Thursday, October 10, 2019

"Have You Taken the Holy Test?"

Isaiah 65.2-3a, 5a KJV

“I have spread out my hands all the day unto a rebellious people, which walketh in a way that was not good, after their own thoughts; 

 A people that provoketh me to anger continually to my face;... 

 Which say, Stand by thyself, come not near to me; for I am holier than thou.

I’ve always wondered where the term “holier than thou” came from. Now I know. It’s found in the King James Version of Isaiah 65.5. There, in bold-faced print, are the words unbelievers have quoted for centuries in their critical assessment of high-minded church folks: “Holier than thou.” 

On this point, the pagans have it right. They and God agree. Self-righteous Christians “continually and blatantly offend” [1] both God and everyone else. The church should be the one place in the world free of the cliques that plague and vertically divide society. The church should be a hospital for sinners, not a country club for saints. However, some institutional churches are anything but. How sad.

Am I guilty of being “holier than thou”? I am an active church member. I have cultivated a close-knit group of believing friends. I tend to resist circumstances that bring me into contact with new people and activities. Maybe I am one of those I am pointing my finger at. Could I be blinded by my own ‘holier-than-thou-ness’? Am I what I am ashamed to admit? Am I a person who appears to think I am “holier than thou”? 

We believers can be blissfully unaware of how we come across to others. We may emit “holier than thou” vibes easier and more often than we think. The opinion of those outside our religious social circles may be surprisingly similar to God’s. Perhaps we should be more concerned for what outsiders think about our personal portrayal of the faith in Christ.

I found an interesting quiz on the internet called “The Holy Test ~ Are You Holier Than Thou?” The quiz is sponsored by “Unholier Than Thou” whose mission, it appears, is to “expose hypocrites.” I certainly do not endorse the organization but, while their assessment tool is obviously biased, their point is well taken. Do my “Holy Test” results accurately expose the image I project to those outside the church? I hope not, because this is how I scored:

“Your score is 71. You are Holier Than Thou! You must be very proud of yourself. Take a bow, but be careful that your halo doesn’t fall off.”

Ouch. The quiz link no longer exists, so you cannot see how you would rank. This evaluation was biased, of course, but a good exercise nonetheless. When my wife was alive, she scored 64. She was less “holier than thou” than me. Good for her!

I assume Jesus was exactly the opposite of “holier than thou.” He associated with children, fishermen, sinners, tax collectors, and prostitutes. Jesus’ choice of friends enraged only the overly-pious folks, and it’s no  wonder... He exposed their hypocrisy.

This leads me to the all-important question I must ask now myself... “If Jesus came to my town today, would He associate with me or expose me?”

[1] New English Translation (NET) of Isaiah 65.3.


Anonymous said...

87% agree. 17% disagree. You are right, of course. There is hypocrisy aplenty in the church. Always has been, always will be. Even Peter, the Rock of the Church, was exposed by Paul for refusing to eat with the gentile believers. Such is the reality for us homo sapiens. We walk with feet of clay.

Yet we are all hypocrites; are we not? Both the believer and the unbeliever. The question is, what is our attitude about our hypocrisy? (our sin)

For a Christian, it is wrong to commit adultery, and yet, some of us fall. But for the unbeliever, adultery is not necessarily hypocrisy; not necessarily even wrong. How easy it must be to consider yourself true to your convictions, when in fact you have no convictions. For the nonbeliever, the road is wide. For the disciple of Jesus, the road is narrow. (thus the hypocrisy)

In regards to the quiz, I will not be taking it. I don't need the world to tell me what I already know: I fall short of the glory of God. Again, how easy to live your life if one refuses to admit they have a sin nature, or worse yet, refuse to admit sin exists. (Moral relativism)

In regards to Jesus, he loved prostitutes, but never slept with a whore. He hung out at the fraternity house, but never got drunk. He loved tax collectors, but one would assume he did not agree with extortion.

Sometimes the bumper sticker says it all:

1) Minds are like parachutes, they only function when open.

2) How open does your mind have to be before your brain falls out?

3) Christains aren't perfect, just forgiven.

Anonymous said...

additional thoughts on bumper stickers and hypocrisy: I saw a vehicle recently with two stickers on the rear: "Kill your television." Said the first. And the second? "Support OPB."

Different car, same situation. "Honor diversity." Said the first. And the second? "Doing my best to piss off the religious right."

And then there's my favorite: "Live simply so others can simply live." Plastered on the back of a brand new, $40.000.00 Volvo.

Perhaps the only thing worse than a hypocrite is a hypocrite who's constantly condemning hypocrisy.

davescriven said...

Hey Anon,

Great stuff. Your bumper stickers made me laugh. I think you got it right with the hypocrite thing. I hadn't thought of it that way before. I guess its easier to be non-hypocritical when one's morals are relative. Thanks for the good words.


CharlieTD said...

“Your score is 63.

You are remarkably average, and therefore are neither Holy nor Unholy compared to other humans. Play it cool, and you may be able to sneak through the gates unnoticed.”

I’m not sure if I should be pleased or insulted.

Anonymous: Loved your bumper snickers. Remember back (in the good old days) just about every car had a bumper sticker? Well, these days we certainly can’t trash up our fancy [expensive unpaid for] cars with ugh --- bumper stickers ---. What would the neighbors think?

davescriven said...

Congratulations Charlie! You received the same score as my wife. Theoretically, that means you (and she) are, at least by the standards of this assessment tool, closer to the Lord than I am. I know this is true for her!


Adonica said...

How to balance it all: Truth vs grace; loving the world vs not being 'in' love with the things of the world. I think its a balance that I struggle with.

I wonder if the media helps to typecast believers as holier-than-thou. I hear about the judgmentalism of the Christian right or of evangelicals, and how unloving Christians can be. Yet I know there are many, many believers involved in loving and serving the people of this world. Those stories aren't the ones you usually hear about.

davescriven said...

Hi Adonica.

I agree. Anti-evangelical sentiment in the media probably skews public opinion. I too know some outstanding, beautiful, sacrificial, sincere, Bible-believing Christians who are filled with integrity and love. In fact, I'm married to one!

Your Husband,

nitewrit said...


My test result: Your score is 55.

You are remarkably average, and therefore are neither Holy nor Unholy compared to other humans. Play it cool, and you may be able to sneak through the gates unnoticed.

However, it would probably shoot up if they asked the question, "Do you think anyone sneaks through the gates unnoticed?" My answer would be no.

I usually find those who claim someone is being "holier than thou" is much more narrow minded and unforgiving than the target of their comment, although sometimes it is true the target is deserving of the comment.

I think it is a tricky line, or the narrow path, we are on. One is often accused of being holier than thou because they won't indulge in the same behaviors as others. This is neither being judgmental nor haughty. It is doing what one believes is right under God, which means it is certainly not hypocritical.

I think we need to be careful, though, that we never forget we are flesh and have either been where every other person has been or are capable of falling for a temptation and slipping off that path.

Jesus associated with sinners, but he never engaged in their sins. These people were drawn to Him because He looked at their person, not their deeds, but he didn't say, "oh, that's okay, you're basically a nice guy, so just keep doing what you're doing." He didn't particully dwell on their sin, but offered something better and then said go and sin no more.

Anyway, I've rambled on too long for a comment.

Larry E.

davescriven said...

Hi Larry,

I agree with everything you said. Hypocritical Christians do not have the market on sin. Those who judge hypocrites may be just as wrong.

You're right. Befriending sinners and participating in sin are totally different. We must be about one and not the other.

Thanks for your comment.