Sitting on the white break room table across from me is my coworker’s lunch. It’s a masterpiece of arugula, sunflower seeds, bacon, chives, and some kind of homemade dressing. To my left, is my friend’s delicious looking lunch of salmon and sweet potato fries. I poke my daily pasta and Bolognese sauce halfheartedly and set to eating it. “I have to do a better job of packing my lunch in the morning,” I think to myself, “I can barely stand to eat at the same table that my coworkers do with their fancy lunches…”
Does anyone else beside me wish they could swap lunches with their coworkers? I know there must be some of y’all out there. Totally innocent right?
Well, not exactly. Unfortunately, a lot of us—myself included—compare ourselves a lot to our neighbor, whether it’s in our minds, or out loud to another friend. And too much comparing is way unhealthy both for ourselves and for our neighbor.
For example, do either of the following sound like you?
1) You look to the person next to you in church and say to yourself, “Hey! They are so much holier than me. I’ve gotta work on myself so much harder before I can be friends with them”.
2) Maybe you just say to yourself, “Wow, my neighbors really aren’t doing so well. I’m doing so much better than them… and it feels pretty good”.
If that’s the case, maybe now’s the time to bring up Philippians 2:12-17 NLT.
“Dear friends, you always followed my instructions when I was with you. And now that I am away, it is even more important. Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.” - Philippians 2:12-13 NLT
In other words, Paul was telling the Philippians, we need to do good because it’s what pleases God, not because it’s what our neighbors do and we have to best them at everything.
“Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people.” - Philippians 2:14-15 NLT
In this next part, Paul’s saying much of the same! Don’t be crooked. Stop comparing yourself to other people around you and start trying to be like Jesus, if you compare yourself to anyone at all. If you’re doing good deeds because you believe it makes you better than your neighbors, that’s, well, scubula!
Scubula, for those of you nerds who are interested (internet nerds unite!) is a word from Ancient Greek that means, for lack of a better way of saying it—really, really gross excrement. Poop. Scat. Grossness.
Why I am I bringing it up? Well, Paul used this word only once, which shows you how much Paul totally disliked saying this word and he used it to describe this activity of ‘acting better than your neighbors’. This pastime is, *drumroll please*, scubula. The S word. S for serious, and also S for, well…you know what it stands for. I just told you.
The point is, as hard as it is because we are humans and we like to have the same things our neighbors have, try not to compare yourselves. Do good because God wants you to, rather than “out-gooding” your friends, peers and coworkers.
How can you do good? Well, that seems like an easy question. If we go back to one of Paul’s quotes from the Philippians chapter we can see how, and why it’s easy to get caught up in doing good the “wrong” way, or at least the way God doesn’t want us to do good.
In Philippians 2:16-17 NLT, Paul says to the Philippians that they must -
“Hold firmly to the word of life; then, on the day of Christ’s return, I will be proud that I did not run the race in vain and that my work was not useless. But I will rejoice even if I lose my life, pouring it out like a liquid offering to God, just like your faithful service is an offering to God.”
So, according to Paul, we need to engage in faithful service and not the wrong way, which is what again? In a sentence, doing good because we want to compare ourselves to our neighbors. In a word? Say it with me now- scubula!
Kahla Vise is a native Mainer, and graduated with a BA from Bowdoin College. Currently she is a graduate student in Teaching English as a Second Language at American University. She loves animals, chocolate, and anything to do with the Ancient Romans. She also is looking forward to growing her relationship with God.
If you missed out on this week's sermon, check it out here.