Still ruminating on the topic of our tendency to suffer from what Voddie Baucham calls “The Elder Brother Syndrome”. I invite you to listen to his message here. If it doesn’t drive the Pharisee right out of you -or at least offer you the opportunity for self-examination- you might be too far gone. Stop reading right now.
One of the things we have tried to instill in our kids is not to misinterpret the perception of their goodness as evidence that they are better than anyone else. And the second thing is something I have discussed here before; our tendency as westerners, and Americans in particular, to mistake the circumstances that come from being born in the West with blessings.
This tendency manifests itself in many ways, but when you strip it down it always comes down to our desire to take credit for things that often have little to do with any great skill, virtue, or effort on our part. I like the hard hitting way Bro. Baucham puts in his message so do listen, but he basically admonishes Christians to remember that to the extent that we haven’t experienced tragedy or wallowed in gross sin, it’s God’s grace often coupled with the kindness of others that has kept these things far from us. It is NOT evidence that our souls are any less dark than anyone else’s.
Some things we need to be careful about flaunting as if they mean we’re good people:
- Becoming a more submissive, easy going wife after the kids are all grown up: And when you’re free of the attendant expenses and time limitations that come with being a mother of many little ones. For those of us who managed to be submissive and easy going in the midst of harried motherhood, we should praise God rather than ourselves.
- Being a Christian from an early age. See the parable of the workers in the vineyard. And re-listen to the sermon I linked to above.
- Building a materially prosperous life during times when economic fortunes were less difficult. In other words, making the mistake of believing that because you (like Amy Dacyzyn) thrived on 30K and bought a home in the late 1980s and early 1990s using frugal tips, then a family of similar size should be able to do the same thing on 30K in 2017. A family would need to make nearly 60K to do what yours did, while still using frugal tips. Most neighborhoods are markedly less safer than they were 30 years ago. Show some understanding for couples making hard choices.
- Getting through high school and college without engaging in debauchery or sexual sin. Bro. Baucham hits this one hard and square on but not everyone will listen to his message so I’m adding it here. Not everyone is born into families where they are taught right from wrong from birth, are well protected (like I was), or had access to God’s word. If you were so blessed, it is something to be humbly grateful for, not to feel smugly superior about. Under those circumstances it’s also very easy to forget that Christianity-true Christianity- is a faith of conversion, not birth. So examine yourself to be sure…
- A happy marriage: That’s a pretty subjective term to be sure, but when you hear about your good fortune often enough, you learn not to take it for granted. If you’re smart, you know full well not to take credit for that, and just count your blessings.
- For any and all good fortune that comes your way: Attribute to Providence rather than your stellar morality and decision making skills. Even if you did everything right, something still could have gone terribly wrong. Every good decision that yielded a positive result for you may have been helped along by the fact that your husband has usually been gainfully employed and in good health, you have maintained reasonably good health, your children have had good health, you haven’t had any debilitating injuries from accidents, etc. I could go on and on. The point is what I noted at the top of the post:
Don’t be so quick to take credit for the good things in your life. I understand the temptation because every one of the fortuitous circumstances I listed above could be applied to me and mine.
Make a habit of always looking for someone else to whom you can give the honor you are tempted to take for yourself. I know this flies in the face of everything we have been taught about self-esteem, self-empowerment, and being true to yourself. What good does it do the world to deny how awesome you are?
I used to find it strange how pervasive this is, even in the Church, until I remembered that the fall was all about someone wanting to be like God, and have special knowledge into things that were none of her concern. Now I don’t find it strange at all that we have to fight against the desire to steal glory for ourselves.
But fight we must.