I had that kind of experience as a sophomore in college. I was a young, brash kid who thought I could do anything. So God had to put me in my place. One day, I was playing bball with some of my peers and this one friend named Randy kept on mentioning his youth director and how great he was in bball. And that youth director is sitting right in the front row.
And my friend told me that this guy was in his late 20s at the time and I was 18-19 years old and thought anyone close to 30 was over the hill. So I told Randy, name the place, I’ll challenge him, I’m not scared.
And I don’t know exactly how it happened. But it was some kind of event and the entire church happened to be there. Several hundred people. At first, just a small handful of guys were there to watch, but God kept adding to the number so that by the end of the game, the whole church was there to witness my unraveling.
I have to say that I was not a deadly shooter back then like I am today and I was still growing and I wasn’t quite used to my body yet. So my game was different back then. I would just try to drive to the lane and out-muscle people. The game was up to 11 and let me just say, by the end, I was begging John JDSN to please let me score a single point. I thought Christians were supposed to be merciful toward one another. But John jdsn had no mercy and the game ended 11-0. And I had to play it all off like it was no big deal and I could just laugh it off, but inside, I was dying.
God taught me an important lesson that day. As long as I narrowly define my competition, I can always feel like I am great. If Timothy and Jeremiah are my competition, then I have every reason to brag and trash talk. But my living room is a bubble of self-delusion. As soon as I step outside into the real world and meet someone with greater skills, I just have to keep my mouth shut.
In Rom 2, we read about a group of religious braggarts. These guys are highly religious. And Jesus encountered these kinds of people all throughout his ministry. We know them as the Pharisees and the teachers of the law.
Why can they brag? Because their standard is other people and no one can compete with them in terms of who goes to the temple more or who fasts more or who knows the Scripture more. So they brag about their relationship with God and look down on others.
And Paul is addressing a similar group here in Rom 2. He is not talking to Jews who follow Judaism. He is talking to Jews who converted to Christianity and who are part of a minority group at the church in Rome.
And he basically calls them hypocrites. They claim to be teachers, yet they cannot teach themselves. They preach against stealing yet they steal. They tell others that they shouldn’t commit adultery, yet they commit adultery. They hate idolatry, yet they rob the temples.
The amazing thing is that this group could not recognize their hypocrisy. Rather, they were so confident about their spiritual life to the point of bragging and looking down on their Gentile brothers and sisters.
They have a certain picture of themselves, yet Jesus tells them, your picture is completely wrong. In fact, you are the complete opposite of who you think you are.
How do people like these Jewish Christians become so self-deluded?
It comes down to who you measure yourself against.