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    “See to it no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ” (Colossians 2:8).

    « Why the Occult is So Dangerous | Dream from 5-31-11; A Terrifying Temple »
    Tuesday
    Jun052012

    Elitism

    Society is full of elitist attitudes. How many times do you hear commercials advertise items that you should buy or indulge in “because you deserve it”? Celebrity cults abound, materialism is rampant, and religion isn’t exempt. 

     

    There are two reasons I see why people are tempted with elitism. One is the desire to test personal limits and societal boundaries. People want to see just how much they are capable of, how much they can really accomplish in the short amount of time called “life” they are given. The other (or maybe the underlying motive of the former) is simply pride.

     

    There is certainly nothing wrong with giving something your best effort, or persevering through trials. There is nothing wrong with doing your personal best with the talents God has given you. But we must be extremely careful not to let it go to our heads.

     

    We must be very careful to remain humble, honest, and righteous. We must be sure that we do not think ourselves better than others in any way (expect for a proven skill, which would be honest fact), especially if we are “famous” in any way.

     

    We could have a reputation in church, the workplace, among friends or family, or a local community for a particular talent, and that’s fine. It crosses the line into pride when we begin to see ourselves as “special” or above (better than, wiser than, etc.) other people.

     

    Sometimes others put us on a pedestal, despite protestations. Just try to come down gently as quickly as possible. The hard part is it feels pretty good up there. It’s nice to feel admired and appreciated. It appeals to our egos when others come seeking our advice. And soon we feel we are above others. We appear to have insider knowledge. We stop asking questions and only accept the questions of others. We become part of the “elite”.

     Jesus replied, “And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them. (Luke 11:46)

     

    We give generously, but don’t accept the generosity of others toward us. We host the dinner parties, and don’t allow others to reciprocate (after all, their food might not be as good, their home might be smaller, they may have unruly children to distract from conversation).

     

    Did you know Jesus ate with sinners and tax collectors? (Matt. 9:9-13 and Mark 2:13-17)  Did you know Jesus had no home to call His own?

    Jesus replied, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” (Matt. 8:20)

     

    When you have a good reputation (and that is not a bad thing), it can be easy to fall into the trap of trying to keep it good-looking (or improving it) at the expense of being honest or living righteously. Did you know Jesus “made himself of no reputation” (Philippians 2:7)? (But do not take things to the opposite extreme through ascetic practices)


    We can be so enamored of that pedestal, we grow afraid of displeasing the ones who put us there, which means they then control you like a puppet on a string.

     Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matt. 10:28).

     

    Money, power, status, prestige/fame, education/knowledge, and beauty, are all avenues to elitism. The world can tempt with offers fairly straight-forward and pragmatic paths to money, power, prestige, etc. such as selling drugs for money and power, lying and backstabbing to gain status and prestige, cheating to get “ahead” in school, and being proudly vain and sexually loose to secure the title of beauty (though this is not to say that all those in such positions have achieved their titles through unethical means).

     

    Most Christians recognize these as, well worldly, and apart from God’s commands in the Bible. Ergo, we do the same things (we’re all human and prone to the same sins after all) and seek the same pedestals in unique, “Christian” ways.  

     

    Claiming or seeking bizarre supernatural experiences (those apart from the specifically described ones in Scripture*) may result in status (such as “prophet so-and-so”**), prestige, and with those usually come power (being given authority of some sort), and with power usually comes great responsibility. I mean money; Perhaps in the form of a book contract or speaking engagements.

     

    Please don’t misunderstand. These things are not wrong in and of themselves. Money, power, etc. all make the world go ‘round, and God uses all things for His purposes. Money is not sinful, love of money is (1 Tim. 6:10). Power is not sinful, abusing or loving it is. All these things easily become idols, taking our love from God and turning it to ourselves (Exodus 20:3-5).

     

    In burdening God’s people with “extra laws” (traditions of men) and guilt, one might quickly gain a spiritual reputation of piety, but Jesus says,

    Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.” (Matt. 23:27-28).

     

    Otherwise known as traditions of men, asceticism is “practicing strict self-denial as a measure of personal and especially spiritual discipline” (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ascetic). I would add that ascetic practices are a sure-fire way to gain respect and awe (almost instantly) among most people because it seems so hard.

     

    Monks and Nuns are traditionally thought of when it comes to ascetism, but I propose that any full-time minister (pastor, missionary, etc.) also practices a form of ascetism. It is the giving up of things that God has not necessarily called one to give up. Fasting is Biblical, but can easily become an ascetic practice. Minimalistic living, giving up of clothing, food, shelter, family and friends can all be ascetic practices.

     

    On the surface, these aspects of self-denial appear good to people. But it isn’t people a Christian should be worried about earning approval from.

    “Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7)

     

    “…he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, (Titus 3:5)

     

    When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.” (Matt. 6:16)

     

    Efforts to be hyper-spiritual*** (anything that strives to bring attention and glory to ourselves) may result in feeding power-hungry individuals; talking more about what you do to connect/please God, than actually doing what connects or pleases Him; talking more about what you do to connect/please God than talking about what God has done for you; moving away from God and toward a false one; isolation; (Perhaps ironically) unholy living; and especially compromise in the wrong areas of life.

     

    ***The Bible describes such things as the aforementioned obvious fasting, showing off one’s generosity, praying loudly (for attention, not out of the heart), or with repetitious words/phrases, or very publicly (all these are mentioned in Matt. 6), adding traditions (“burdens”), ascetic disciplines, or loud/public (attention-seeking) displays of spiritual gifts.

     

    For example, prophecy is a God-given, legitimate spiritual gift. But when people go on blogs and “prophecy” in writing, I question the legitimacy. Likewise, I’ve seen people “speaking in tongues” on Twitter posts. These prophecies and tongues usually make little sense, but more importantly they do not line up with how 1 Corinthians 13-14 describes the use and functionality of spiritual gifts.

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