God, I thank you that I am not like other men - robbers, evildoers,
adulterers - or even like this tax collector."
Luke 18:11 (NIV)
There is an “unspoken” rule when working out at the gym: never come in and take over any equipment without asking the people already working out if they are using it.
That really is just common courtesy. Some people combine two or three machines at a time when exercising, making it necessary to adjust a workout routine around them.
That was why, when I walked into the gym, I stretched and then asked a guy who was working out which machines he was currently using. His reaction made me smile – at first.
He looked at my muscles compared to his (David vs Goliath) and laughed “Oh, you and I won’t be using the same machines, I guarantee you” and turned around, smiling. As he moved away, he – perhaps unintentionally – flexed his arms in what seemed to be a “see why we do not compare?” movement.
After I smiled and started my workout routine, I ran several responses through my mind: “I had shoulder surgery a year ago and I am just getting back into shape.” Or “They call me small but mighty” to “I just didn’t want my workout to interfere with yours” but I remained silent. Why?
Because I was embarrassed. I work out 6 to 7 days a week and, for me, they are tough workouts. I am committed to what I do. No, I don’t look like him (and would never want to) but those few words made me feel like the workout I did was unimportant and inferior compared to his.
Today’s Scripture involves a Pharisee who thought fairly highly of himself. He compared his prayer time to that of a tax collector who had also come into the temple to pray. His prayer was not “have mercy on me” as the tax collector had prayed but rather “thank you that I am not like other men.” What a putdown to the tax collector! “Yes, you may be at the temple to pray BUT you don’t compare to me!”
As I worked out, I found myself wondering if, as a Christian, I sometimes treat people with superiority and righteousness. Someone tells me “I was so glad I could find time to read my Bible twice this week!” Do I praise them or do I respond with “Well, I read mine every day, without fail.”
When someone shares “I finally got up the nerve to share Jesus with my neighbor!” what is my response? “How wonderful!!” or do I think “Nice, but I do that all the time.”
To be honest, I have no idea if that “Goliath” at the gym was comparing his muscles to mine and laughing at me or if he was simply answering my question. My perception might have been wrong.
But his reaction to my question really served as a wake up call to me about my attitude as a Christian toward others and how I respond when they share their successes. May I never utter one putdown but always remember to build up!
Father, I have no right to act in any way superior to those around me. Please forgive me for those times I put someone down, simply because I thought I was better than they. I pray the words from my heart will be filled with mercy and grace. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
R.A.P. it up . . .
* When someone shares with you, is your first response praise and encouragement? Or do you try to top what they have to say with your actions?
* When someone shares their success, listen carefully and focus on what they are saying. Then encourage and praise them.
* Push to the back of your mind those things you have succeeded in and do not share them at this time. Remember the focus is on them and not on you.Your success is not more important than theirs.
Luke 18:11 (NIV) “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.”
Matthew 7:1 (NIV) “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.”
Romans 2:1 (NIV) “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.”
Proverbs 16:23 (NIV) “A wise man’s heart guides his mouth, and his lips promote instruction.”
James 4:6 (NIV) “But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’”
(For more of Nancy Hughes writing, check out her blog, Encouragement from the War Room.)