If you ever feel you are more spiritual than others; that is eloquent evidence that you are not.
One day, some Christians were having a thanksgiving service. So they started by praising and worshiping God. But as they were doing this, suddenly a battalion of soldiers came into the church. They came right in the middle of the praise and worship. Quietly, they surrounded the congregation. Then their commanding officer gave the charge: “Fire.”
They opened up fire and killed everybody in the church. They killed the pastor; they killed the choir-members; they killed the ushers; they killed all the members of the congregation. Then they left.
Paradoxically, the Pastor had been preaching earlier that month about the virtue of not coming late to church. Indeed, he had been saying habitual late-comers are likely to miss some special blessings of God. But that Sunday morning, those who came late were “blessed.” By the time they arrived, the soldiers had gone, so they were saved.
Now who were the better Christians; the ones who came early and were killed or the ones who came late and were saved?
No exemptions from life
My parable is similar to a real case brought to Jesus. Pilate killed some Galileans while they were “in church.” He killed them while they were offering sacrifices to God. Indeed, he mingled their blood with the blood of their sacrifices.
“Surely,” the people said to Jesus, “these people must have done something wrong for this kind of fate to befall them. Surely, God would not ordinarily allow people to be killed in church. If people can be killed in church, then the church is not safe.”
Jesus completely dismissed this kind of thinking. He asked them: “Do you suppose these people must have been terrible sinners because this kind of thing happened to them?” “No!” he insisted. Is it right to assume that the people killed must have been worse off than those who were not? “No!” says Jesus. You can make no such assumption whatsoever. (Luke 13:1-9).
Solomon says: “Anything can happen to any of us, and so we never know if life will be good or bad. But exactly the same thing will finally happen to all of us, whether we live right and respect God or sin and don’t respect God. Yes, the same thing will happen if we offer sacrifices to God or if we don’t, if we keep our promises or break them. It’s terribly unfair for the same thing to happen to each of us.” (Ecclesiastes 9:1-3).
Yes, we often think God is unfair. The Christian says: “I go to church regularly. I sing in the choir. I am a member of the prayer squad. I try to be nice to people. I give to the poor. I try as much as possible to be close to God. Nevertheless, my marriage is a disaster. I have not been promoted in my job for years. The engine of my car just knocked. The landlord just gave me an eviction notice. So what is the point of my faith?”
Is God unfair?
God will never create a situation that will encourage any believer to feel superior to others. If you ever feel you are more spiritual than others; that is eloquent evidence that you are not. If you ever feel that there is some spiritual exercise or formula which puts you at an advantage vis-à-vis others, it is eloquent testimony that the exercise is bankrupt.
Nothing about true godliness inspires pride. Ask Paul and he will tell you why he received a thorn in the flesh. He says: “Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith.” (Romans 3:27).
Nothing about godliness gives a believer a superiority complex. It is wickedness and ungodliness that do that. The kingdom of God is never really going to put us in a place of spiritual high-mindedness. It is never really going to situate us beyond the mundane in this world.
Jesus never offers us any hope of reprieve in this world. He never offers such hope in the parables. We are not offered such hope even in the life of Jesus himself. At a critical juncture, Jesus was abandoned not only by men, he was also abandoned by God. He gives his disciples a peculiar assurance: “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33).
God is not as interested in changing our situation, as he is in changing us. He is far more interested in changing how we relate to situations.
We often question God in trials. When bad things happen to us, we ask: “Why is this happening to me?” Sometimes, we even complain: “I don’t deserve this.”
But have you ever wondered why God allows blessings? Do you stay awake at night wondering why something good happened to you? Do you go to God and query him asking: “Why me? Father, why are you showering me with these blessings?” Probably not!
Somehow, we believe it is our entitlement as Christians to have a good and pleasant life. We accept God’s blessings, give thanks for them and enjoy them without giving them any further thought. We take it for granted that we are entitled to goodness but not to evil. But then Job asks a pertinent question of his wife: “Shall we receive good from the hand of God and shall we not receive evil?”
The classic Christian answer is “No!” We want the blessings but we don’t want the trials.
We are also very selective in the use of scriptures. We often use them to indoctrinate ourselves. A fellowship has not ended unless we recite “the grace” saying: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me, all the days of my life.” (Psalm 23:6).
But there are other verses in the bible as well. One example says: “Man who is born of woman is of few days and full of trouble.” (Job 14:1). Why don’t we sometimes end our services with such equally valid scriptures?
Somehow, we believe our faith should buy us exemptions from the trials and tribulations of this life. “If I know God and I am known of him, then I should not have to go through the paces like other men. I should not have to wait in the queue. I should not have any problem getting a job. I should not have any problem getting married. I should not have any problem with my marriage. I should not have any problem with my health.”
And so we believe that prayer will change every situation and circumstance. We fast, we pray, we petition God so that he can remove everything unpleasant from us. But this was Jesus’ answer to Paul when he had a similar presumption. He said to him: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Therefore, Paul says: “Most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore, I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).