I don’t like sin. I think that is a good thing. However, what I really don’t like is owning up to my own sinfulness. It is a piece of cake to hate sin in another person’s life, but difficult to hate my own sins.
To help overcome this potential blindness I have been practicing putting myself in the shoes of someone in scripture. I avoid being a bystander, or Jesus, or one of the seemingly swell people. Instead, I try to imagine what it was like for Judas to hear Christ prophesy his betrayal. Or what was it like to be a Pharisee. Or in today’s first reading, what it was like for the Jews of this city as they chased out Paul and Barnabas. This practice stops me from casting a hasty judgement on these people. As opposed to distancing myself from them I ask the Lord to show me how I make similar mistakes in my own life. The practice has been eye-opening.
Today, my struggle with pride and spiritual envy was laid on my heart. This is what happened with the Jews in the town. They likely felt pride in their place as God’s people. They were a people chosen to reveal God’s goodness and righteousness to the world through their devout adherence to the Law. Thus, when Paul and Barnabas attract large crowds and begin professing that God’s choice has expanded through the death and resurrection of Christ to include the Gentiles the Jews became jealous. Acts tells us so in these words, “When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy.” In their pride they became jealous. In my pride I become envious.
But this is not Jesus’ way. Instead, in the Gospel Jesus promises, “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these.” It’s absurd that I can be so prideful that I am envious when someone is better than I am, while our living God is so humble that He gives His greatness away.
In giving out greatness, God lavishes us with a diverse spread of gifts and talents. Today, go out of your way to swallow pride and cut off envy by sincerely acknowledging and praising the gifts and talents you see in another person. Go one step further and offer this encouragement to someone who the world would see as your competitor.