I think one of the greatest blind spots in my Christian life was how ignorant I was of the infiltration of sin in my good deeds. Growing up and even today, most sermons or books that deal with sin focus on all the really bad stuff: lying, sexual immorality, murder, hate, disobedience, in essence, the Romans 1:29-31 list. It was sin that was noticeable. It was easy to identify because it looked so bad. As a young man trying to live the Christian life, I tried my best to avoid these really bad sins. I had no idea though that those sins weren’t the most dangerous ones to me.
I was always one of the good kids in church. I rarely did anything really bad because I was so scared of my dad, plus, my personality was such that I just never pushed the envelope. If you told me where the line was, my tendency was to stay about 20 yards away from it. In high school I dedicated my life to Christian ministry at a Christian Summer camp. I then went to Bible college and Seminary, and eventually became a pastor on staff at a fairly large church. My life looked pretty good, but then my good moral life got hacked. I don’t know how or when it happened, but it did. Somewhere along the way, I ended building Babel instead of the Body of Christ. The greatest lie I ever believed was that I thought I was serving God with my life, but was in reality, I was serving myself.
Somehow I started doing all these good deeds but for my own glory and recognition. We can call it pride or the sin of self, but the scary part was that it was so subtle. I was doing the same things I had always done, but I flicked that worship switch and made it about me and not the one who saved me. My righteous deeds had been corrupted. They were hacked by pride and I was the one who planted the virus.
It took me a while to recognize it, but the more I read Scripture, the more I saw how much God cared about His fame and glory. In Genesis 11, God looks at the building of Babel as a very serious sin. Man attempts to do something good (at least good by their definition) without God. As a young man I read that story and never really understood why God cared so much about a bunch of people constructing a tall building, but their sin resided in the motivation of their actions. They were building a monument to themselves. The sin of self-glory is the most despicable sin. We see it in the life of Saul when he offered up a sacrifice before Samuel arrived and when he didn’t kill all the animals when God told had him. God rips the kingdom from him because of his rebellious heart. In our own evaluating of sin, we would put David’s transgressions way ahead of Saul’s. David committed adultery and murdered an innocent man. Compare that with lighting a bull on fire and not killing livestock. In our eyes David’s sin is far worse, but not in God’s eyes. Saul’s sins were worse because Saul was supplanting himself to the status of God in the nation. And then we have Ananias and Sapphira who were killed instantly by God in Acts 5, not because they didn’t give all the money they got when they sold their piece of land, but because they wanted a nickname like Barnabas. Over and over again, we see how much God cares about the glory of His Name.
The sin of pride and vain glory is so dangerous because it takes over the good things we do. When we do ministry type things, the pats on the back and the admiration of people can lead us away from truly loving and worshiping Jesus because we start doing the good things for the praise of man. No one had ever warned me about the seriousness of this sin, and how the biggest sin of all can actually be the one that looks the best to people.
I don’t know if your good deeds have been hacked yet, but they may be. I want to share with you over the next week some thoughts on how God turned me upside down and showed me how all my righteous behavior had been hacked by pride. I hope that you’ll discover, like I did, the magnitude of God’s glory and temptation that awaits us every day in our struggle against sin.
Your life may look no different from the guy you sit next to at church every Sunday, but one may be building Babel and the other is building the Body. The difference is in who’s been hacked.