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  • Writer's pictureMaria Whittaker

The Pride of Lifestyle

Someone just uploaded an Instagram post that makes me really jealous. Either the chick looks super pretty or her clothes are really on point or she's on vacation or she's buying a new house or she's showcasing a recent success. It doesn't really matter what it is. It produces a twinge of envy in my heart and then I start comparing. How am I doing in comparison? How's my life going?

And I know I'm not the only one that feels that way. If I was, I might feel a little too vulnerable to talk about it openly. However, I know for a fact that many people deal with this experience and as the body of Christ, we need some truth to help us navigate it in a way that is pleasing to God.

Today I want to talk about something that I feel Instagram can inflate but doesn't cause--a specific sin called the "pride of life."

Though logging on and skimming through your feed can cause a lot of conscious or unconscious comparison, I truly believe that Instagram is a neutral photo-sharing and socializing platform that acts like a mirror into what is in our own hearts. And from what Instagram has shown me of my heart, I'm surprised and a little taken aback.

Before talking about that, I'm going to take a step back and clarify something. Here's the thing I'm starting to realize more and more as time passes, something the Bible has been saying all along. Jeremiah 17:9 lets us know that " The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?"

You can be doing or saying something thinking you understand your motivation but the Bible illuminates the fact that you most likely don't. It's really difficult to fully understand our own decision-making and, while as redeemed children of God we are being purified, we still know that our sin nature is with us until death. It is deceitful and beyond all cure.

But we're not just stuck with it. The beautiful thing God has done for us is give us His Word which can help us untangle our thoughts and motivations and sometimes just plain shed light on some things going on in our hearts that we thought were perfectly innocent and yet are not.

So let's analyze that feeling of envy and the subsequent comparison that happens. From what I've noticed, I can start comparing a very specific area, such as clothing, but it invariably zooms out to my considering and comparing my life as a whole. And I think most people do that. I don't think that's an inaccurate statement to make because I believe this phenomenon is really what made "lifestyle" blogging a thing and why inevitably I start comparing my "lifestyle" with someone else's. How is my life in comparison to hers? Is it as fun? Do I go on as many trips? Am I as happy as she seems in her smiley photos? Am I investing enough in my looks? I always feel a little shabby in comparison to her...How does she do it all? I feel like if I focus on making on area of my life better, I fail in another. Am I doing something wrong?

This is an age-old trap that once again the Bible warns us about.

John 2:16 warns us "For everything in the world--the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life--comes not from the Father but from the world." Instagram, with its immodest photos (the lust of the flesh), it's aesthetic materialism (the lust of the eyes), and its lifestyle blogging (the pride of life) hasn't been around forever. But these Bible-proclaimed sins have been and they were there before Instagram and will be there after. The sad realization I've had is that these sins that I became aware of through my reaction to Instagram posts have been in my heart since I was born. Instagram and social media sites in general gave just sharply illuminated what is in my heart and the heart of the people around me.

I want to focus in on what "the pride of life" really means. The essence of sin is replacing God with something else, specifically with ourselves.

The core of our sinful drive is self-glorification rather than glorifying God and if you think it's not, you're flying in the face of Scripture.

Sure, as children of God our deepest desire is to please God, as long as we are living in the Spirit. But our sinful nature is still there so believe it or not, you and I also desire to glorify ourselves. And that means absorbing everything in our experience and feeding it into our narrative of who we are, how successful and valuable we are, how good or bad a hand life has dealt us. We are out to prove ourselves to be and deserve the best, and react in envy or bitterness when others get it better.

I hope none of this comes across from a judgemental place because I am speaking about everyone, including myself, and I'm only saying what the Bible has made very clear to anyone that reads it closely. Romans 3:10b-12 says very clearly "There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one."

Of course, as children of God, our moments of self-glorification are a blip on the bigger picture of our trying to please and glorify God. We are on a mission to step out of that sinful flesh and to step out of that desire to gain people's admiration, to create the best lifestyle we can so that others can look at us and praise us or value us. And the Spirit calls us to actively fight against it. The thing is, we have to start by identifying it in ourselves and confessing the problem.

Here are three things I found very helpful in dealing with this:

Firstly, experiencing a feeling of envy or anxiety when I observe success in another person is a warning flag of self-glorification. It evidences that I am not living out my mission to please God but rather focusing on self-glorification. How do I know this? Here's the thing. If my deepest desire would be to please God, fellow believers experiencing successes would bring me joy. If God can glorify Himself through me, how much more can He glorify Himself through all His other children of God? My attitude should not be to minimize others' successes and highlight my own. My attitude should be "the more the merrier!" The more stars brightly shining for Christ, the more joy in my heart because my ultimate desire, God's glory, is being satisfied. This calls for a heart check, for prayers of confession, repentance and realignment.

Second, experiencing a feeling of envy or anxiety when I observe success in another person could signal that I view God inaccurately. A lot of us function from a wrong understanding of God's abundance. We have a scarcity mindset, thinking that there's one pie and if someone has a huge piece, that means less for me. But the truth is that we have an infinite God. There's no one pie. He has an infinity of resources and one person getting a huge piece doesn't in any way affect how much God is willing or able to give to me. We need to replace our mindset of scarcity with one of abundance.

Third, experiencing a feeling of envy or anxiety when I observe success in another person means I'm comparing. Here's the thing about comparing. It means you don't you don't understand how deeply, fervently, passionately you are loved. God prizes you and He has watched over your conception, your knitting together in the womb, your first heartbeat, your first breath. He has watched you experience life as a child and be transformed. He has watched the hurts and He has done the healing. You are at any given moment in His thoughts. He is constantly driving at doing you good and He has sacrificed everything--His very life as well as your own good opinion of Him when He allows pain--to ensure that you can escape the devastating power of sin and threat of eternal separation from Him. And not only that, but to ensure that you not only make it out alive but flourish.

Rich, beautiful, satisfied, whole, healthy, complete, loved and prized. Always with Him because He is your home. If you are comparing, you don't understand all that. You don't understand that you are on a unique journey on a personalized, individualized program with the One Who has complete control. And will finish what He started. And is willing to withhold some things from you now to SAVE YOUR SOUL and then lavish everything on you for all eternity.

I hope this serves as an encouragement to the beloved people of God. 1. Stop seeking a "lifestyle" others will glorify you for. Seek God and His glorfication for as John Piper (and the Westminster Chatechism) says "The chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever." 2. Get to know your God. He is an infinite God of infinite abundance. Live out of a mindset of abundance, not scarcity. 3. Stop comparing. Start walking your unique journey. And if you don't believe that you are viewed in that way, that that is how God feels about each and every child, boy, are there good things ahead for you. He will convince you. And your heart will break with love and gratefulness and joy.

Carpe Diem, friends!

Fondly, Mars.

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