One of my greatest desires is to be humble. When people hear the word humble, I want them to immediately think of me. I want to become the national spokesman for an organization that’s about humility. In fact, I’m hoping to get a large statue of myself erected in downtown Knoxville, Tenn., with a huge plaque naming me “a model of humility for the ages.” At the end of the day, I’m striving to become the most celebrated humble person in the world.
OK, OK. What you just read about “humility” is made-up. But unfortunately, a noticeable absence of true biblical humility among some Christians is real. As a result, a prevalence of spiritual snobbery is all too common.
What Does It Look Like?
What is it really? Spiritual arrogance is about losing appropriate perspective on who we are in Christ and how that affects our relationships with others. This type of arrogance is most commonly seen in three ways.
A “saved = better” mentality. Although we should naturally be excited about our faith, to believe that we are superior to nonbelievers is wrong.
An inaccurate view of sin. When Christians begin to view certain sins as acceptable and others as not, spiritual arrogance steps in. All too often we’re guilty of weighting sins as “big sins” or “little sins.”
The “I’m right” complex. An unfortunate reality, the “I’m right” complex is seen when Christians feel superior to other Christians with differing denominational affinity, theological leanings, or ministry practices.
Why Does This Matter?
So what’s it to you? Well, the impact of spiritual snootiness is significant for many reasons.
It’s in the Bible. There really is no way around this. Quite simply, God doesn’t approve of spiritual elitism. In 2 Corinthians 10:18 we read, “For it is not the one commending himself who is approved, but the one the Lord commends.” We also see that “pride comes before destruction, and an arrogant spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18). And finally, Isaiah tells us, “Woe to those who are wise in their own opinion and clever in their own sight” (Isaiah 5:21).
It limits growth. We learned to read because we identified the need to. Same goes for driving, new technology, and most other things. However, the moment we lose sight of our need to keep growing in Christ or to keep learning is the moment we become spiritual snobs.
It creates dissension. Spiritual arrogance creates division in both the universal church and our local churches. Clearly everyone won’t agree on every facet of theology or Christian living; however, our differences must be handled with love and not haughtiness or egotism.
It distorts ministry focus. The way that God loves, redeems, and sustains us daily is a gift we don’t deserve. Spiritual arrogance, unfortunately, causes us to think more about ourselves than other people. And we don’t share the good news with people who we don’t think about or, for that matter, really care about.
It steals our credibility. Imagine a stylist with a bad haircut or a personal trainer who’s out of shape. When people’s actions and what they promote don’t line up, it causes others to wonder about their credibility. Our ability to tell the world about Jesus, who embodied humility, is greatly lessened when we don’t model it ourselves.
Humility is not of our flesh. In the words of C.S. Lewis, “A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and, of course, as long as you’re looking down, you can’t see something that’s above you.” Let’s move beyond the things of our selfish pride and move toward loving God, loving each other, and loving those who desperately need Him.
Jason Hayes and his wife, Carrie, have three sons. Jason is the lead pastor of Shoreline Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. He is the author of Blemished and Follow Me (Lifeway) and the co-author of Lost and Found (B&H).