This past summer I read a statistic that had me howling in indignation:
According to Nielsen’s television audience report, the average American home now has 2.93 TVs per household. In 2010, the number of U.S. homes with three or more TV sets increased to the highest percentage ever at 55%. What’s more, the average American home now has more TVs than people (people: 2.54).
“What?! That’s ridiculous – the average, the average! American family now has three televisions? Three?” I snorted to Brad. “Think of the starving people! Think of the millions without even clean drinking water! Think of the billion people who live on less than a dollar a day! And we Americans have televisions! More and more televisions!”
I didn’t stop there.
I proceeded to toss out names. “The So-and-Sos have five TVs, five, including one in the bathroom,” I announced. “And you know the So-and-Sos? Each of their kids has their own TV in their bedroom!” I rattled off people I knew who owned three or more televisions and denounced them for their materialistic shallowness. And then I went a step further: I accused them of ignoring the world’s poor and suffering.
By the time I was done, I’d riled myself into a frenzy. My family, of course, has only two televisions, so we don’t fall into that category, I reassured myself. I glossed over the fact that one of those is a brand-new HDTV, which replaced the perfectly functioning television we already owned.
I also missed the fact that in condemning others for their supposed sins, I fell prey to one of the most damaging sins of all: self-righteousness.
I do this regularly, you should know. I usually start with the best intentions, but it doesn’t take long before those intentions morph into ugly self-righteousness. I step onto my soap box and rail. And pretty soon I place myself above everyone else. I define myself as better.
I become a Pharisee.
When Jesus heard this, he told them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor — sick people do. I have come to call sinners, not those who think they are already good enough.” (Mark 2:17 NLT)
When Brad eulogized his mom last September, one observance he made about Janice stood out plain as day. He recalled that several people had said they’d never heard her say anything negative about anyone else. I can attest to that – I never once heard Janice gossip about or badmouth a single person in the 17 years I knew her. That quality, Brad noted, came from a place of self-assurance – not a prideful self-assurance, but a genuine humility. Janice knew that she was not better than anyone else, and she lived out each day with that knowledge in her heart and exemplified in her actions.
Janice never assumed she was “already good enough.” I pray that I will learn to follow her example.
Do you ever have times when you think you’re “already good enough?” What brings you back into reality?