For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what has thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?
— 1 Corinthians 4:7
In the January 17 Sparkling Gem, I wrote about the feeling of inferiority that once tried to rule my life. If you are struggling with inferiority, I encourage you to go back and read that teaching again. However, today I want to address an issue at the opposite end of the spectrum — a spirit of superiority. When a person has this attitude, he feels he is spiritually superior to other people because of giftings, experience, social or economic status, or position in the church. But regardless of the reason a person feels superior to others, make no mistake — this attitude is absolutely unacceptable for a Christian.
In First Corinthians 4:7, we find that an attitude of spiritual snobbery was beginning to surface in the church of Corinth. This spirit of superiority was so prevalent that it had begun to permeate the entire Corinthian congregation. Paul responded with a sharp rebuke, saying, “For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what has thou that thou didst not receive? Now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?”
*[If you started reading this from your email, begin reading here.]
From its very beginnings, the church at Corinth had experienced an amazing amount of supernatural grace, which had manifested in a variety of ways. However, one way it had especially manifested was in the gifts of the Spirit that operated in their congregation. In fact, Paul even told them, “So that ye come behind in no spiritual gift…” (1 Corinthians 1:7), implying that the Corinthians had a greater measure of spiritual gifts operating in their midst than any other New Testament church. The phrase “come behind” is a translation of the Greek word hustereo, which means to be behind, to fall short of, or to be inferior. Thus, this verse could be translated, “You fall behind no one else in respect to spiritual gifts…” or “You are not inferior to anyone when it comes to spiritual gifts.…” In modern language, it could read, “When it comes to the gifts of the Spirit, you are second to none!”
The Corinthian believers were aware of their unique status as a congregation, and they allowed it to go to their heads. Essentially, they developed a superiority complex and a snobbish attitude concerning their spirituality as compared to other churches. That is why Paul reminded them in First Corinthians 4:7, “…What hast thou that thou didst not receive? Now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?”
When Paul wrote “…why dost thou glory…,” he was referring to believers in Corinth who were boasting of themselves and putting others down who didn’t share their same spiritual experiences. In Greek, this word “glory” is kauchaomai, which means to boast of oneself, to uplift yourself, to imply that you are better than others, or to speak so highly of yourself that you derogatorily imply others are less than you. It can simply be translated to vaunt, and it conveys a pride that says, “I am better than you.” It is the very word that Paul used in First Corinthians 13:4 when he said, “Charity [that is, agape love] vaunteth not itself…” (see September 11 in Sparkling Gems 1). In other words, people who are motivated by love do not go around boasting about themselves in a way that leaves others feeling inferior!
It is important to note that the problem in the church of Corinth did not stem from the gifts of the Spirit. The gifts of the Spirit don’t foster pride. The problem was the character of the Corinthian believers, which needed to be dealt with by God!
Paul’s rebuke to the Corinthian believers tells us that we have no right to be prideful about our spiritual experiences. When you and I have been blessed by God with an extraordinary supernatural experience or knowledge of spiritual matters that exceeds that of many others, we should strive to demonstrate humility. We must not carry ourselves with an air of superiority, thinking we are better than others because they haven’t had our experience or attained to our level of knowledge. We must remember that everything we have, we received from God. We did nothing on our own, so we really have no reason to gloat about it as though we did! If we’ve really received something special from God, we need to show only humble gratitude for His gift.
Have you ever known a person who was snobbish toward other believers because of his great spiritual experiences or spiritual knowledge? To me personally, it’s a huge turn-off. The root of that superior attitude isn’t what the Holy Spirit has done in him; rather, it’s just a sign that He needs to do more in him!
So don’t get offended if you know someone like this. Just pray for that person — and pray for yourself, too, so that you never fall into the trap of acting like you’re better than others!
MY PRAYER FOR TODAY
Father, spiritual snobbery is a big turn-off. I ask You to help me look inward to discern if I have even the smallest hint of this in me. Lord, if anything like that exists in me, please show me, and begin the process to remove it from me! You resist the proud but give grace to the humble. Right now I humble my heart before You and I thank You for doing a work in my heart to remove any thought or attitude that does not please You or reflect Your holy ways.
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY
I confess that I am thankful for every spiritual experience I’ve had with the Lord. I am grateful for the knowledge God has blessed me to attain. But I realize that I have so much further to go and so much more to learn. I don’t think I’ve arrived, and I know there is so much more to reach for in God. Therefore, I choose to put my eyes on the adjustments I need to make, and I embrace God’s grace to change me. And if I’ve carried bad attitudes about spiritually snobbish people, today I release those attitudes and those people from my judgment. They belong the Lord, and they are not mine to judge!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER
- Can you think of a person who was spiritually snobbish toward you? How did it affect you and others?
- Have you ever been guilty of thinking of yourself as better than people who haven’t had your same experience? When you talk to others, do you make them desire your experience, or do you put them off because they feel put down by the way you talk to them?
- As a thought exercise, why don’t you take a moment to think about the people you’ve thought were spiritually snooty and try to figure out what it is they do that makes you feel uncomfortable in their presence? Once you think it through, ask yourself if there is anyone to whom you’ve acted in a similar manner, and if so, ascertain what you need to correct so that people never feel that way in your presence again.