Recently, someone introduced me to a video clip entitled “Four Yorkshiremen.” The video is of four apparently wealthy Englishmen reminiscing about the good ol’ days when they were poor. For a little over three minutes these men humorously one-up each other about how poor and miserable they were as children. They didn’t argue about who was wealthier. Rather, the point was seemingly that the one who had to overcome the most was really the best of the lot.
This video is played for laughs and it is very funny. However, it reminds me of a similar competition I’ve heard among Christians. We all know it would be bad to compete over who is the better Christian or who is spiritually the strongest. Instead, Christians sometimes get together and start talking about what they were like when they were sinners.
Don’t misunderstand me. I think it is great to lead with our weaknesses and be open and honest about where we’ve been and why we need a Savior in Jesus Christ. However, sometimes I’ve seen these conversations seemingly get off into a competition about who had to overcome the worst enslavement to sin. The problem is these penitent Christians almost sound proud of how sinful they had been. Have you ever heard folks get into that kind of conversation? Have you ever been involved in that kind of conversation? It is almost as if we have to prove to everybody that we were the worst and not in the humble way with which Paul claimed to be the chief of sinners (I Timothy 1:15). In that passage, Paul was actually giving glory to God about how much forgiveness God had. He was not bragging about how bad he had been and how much he had to overcome.
If you’ve never been in on this kind of conversation, you can ignore this article. However, if you have, allow me to offer you something to think about. When we are truly penitent of our sins, mourning for what we’ve done (II Corinthians 7:10), there will be no part of us that wants to brag or prove we were the greater sinner. The fact is, just like those four Yorkshiremen, all this does is give us some kind of backdoor pass to bragging about our spirituality. We aren’t bragging about how spiritual we are now, but we are bragging about how we had to overcome more and therefore are more spiritual.
As we share the gospel with others, we may share the sins from which God set us free. As we strive to overcome sin, we will most certainly confess our sins to one another (James 5:16). As we glorify God, we may admit the sins over which we were powerless and from which God freed us. However, we’ll never have the desire to prove we are the best because we were the worst. We’ll never take pride in how awful we were. We’ll never purposefully try to one-up each other in our past sinfulness. We won’t feel the need to prove anything about our spirituality. We’ll simply be thankful God forgave us. Let’s keep it there.