Satan’s Strategy #10: He's Worse
Satan tempts us to compare ourselves to men whom we think are worse than we are.
"You do so much better than Brother Ralph," Satan says:
"Compare yourself to Ralph. You know more theology than he does. You serve God more zealously than he does. You are a little sloppy with your holiness sometimes, but Ralph frequently engages in big sins. You can indulge this small sin and still be far more effective than most Christians. Don't take this one sin so seriously; you'll still be better than Ralph."
This is an old strategy, one that we can see in the pharisee who found himself praying alongside the tax collector (Luke 18:11). Satan blinds us to the truth that Ralph's diligence—or lack thereof—has nothing to do with my standing before God. My faithfulness is never determined by whether I am ahead or behind others in the holiness contest.
God's requirement for me is not to be holier than Ralph. God's expectations of me are not determined by others' successes or failures. My life is measured by the yardstick of God's Word, not the yardstick of other men.
Truth be known, I have no right to think I am holier than Brother Ralph. The very fact that I'm thinking that I am more spiritual than Ralph indicates that I am sorely lacking in holiness! As Thomas Brooks says,
"There is not a greater nor a clearer argument to prove a man a hypocrite, than to be quick-sighted abroad and blind at home, than to see 'a mote in another man's eye, and not a beam in his own eye."' (Matthew 7:3-4)
What if it is true that God has gifted you more than others and taught you more than others? That means that God has done a great work in you ... and to whom much is given, much shall be required. If God has given you an especially large measure of grace, then God calls you to an especially large measure of holiness. And when a mature Christian surrenders to temptation, his sins often have double consequences: immediate (and devastating) consequences in his own life, and secondary (and likewise devastating) consequences in the lives of believers who view him as a role model. When Satan tempts you to sin, and brings Brother Ralph to your mind, consider this sobering truth: Your yielding to temptation may have ruinous spiritual effects on others.
Previous posts in this series:
- Peeking Into the Devil's Playbook
- Satan’s Strategy #1: Bait and Hook
- Satan's Strategy #2: Sin That Seems Virtuous
- Satan's Strategy #3: Downplay the Danger
- Satan's Strategy #4: Great Men Sin
- Satan's Strategy #5: God Doesn't Judge
- Satan's Strategy #6: Just Say Sorry
- Satan's Strategy #7: What's to Fear?
- Satan's Strategy #8: Be Happy
- Satan's Strategy #9: Saints Suffer
Robert Spinney (PhD, Vanderbilt) is professor of History at Patrick Henry College, where he teaches American history and historiography. He is the author of City of Big Shoulders: A History of Chicago and World War II in Nashville: Transformation of the Homefront, as well as an American history textbook and numerous ministry-related booklets. Dr. Spinney formerly served as a pastor at Grace Baptist Church in Hartsville, TN, and at Winchester Baptist Church in Winchester, VA.
"Keeping Desire and Temptation in Their Place" by Richard Phillips
"The Labyrinth of Temptation": Calvin on Genesis 22 by Aaron Denlinger
"Lead Us Not Into Temptation" by Mark Johnston