“Judge Claude Frollo longed to purge the world of vice and sin…and he saw corruption everywhere — except within.”— Clopin, The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
A regular attendee at our church used to be a chain smoker, but after several failed attempts, he successfully kicked the habit with the Lord’s help. But now this person comments on people in the church who smell of smoke and wonder why they can’t wait until they get home to smoke. I don’t think this individual is holier than thou, but in this instance he is. He is assuming that since he quit smoking, other people should be able to do the same thing. This individual is not alone: we all have wandered into the holier than thou area where we consider ourselves more righteous or moral than other people. It is also called spiritual pride.
The Corinthians had a problem with spiritual arrogance. Paul warned them that “Knowledge makes arrogant, but love strengthens the church.”Now regarding your question about food that has been offered to idols. Yes, we know that “we all have knowledge” about this issue. But while knowledge makes us feel important, it is love that strengthens the church.” (1 Corinthians 8:1)
As we grow in the Christian life, we face the increasing danger of spiritual pride. We know the correct doctrines, the right methods, and the proper do’s and don’ts. But with that spiritual knowledge comes the need to remember the poverty of our own spiritual character. We may become like the Laodiceans of whom our Lord said, “You say, ‘I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!’ And you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.” (Revelation 3:17).
The goal is to become holy without becoming “holier than thou.” We do that by actually becoming holy. Of all the goals we have for our life, the most important is to pursue holiness because it is God’s goal for our life. As Oswald Chambers said, “God has only one intended destiny for mankind—holiness. His only goal is to produce saints. God is not some eternal blessing-machine for people to use, and He did not come to save us out of pity—He came to save us because he created us to be holy.” If we truly love God we will commit to making holiness the primary purpose of our life. If someone is growing in arrogance, pride, and self-righteousness, by definition they are not growing in holiness. It is impossible to become both holy and holier-than-thou. To grow in one is to atrophy in the other.
As believers, we are to be holy not because we want to be loved by God but because we are already loved in Christ. We love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). And the best way to show that we love God is by seeking to become holy because He is holy.
- What are some ways pride shows up in your life? When it comes to pride, how much is too much?
- There is a difference between confidence and pride. Under what circumstances do you tend toward pride? Have there been times where you have experienced humble confidence?