(Photo: Dan Delzell)
One huge indicator of spiritual health and maturity is when a Christian views his sin as being at least as great, if not greater, than the sins of others. The apostle Paul described his own attitude this way: "Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners - of whom I am the worst." (1 Timothy 1:15) Paul ministered to people out of that deep sense of being a bigger sinner than anyone he was trying to reach with the Gospel.
Spiritual pride leads me to think that others are bigger sinners than me. In fact, if that attitude is present in the heart and mind of a believer, it is impossible to grow spiritually. The minute I begin to entertain that arrogant attitude, I start to carry myself with an air of superiority toward others. That "air" is very different than the "breath" of the Holy Spirit inside believers. He will never lead me to think highly of myself....ever.
It is very natural to become proud of my "righteous efforts" for the Lord. It is also natural to compare my works and my life of discipleship to that of others. A mature disciple of Christ does not live according to the natural way of looking at others. A mature disciple is filled with the Holy Spirit....and therefore, he or she has tons of compassion for anyone caught in sin....and anyone who does not know Christ. Simply put, mature disciples don't view others as bigger sinners.
Most of the Pharisees mentioned in the New Testament were not known for their humility. In one instance, "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.'" (Luke 18:11) Notice that as he compared himself in his mind with others, he truly thought that his personal righteousness was superior. That is where he went way off the rails. He was trusting in his personal righteousness....rather than in the righteousness of Christ.
The Pharisee went on to say, "I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get." (Luke 18:12) Those were a couple things which he felt made him superior to others. How sad. He didn't get it. None of us have any righteousness of our own that is even one cut above anyone else. As long as we concentrate on our own "righteous acts," we will continue to live in pride and self-deception.
Meanwhile, "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.'" (Luke 18:13) Wow....what a difference in attitude. He did not consider himself worthy before God....and therefore, he didn't waste his time comparing himself to others. He was so aware of his own sinfulness that he didn't fall into the trap which had ensnared the Pharisee.
How aware are you of your own sinfulness....relative to your awareness of the sins of others? Your spiritual health will depend largely upon whose sin you are looking at....and where you are turning to find the cure for your sinful attitudes and behavior.
Take this quick test. Ask yourself this question. "Who are the biggest sinners?" Your instant response will tell you a lot about your spiritual health. Did your mind go immediately to others....or to yourself? If it went to others, here is the way to deal with spiritual pride. Admit it to yourself, and to God. Confess that sin to the Lord. Ask Him to forgive you because of the cross of Jesus. He will.
Then ask the Lord to give you a new heart, and a new mind....one that has genuine humility. Ask Him for it everyday....and then one of these days, ask yourself that question again. Before long, you will hopefully be able to truthfully say what Paul said: "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners - of whom I am the worst." (1 Timothy 1:15) That mindset and heartfelt perspective is an essential attribute of a healthy disciple....and it is a God-given attitude that must be in our hearts before we can be used by God to reach anyone for Christ.