Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
Veteran Christians talk about their time in service: 'I've been saved for 32 years,' or 'I got saved when I was eight, and I've been working for the Lord ever since.'
They sound like professors giving their credentials to teach. Or Christians giving their credentials to preach. But is the length of our salvation important to God? Instead, could it be the depth of our heart?
'Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart' (1 Samuel 16:7). As for time in service, consider The Parable of The Workers in the Vineyard.**
'But many who are first will be last, and the last first' (Matthew 19:30).
Since I spent five decades outside the body of Christ, I feel credentialed to speak on behalf of the unchurched, the outsiders, the prodigals and the lost sheep of the world. When Christians brag about their credentials, our hope takes a hit. Can we ever measure up?
God says inspiring envy within the brotherhood is bad. But showing pride to non-believers is worse.
In his second letter to the Corinthian church, Paul cuts through the religious pride of 'Super-apostles' (12:11) with a sword of godly sarcasm. 'Since many are boasting in the way the world does, I too will boast' (11:18). But Paul's boasting was different: 'If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness' (11:30).
Here's the thing: When committed Christians confess their weaknesses and trials (instead of their years in service), outsiders are curious. Because everyone can relate to suffering. More to the point, some want to know what to do about it. It's a great opening to Christ. It's a godly envy. And that envy is good.
But remember, the only thing that will inspire godly envy is our own spiritual maturity. The signal flag for a mature believer flies low—right on the ground where the fallen can see it. Its name is humility.
For bearers of that standard, true elevation awaits. Because 'Those who humble themselves will be exalted' (Matthew 23:12).
To Be Continued...
* This devotion was inspired by Tyler Hutchinson, a young man of God with a bright future. Tyler has joined the AMTC staff. During a recent audition, we gathered for morning devotion time. We discussed the effects on new believers and non-believers when 'veteran' Christians talk about how long they've been saved--that it seems like bragging and discourages (rather than encourages) others. Tyler said when anyone asks him, 'How long have you been saved?', he responds with a smile: 'I am saved today.' What a great answer! I praise God for Tyler's wisdom. We have much to learn from our youth!
* Most of this devotion is reprinted from an earlier AMTC devotion, published October 28th, 2012: http://www.amtcdevotions.com/envy-part-2-conclusion
** The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard: http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+20%3A1-16&version=NKJV
P.S. To read the other devotions in this series, please see the Christian Credentials series.