerable shapes. It is also, one could argue, the true mother of all sins. Pride was Lucifer’s downfall, and now he uses it to drag us down with him.
Because the devil is crafty he is adept at distinguishing life in the Bible with life today. If we see the characters in the Bible as real at all, we seem them almost like aliens- they are sentient beings, but from a dry and distant (in time) land. We don’t have Asherah poles, and so miss the truth that we have flag poles. We don’t have carved statues, and so miss the god we pay homage to daily, our televisions.
We see Jesus castigating the Pharisees for standing on street corners to pray, and donning a boo-boo face while fasting, and think His warnings don’t apply to us, because we never pray in public and we never fast. This is where the RC Sproul Jr. Principle of Hermeneutics can be so helpful. It helps us to see ourselves in the sins of those who have…. (ok, if you insist. I’ll tell it to you one more time. But I would have thought by now everyone would already know this- The RC Sproul Jr. Principle of Hermeneutics: Whenever you see someone in the Bible acting really, really stupid do not say to yourself, “How could they be so stupid?” Instead ask yourself, “How am I stupid just like them?”)… the same weaknesses and foibles we struggle with.
Jesus, however, also warns us about seeking the best seats. And because this cultural expression of standing is not our own, because we don’t rate seats by importance, we think we have no need to fear this temptation. We forget that there’s nothing new under the sun. However a given culture may assign seats at a table, in every given culture there are signs and perks of standing. And we want them.
Back in the day I flew often enough that Delta Airlines treated me nicely. Free baggage check, early boarding, and fairly often, regular upgrades to the front of the plane. There is comfort in those perks, advantages. But there is also this unspoken, yet heard loudly and clearly, message, “You are important, significant. We won’t let the hoi polloi in the back of the plane disturb you.”
For others it may be titles at work, parking spaces, even the amount of time the pastor speaks to you shaking hands after the service. It might be how many followers you have on twitter, or how many likes your pictures on Instagram get. These are just modern manifestations of the same sin Jesus warned about. Not because Pharisees were susceptible to it, but because people are, and we’re people.
There is a simple, though not easy solution. When we are face down before the throne we aren’t standing, and thus can’t worry about our standing. When we keep our eyes on Jesus, we won’t have time to check to see who is in front of us and who behind. When He is the prize in our race, and when we know He has already won us, there remains no reason to compete. By all means, walk in the way and run to the battle. But never forget to rest in the Son.