As I was teaching Bible Study on Wednesday night, I was reminded of a thought I have been pondering for a while. We were studying Genesis Chapter 18 where the Lord came to visit Abraham and Sarah, telling them that in a year they would have a son. The last portion of the chapter records the conversation Abraham and the Lord had concerning Sodom. God told Abraham that He was personally going to see if Sodom was as wicked as its reputation made it out to be. Of course God knew it was, He apparently was doing this for the sake of humans, not to gain more knowledge of the situation for Himself.
We see Abraham pleading with the Lord not to destroy Sodom if there were fifty righteous people found there, then he begins to count down the number, asking the Lord to spare it if there were forty-five and then forty, eventually coming to the number of ten. The Lord told Abraham he would not destroy Sodom, if ten righteous people were found there.
Throughout the dialogue we see, not only God’s patience with Abraham, but the humbleness with which Abraham was addressing God, saying things like, “Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes…” and “Oh let not the Lord be angry…” While it took courage and boldness, on his part, Abraham spoke humbly, acknowledging he was only dust. He did not go to the Lord, shaking his fist, demanding the Lord answer his prayer. He didn’t run off the list of things he had done for God and therefore demanding he deserved an answer to his request. Paul could have probably used this text as an example to the Roman believers as he instructed them on how to think of themselves. “ For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.”(Rom 12:3 ESV)
Now you may be thinking, “What on earth does that have to do with “Living Martyrs?”
Well, hopefully you will see in the paragraphs below. If not, at least you will see how my twisted thinking process works but may still be left wondering how I got from Abraham to where we end up.
First and foremost, there is no such thing as a “living martyr”. By definition, a martyr is someone who has been killed for their faith. So why name a blog something that doesn’t exist? Because many of us, at times, think of ourselves as martyrs, even though we really haven’t even suffered persecution, much less death. A more accurate term might be ‘Martyr Complex”. While technically this is associated with a person who seeks out suffering and persecution to make themselves feel good, here, I want us to think of it as more of an attitude toward ourselves and others, concerning what we do for the Lord and see others as NOT doing.
There was a time in my Christian walk, hopefully I have grown some and am not as bad as I once was, when I would tend to look down on my brothers and sisters in Christ that were not doing what “I” felt like they should be doing. I would go out and do evangelism and return only to look down my nose at those who named the name of Christ and yet had no desire to share their faith, or at least as far as I could tell. Yep, I was sacrificing my time for the Lord, while they came into the church service singing, “I Surrender All”, as I sat there calling them liars in my mind. After typing that, I’m not sure I want to even confess that I actually did that. What a jerk.
Thankfully, years ago, God began to work on me about this and so I began to pray for God to remove this terrible thought process in me and give me love and compassion. He showed me that, although sometimes a rebuke of believers is warranted, what I was doing was sin. Rebuking was not in my plans anyway. I was just judging them wrongly, to make myself feel better. It all comes back to that pride thing, doesn’t it.
I cannot point to a specific time, but at some point, I suddenly realized I wanted to be an encourager of evangelism, instead of a living martyr who passes judgment on other, less zealous, people. Since then God has placed evangelists in my life who are MUCH more dedicated, zealous and faithful than I have ever been, so I can have a constant reminder of who and what I really am. Like Abraham, I realized, and am still being reminded, that I am but dust and whatever I do for the Lord, it is reasonable and in no way makes me special. It is all about Him!
Now, do I still have the tendency to fall back into this trap? Absolutely! The Christian life is a struggle and I must be on constant guard to keep from slipping back into silliness, but enough about me. It’s time to judge you! 😉
Think about your life. What is it you do that tends to make you think you are better, or at least doing more for the Kingdom than others? This is a self-examination, so be honest with yourself and God. You may be called to do something for the Lord like go to a hostile country to be a missionary, for an extreme example. If so, do you look down on those who stay in the states and teach the middle school Sunday school class? Maybe you don’t look down on them, necessarily, but you know in your heart of hearts that you are really sacrificing more and serving God better. Come on, be honest!
That was an extreme example, so let’s get closer to home.
Are you a street preacher and you think you’re better than that Middle School Sunday School teacher? Wait, are we talking about me again? This is about you, remember?! Stay on task!
Maybe you’re a pastor and you look down on the guy that goes to the bar district on a Saturday night and preaches, telling yourself he’s doing absolutely no good, while you’re preaching the word of God to the saints!
Maybe you are a stay at home mom, who has sacrificed career for family and you think, “It must be nice to have a meaningful career and make money so you can drive a nicer car, instead of a minivan and have nice clothes etc., so you look down on the women with careers for being self-centered.
You may be that career woman. Do you look down on the stay at home mom?
You get the picture. PLug in your thing and see where you stand…
Let’s end by looking back at Romans 12. We looked at verse 3.
“For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.”
Now let’s end with the “why” we don’t need to be high-minded and make ourselves martyrs in our own minds.
For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. (Rom 12:4-8 ESV)
Until All Hear!