The greatest and most dangerous enemies are stealthy. The heart of man is particularly susceptible to silent killers. The scary reality is that what may be eating away at your soul and laying the foundation for destruction is utterly imperceptible.
Nothing camouflages itself better than pride. Nothing. Honest self-evaluation is nearly impossible. Evaluation of others is downright effortless. What complicates this reality and magnifies this soul disease is how these two ideas work in concert. The more I evaluate and compare myself to others the less honestly I can look at myself. Identifying sins and weaknesses in others actually makes it even easier to neglect the sins and weaknesses in my own life.
This is the story of Asaph, the writer of Psalm 73. In his Psalm he describes how his faith was shaken and how he almost stumbled into dispair:
“For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” (Psalm 73:3)
Asaph was keenly aware of the flaws in everyone around him. He identified their pride, greed, violence, and unjustness. He was frustrated at the prosperity of those who didn’t seek after God like he did. He was emotionally distressed by trying to understand how all this could be. (v. 16)
“I went into the sanctuary of God…” (v. 17)
Until he saw the magnificence of a Holy God. Until he saw the splendor of His holiness. Until he saw the wisdom of His plans. When he was in the presence of God – his focus changed. When his attention shifted away from those he compared himself with and was instead placed on a holy God – how he saw himself changed.
“When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart, I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast toward you.” (v. 21-22)
As long as Aspah compared himself with the others – he could easily find someone he was more righteous than.
I can always find someone who I feel morally superior too. So can you. It’s not hard to find someone who doesn’t parent as well as me. With little effort I can find someone I think is more arrogant than me. One glimpse at the news affirms that I’m a better spouse…a better man…a better employee than someone else. Comparison is a disease that blinds me to the desperate wickedness of my heart. It sucks the joy out of my life. I bemoan the success of others. I envy those I see as “lesser” than me. Before I even know what hit me this stealthy evil has contaminated my heart.
But when Asaph stepped into the sanctuary of God – he saw himself. He was brutish, arrogant and like an animal before God. When our attention shifts from comparing ourselves with other people to examining ourselves in the presence of God – our perspective changes. Suddenly, I’m not nearly so awesome. When we stop looking at the sin of others we are free to see our own wickedness.
Yes, wickedness. What if the dark thoughts of our hearts and minds were revealed for all to see? Oh, God help me today to look away from the sins of others and to look deep within to see my own sins!
When we focus on our own sin in light of the holiness of God it gives us eyes to see clearly who we really are. Like Aspah we stop worrying about those around us. Instead we are filled with wonder. Wonder that a God so awesome would love us so unconditionally. It is in this honest view of God and ourselves we can say like Asaph,
Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (v. 25, 26)