I have spread out My hands all day long to a rebellious people, Who walk in the way which is not good, following their own thoughts, A people who continually provoke Me to My face, Offering sacrifices in gardens and burning incense on bricks; Who sit among graves and spend the night in secret places; Who eat swine’s flesh, And the broth of unclean meat is in their pots. Who say, ‘Keep to yourself, do not come near me, For I am holier than you!’ These are smoke in My nostrils, A fire that burns all the day. ~ Isaiah 65:2-5, NASB; cf. Romans 10:21
It would be hard to find many believers who would admit that the major reason why there is so much division in today’s institutional “church” is because there is so much Christian snobbery. Nevertheless, the harsh truth is that, in the institutional “church,” the Lord’s true followers are divided primarily because of these three forms of Christian snobbery: (1) Intellectual snobbery 2) Partial snobbery, and (3) Spiritual snobbery.
Now, while God’s Word teaches His sons and daughters that His people literally are taken into captivity and/or utterly destroyed because of a lack of knowledge (cf. Isaiah 5:13 and Hosea 4:6), this lack of knowledge refers to not having the knowledge of God operating in believers’ lives. For this reason, the apostle Peter warns born again and saved (justified) believers that the only way they can become spiritually mature is by growing in the grace and spiritual knowledge of God. That is why where believers who are being targeted by false teachers, who are ignorant and unstable about the spiritual knowledge of God, are concerned, Peter writes:
You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness, but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ…. ~ 2 Peter 3:17-18, NASB
So then it stands to reason that most believers in the institutional “church” are not growing spiritually because they are seeking academic knowledge instead of seeking the spiritual knowledge of God. As a result, today’s institutional “church” has many intellectual snobs who don’t like to fellowship with the less-educated believers, because these educated elitists think that they know more about Christianity and the Holy Bible—that they know more “facts” and much more “truth” than the average believer.
For this reason, these intellectual snobs also don’t want to fellowship with believers who do not have advanced degrees, because these snobby churchgoers think that the less-educated believers cannot comprehend their highbrowed thoughts, words, and deeds. Moreover, because these educated elitists think they are superior (that they are better qualified to understand God’s Holy Bible and therefore better qualified to explain/teach His Word), they often tend to use their so-called sophisticated knowledge as a hammer to beat on others who have not studied “certain” subjects, and/or who have not read, for example, the scholarly works of Karl Barth, Emil Brunner, Paul Tillich, Rudolph Bultmann, Søren Kierkegaard, Thomas Aquinas, Augustine, and etcetera. (BTW: This blogger has not read many of the works authored by these mentioned scholars).
The real truth is that many of the people the undergraduate and graduate students study, as well as many of these students’ professors, are unprincipled and/or unsaved people, and yet these intellectual snobs effortlessly and confidently continue to regurgitate what theologians, philosophers, and other great thinkers have written and/or what their professors have said these theologians, philosophers, and other great thinkers mean, as if what has been written and taught is the gospel! More important, many of these intellectual snobs think that their scholastic knowledge is superior to the less-educated believers’ spiritual knowledge of God, because many of the less-educated believers usually claim that the Holy Spirit is their only teacher, helper, and guide!
Though it is very rare, there can be a reverse intellectual snobbery, where the poorly educated won’t want to fellowship with those believers who have advanced degrees, because they ironically find many college/university believers to be too snobbish. This inverted snobbery glorifies the poor in spirit believers, as well as the economically poor believers, in whom the Holy Spirit seems to give more supernatural power, spiritual gifts, and heavenly knowledge, wisdom, and understanding.
The point that needs to be noted here is that it is the intellectual snobs’ blatant arrogance that always will lead to the sin of partiality (being biased, prejudiced, or racist). For sure, the sin of partiality possibly is more prevalent today than it was in the days when James wrote the epistle of James. Moreover, while the Scriptures make it clear that there was a partiality problem between Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians, James also makes it clear that in the local ekklesia there was some preferential treatment (favoritism) shown to well-dressed visitors, as opposed to the typical cold-shoulder treatment poorly clad visitors received. Concerning this sin of partiality, James writes:
My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism. For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, ‘You sit here in a good place,’ and you say to the poor man, ‘You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool,’ have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives? ~ James 2:1-4, NASB
For sure, intellectual snobbery will lead to the second most common form of Christian snobbery in the institutional “church,” which is showing partiality/favoritism based on preconceived biases and prejudices, and even sometimes because of ethnicities. Indeed, in the 21st century institutional “church,” there are partial (biased and/or prejudiced) snobs who don’t like to fellowship with believers who do not share their same beliefs about money and tangible possessions, because these usually wealthy and well-educated believers think that their personal preferences are good enough reasons for why they should show favoritism to other wealthy believers, even if it is at the expense of their poorer brothers and sisters. In other words, these respecters of persons have allowed their personal preferences to make them not only partial to some believers but also partial to the “things” of this world, which conflict with the spiritual treasures of Heaven.
For the above reasons, there can be no doubt that these partial (biased and/or prejudiced) snobs are churchgoers, possibly even saved believers, who make economic and materialistic distinctions. They gravitate toward those believers who drive matching or almost equivalent brand-name cars, who wear the exact or near enough similar designer labels, who live in identical or just about comparable homes located in identical or just about comparable residential areas, who have children who attend the same or as good as similar private schools, and so forth.
The saddest commentary on the lives of these wealthy, partial snobs is the fact that they often despise those believers who are financially and materialistically disadvantaged. Perhaps the above examples of the contemporary institutional “church’s” partial snobbery are why the Holy Bible contains a host of other examples that thoroughly demonstrate the insidiousness—the subtle and cumulative harmfulness—of this sin of partiality.
Then too, often a reverse partial snobbery takes place. That is to say, sometimes the poor believers will receive preferential treatment, instead of the rich believers. These poor believers often gravitate toward those believers who are just as, or often more, financially and materialistically disadvantaged as they are. This inverted snobbery seems to glorify poverty, giving the impression that God is showing preferential treatment to the economically poor believers, but the Scriptures clearly teach that God is impartial. Indeed, according to James, God’s impartiality (the fact that He is no respecter of persons) is revealed by Him selecting those individuals whom the world labels as poor (needy; underprivileged) to be “rich in faith,” or rich because of their faith, and “heirs of the Kingdom” (cf. James 2:5).
The bottom line is that it is ONLY in God’s Kingdom that His purpose and plan for His sons and daughters will be realized the most. Once again, God always has intended that the rich, the poor, and those who are in the middle, would receive God’s rich spiritual blessings, and because He is not a respecter of persons (not a snob; not biased or prejudiced; and not a liar) God keeps His Word!
Concerning the third most common form of Christian snobbery, it once again should be noted here that there can be no doubt that God always intended for His sons and daughters to have all of the spiritual knowledge, wisdom, understanding, power, authority, and spiritual gifts (heavenly treasures/riches) that would help them to grow spiritually. There also can be no doubt that God indeed understood that each one of His sons and daughters wouldn’t automatically start out at the same spiritual level, nor mature at the same speed. Yet, there are many believers who think that EVERY believer should be at the same spiritual level, and these so-called mature believers think that if believers are spiritually immature it is either because they don’t have enough faith or because they don’t read their Holy Bible enough; or because they don’t come to “church” enough; or because they don’t listen to the “right” kind of music; or because they don’t watch the “right” kind of movies; or because they are not members of the “right” denomination; or because they don’t believe in the “right” doctrines; and the list goes on and on and on, ad infinitum. Concerning this kind of spiritual snobbery, the apostle Paul writes:
For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. ~ Romans 12:3, NASB
Even Christ Jesus touched on this kind of spiritual snobbery. For example, He teaches on spiritual snobbery in the parable about the Pharisee and Publican (a Tax Collector who was a crook; a Jew who worked for the Roman government). The Lord tells this parable solely for the purpose of convincing the pharisaical (holier-than-thou) spiritual leaders, who were strict observers of the Mosaic Law as well as individuals who trusted in themselves, that because they were so full of themselves and their own goodness/righteousness, and because they despised the Publicans, that their proud or at the least a little bit arrogant human goodness/righteousness was dead wrong! Moreover, the Lord is saying that no pharisaical goodness/righteousness would ever be enough to save them or the world, and neither would the world be saved if everyone’s goodness/righteousness were like those of the Pharisees. For these reasons, Christ Jesus uses the parable to contrast the hearts of the proud and the humble.
Concerning this spiritual snobbery that the Lord speaks against, Luke, the author of the Gospel According to Saint Luke, writes:
And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: ‘Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.’ ~ Luke 18:9-14, NASB
Based on what the Lord says in the above verses, there can be no denying that, in this modern day, there are spiritual snobs in the institutional “church” who don’t like to fellowship with believers who do not share their level of spirituality, primarily because these hypocritical self-righteous individuals believe that their own goodness/righteousness is so impressive that it could not fail to make them more acceptable to God. Their exalted sense of spirituality, however, causes them to despise those believers who do not live like, speak like, or act like these so-called spiritually mature believers. Consequently, these spiritual snobs often end up thinking that the less-spiritual churchgoers must not have had a true “conversion” experience.
For sure, on a regular basis, these self-righteous “holier-than-thou” believers will be wearing their spirituality on their sleeve for everyone to see. As earlier stated, they often harshly criticize other believers whom they do not believe are as spiritually mature as they are, and they harshly criticize other believers whom they do not believe have (or who are not using) the same kind of spiritual gifts they have and use. For example, if a believer does not speak in tongues or lay hands on the sick, then these spiritual snobs will conclude that these no tongues speakers and no miracle doers are not even born again, saved (justified) believers.
Then too, often a reverse spiritual snobbery takes place. That is to say, sometimes the spiritually immature believers will harshly criticize the spiritually mature believers for being too heavenly minded that they are no earthly good, and usually this harsh criticism is because the spiritually immature have not surrendered their lives to Christ Jesus’ Lordship so that the Holy Spirit could do His supernatural work within these believers. These spiritually immature believers also will harshly criticize the spiritually mature believers for being tongues-talkers and/or healing miracle workers, and usually this harsh criticism is because the spiritual immature believers have not accepted and/or do not operate in their own spiritual gifts.
The bottom line here is that even though the institutional “church” has intellectual, partial, and spiritual snobs in it, all of these intellectual, partial, and spiritual snobs won’t be truly born again and saved (justified) believers, nor will they all be spiritually mature believers. Furthermore, those intellectual, partial, and spiritual snobs who are born again and saved (justified) believers are without a doubt the ones who are chasing away people who want to come to Christ Jesus, and they are chasing away potential believers with their own false portrayal of how a totally surrendered follower of Christ Jesus behaves.
Finally, it is important to note that NO human being could possibly know EVERYTHING. More important, even though some intellectual churchgoers might know a great deal about Christianity and/or the Holy Bible, that knowledge won’t make a bit of difference with God, if this intellectual believer doesn’t live the way Christ Jesus lived. That is why all believers need to seek and obtain the spiritual knowledge of God, because by seeking and obtaining the specific “truths” that are contained in this spiritual knowledge all believers then will be able to understand and know how to use/apply this spiritual knowledge so that God can change/alter the course of their lives. Once again, this knowledge of God is needed so that they can be set free to live their lives like Christ Jesus lived, and He lived a supernaturally empowered, gifted, anointed, obedient, compassionate, forgiving, loving, giving, holy, and righteous life.
Now just as it is snobbish to think that academic knowledge is better than the spiritual knowledge of God, it also is equally snobbish to judge by appearances (to show partiality based on what someone is wearing, or driving, or living in, and so forth), because this kind of judging is a false and fallible standard. The point here is that partiality is inconsistent with Christian faith, and even Christ Jesus Himself contrasts the way the rich and the poor are treated in life (cf. Luke 14:7-14; Luke 16:19-31). This false and fallible standard is why all believers should avoid partiality based on economic distinctions (or any other human differences), and this false and fallible standard is why all believers need to learn how to judge others based on God’s standards, which Christ Jesus demonstrated during His life on Earth.
Lastly, it also is snobbish to judge people’s spiritual growth via a hypocritical religiosity—to judge others by false standards that only tend to cause the often self-righteous believers to look down their noses on any and every person who is not like them. For sure, these spiritually snobbish individuals are showing by their attitudes or by the manner in which they treat someone they despise that this loathed person has no worth or merit.
Without a doubt, this form of Christian snobbery does not have a place in the Household of Faith, nor in the Kingdom of God, because it is by God’s Grace, the power of His Holy Spirit, and the atoning sacrifice of Christ Jesus that EVERY believer receives a regenerated spirit and salvation. Furthermore, it is the Holy Spirit’s mighty ministry work that when allowed and cooperated with will change believers inside out. It is this manifested change that ultimately determines the level of spiritual growth in every believer, rather than mankind’s false standards.
The best that a more experienced and spiritually mature believer can do for spiritually immature believers who are not prepared to move far from the worldly attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors of so many of their family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors is to continue to feed them those biblically good, wholesome beliefs and principles/practices, which, just like milk, are good, nourishing, and necessary, until they are ready for a different diet–until they are ready for solid food. This is how apostle Paul handled the spiritual immaturity that he encountered (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:1-3).
The Divine Truth, then, is that no one who is not living a genuine Christian lifestyle will ever be able to receive the great abundance of God’s knowledge, wisdom, and understanding that He intends for every believer to receive. In other words, he or she will never be able to come to the full knowledge of God! Without coming to the full knowledge of God, no one will ever become spiritually mature. Without becoming spiritually mature, no one will be able to see the bigger picture (see, meaning understand, that there is a “dark or sinister picture” and a “bright or good picture” within this bigger picture, and this bigger picture is about a real God, a real Devil, a real Heaven, a real Hell, a real Lake of Fire, a real Savior, and a real Holy Spirit, as well as about the fact that there truly is godly good and satanic evil, and a testing that every person must experience. Consequently, without coming to the full knowledge of God, no one will ever be able to avoid becoming an intellectual snob, a partial (biased and/or prejudiced) snob, and/or a spiritual snob!