The Worst Person in the World
They will receive the greater condemnation. Luke 20:47
If I asked you to describe my greatest failure in life, my drug addiction would no doubt come to mind. Nothing else I’ve ever done has caused me to wreck my family life, lose my job, or put me in treatment. In the calamity, I felt like the worst person in the world. I’d pretended to be a follower of God, while I secretly followed my own destructive appetites. When it was dragged into the light, I felt the shame of everyone knowing. I knew I needed God, but church was a hard place to go because everyone there looked so perfect. It’s hard to sit next to clean when you feel so dirty.
Are some sins worse than others? Does God look at all failure the same? According to today’s passage, some sins do have greater eternal consequences. In the narrative, Jesus contended with the religious elite, who opposed his ministry to the lost. Addressing his disciples, Jesus spoke loudly, so everyone in the temple could hear. Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love greetings in the marketplaces and the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts. (Luke 20:46).
Jesus said those who pretend to follow God simply to elevate themselves are truly the worst. Jesus didn’t call out the prostitutes and tax collectors whom he associated with. The prostitutes made no pretense of being holy. They knew their failures. Instead, he called out the religious elite whose sin was double because they faked following God, while living only for their own adulation.
As it turns out, my addiction probably hasn’t been my worst failure. In my addiction, I knew my disaster and that disaster eventually turned me back to God. My worst failures are probably those times when I thought I was living rightly but was simply using my faith as an excuse to look down on others so I could feel better about myself.
It isn’t our addictions that damn us. Our self-destructive appetites certainly do cause us misery, but in our pain, we usually see our need for God. Rather, it is our pride that destroys us. In our pride, like the chief priests, we cannot see our failures. In our pride, we worship self and in turning our backs on him, we condemn ourselves. As destructive as addictions are, spiritual pride is far worse.