This extract is from Insecure: Fighting our Lesser Fears with a Greater One by John Perritt.
The school cafeteria is an interesting place. It’s the place where everyone comes together to participate in a practice most humans enjoy … eating. But, the school cafeteria is a place that reveals a great deal about our hearts. Unless your cafeteria assigns seats, you get to sit wherever you want. And, more often than not, the cafeteria becomes a place that reveals the social classes of the school. The losers are at a table, the jocks are at a table, the beauty queens are at a table, the VIPs are at a table and so on.
Whether it’s in our local high schools or Hollywood, our society has VIPs. These are people in a higher class. Maybe they are important businessmen or women. Athletes. Movie stars. Whatever the case may be, they are VIPs and they get special treatment because of that.
They don’t have to stand in line at the restaurant. They get to go behind the scenes at a concert. They get to meet the President or Prime Minister. They get their photos in magazines (sometimes these photos aren’t pleasant). But, they have become important to us. They have become godlike to many of us. They, if we were to encounter them, would intimidate us.
ARE YOU BETTER THAN ME?
Earlier I spoke about hanging out with the ‘losers’ during break period at our school. Why did I hang out with them? I was comfortable around that group. I could speak with any of them without getting nervous. I could walk up to them, shake their hands and engage them in conversation. In that context, I could be the extrovert. I could be the outgoing one. Why? Because I believed I was better than them.
You see, what I’ve discovered about insecurity is that I get really insecure around people I think are better than me. People who are the ‘VIPs’. The popular people. The beautiful people. In other words, my insecurities are often rooted in favoritism.
In James 2:1–10 we read:
My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, ‘You sit here in a good place,’ while you say to the poor man, ‘You stand over there,’ or, ‘Sit down at my feet,’ have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?
If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.
Peeling back another layer of insecurity, we find favoritism is an accompanying sin. We may not always be displaying favoritism when feeling insecure, but there are times when we are.
As James states, we sometimes show favor, or partiality, to people based on outward appearance. In the above Scripture, James uses the example of a rich man in nice clothing. We are reminded that judging someone by their outward appearance has been a temptation for mankind throughout centuries.
While riding on a subway in New York City one time, the Lord convicted me of this sin. I was visiting New York with my wife’s extended family. Her two aunts, cousin and one–year–old nephew were in tow. As we walked onto the busy subway car, there were no seats remaining. My aunt was carrying this infant child and was going to have to stand, hold her grandchild in one hand, and hold on to a pole for balance. Four men were sitting right in front of her, three of the men appeared to be sharp–dressed businessmen of some type. The fourth, looked like a heavy–metal rock star – long hair, tattoos, multiple body piercings. To my shame, my thoughts were, He obviously isn’t getting up. Well, I noticed the three nicely dressed men made eye–contact with my wife’s aunt and quickly looked away. The grunge–star–rocker, saw her and, without hesitation, got up to give his seat away. The Lord, graciously punched me in the gut over my judgmentalism in that moment, and I thank Him for that.
Looking at someone’s outside appearance is a temptation for all of us. In that moment on the subway car in New York City, I placed favor upon the nicely dressed men and ridiculed the other. I was judging someone’s heart by what clothing line they picked. James warns us of this temptation. We may show favor by what someone wears, what they look like, how much money they have, their intelligence, athletic prowess, there are many ways in which we attribute favor to another human.
An aspect of favoritism is also seen in other people’s gifts. For example, when someone possesses a skill we do not have we can put them on a pedestal. People in these moments have something we want; therefore they possess a certain power over us.
We often see this on television or in movies when a certain ‘hot guy’ or ‘hot girl’ has a power over people. The attractive person can get others to do their bidding, because of their ‘hotness.’ People are unable to speak around them, because of their ‘hotness.’ The hot person gets special treatment from others, because of their ‘hotness.’
Sometimes, however, we may become insecure when someone possesses the same skill, talent, or gift that we have but to a greater degree. That is, maybe we are great at a sport or we are good looking. Perhaps others have fed this image to us, but a new student moves to school that now possesses these qualities to a greater degree than us. This may foster insecurity.
WE’RE NOT WORTHY
You may be familiar with the old Saturday Night Live skit ‘Wayne’s World’ – which was later turned into a movie with a sequel. Wayne (Mike Meyers) and Garth (Dana Carvey) were two guys obsessed with the 90s grunge music movement. They were infatuated with certain musicians and if they ever encountered greatness, they would fall on their knees and say: We’re not worthy … we’re not worthy.
Whenever we have favoritism in our hearts toward certain people, we often end up with greater insecurities in our own hearts. When we view people as godlike–VIPs, we also view ourselves as those who are not worthy. Having the perspective that people are better than us, also gives us the perspective that we are not good enough. Favoritism distorts our view of others, ourselves and God. Let’s think about those three categories a bit more.
• Favoritism and Others
Favoritism tells us other people are great, based on certain criteria we’ve created in our minds. It makes these people appear to be greater than normal people. To be sure, there are people who, at times, are more uniquely gifted than us but they are just people. They are sinful image–bearers just like you and me.
• Favoritism and Us
Favoritism also tells us that we are less than great, because we fall short of that same criteria. Those people we view as great tell us we aren’t great because of our perspective on greatness. Even though your definition of greatness may vary from another’s, you feel less valuable because you don’t possess what they have.
• Favoritism and God
In short, favoritism puts us in the place of God and makes us judge. We are the one who determines another’s worth. We decide who is valuable and who is not. We get to treat some with favor and others not so favorably. Favoritism is so offensive, because it attempts to dethrone God and enthrone us. This is why James was warning us about favoritism.
As stated earlier, there are amazing people we encounter this side of heaven. There are those people who have been uniquely blessed by God in many ways. I have met several people who seem to be good at everything they do. Whatever they touch seems to turn to gold at times. God has bestowed upon them numerous talents and allowed them to achieve something many of us never will.
I was attending the 2016 Together for the Gospel conference and was able to meet John Piper. As you would imagine, there were a decent amount of people crowded around him. As my friend and I waited to shake hands with Piper, we noticed how nervous we were. We had enough time to converse about it, prior to meeting Piper. We were saying, He’s just a man; a sinner like you and me. Why are we so nervous?
Well, there are at least two reasons why we were nervous. First, we were nervous because we are sinners who idolize people. John Piper has become an idol to many and we worship him as such. He is a VIP in many respects and my friend and I were not worthy.
Secondly, however, my friend and I were truly encountering greatness. Piper is a man who’s traveled the world, spoken in many countries, written numerous books, and impacted countless lives for the sake of the gospel. In a real sense, we were right to be intimidated, because God has richly blessed John Piper. But, we should rightly worship the God who has gifted Piper, not Piper.
Drawing this to a close, we must see how our sinful hearts place favor upon other individuals. We must see how our fallen hearts judge individuals based on improper criteria. And, we must see how these aspects of our fallen heart feed our insecurities.