Some thoughts on Jeremiah 9:23,24…
Some people think they are very “rich” in ways we might not consider in the basic, in your face literal sense of this passage. Certainly this passage can be taken into consideration literally. But its meanings come into play on other deeper levels as well.
What if – without any examining ourselves by the Holy Spirit’s light, hand in hand with the revealed word of God – we pridefully consider ourselves “wise” in our own eyes when it comes to spiritual wisdom? What if we look upon ourselves as “mighty men” in terms of glorying in our spiritual knowledge? Or what if we consider ourselves “rich” in terms of spiritual understanding? Doesn’t this make us better than the next person? Might we want then to look down at others from a competitive and perhaps even combative perspective, as objects of conquest – because we consider their perspectives as less knowledgeable? So then we have the right to beat them up conversationally or pry them open to force out an answer we are looking for – just for the sake of doing that? Right?
Is it possible that God may have a word, such as is spoken through Jeremiah here, that utterly lays waste to such draconian spiritual ego, such pride in self, all the while helping us realize that we’ve essentially missed the boat when it comes to what God desires in terms of relating with Him?
This kind of self inflation utterly undermines knowing God! Yet those who practice it consider themselves to be the intimates of God. This is the very worst self deception.
What is God saying here, to the spiritually wise in their own eyes, the “mighty men” who approach people with a hidden agenda of “besting” them (a word we do not often hear these days, which means to outwit or get the better of someone, which can be a form of bullying)? What is He saying to the one who perceives himself rich in terms of his own yardstick of spiritual accomplishment or knowledge?
The LORD says that there is no real glorying in these things! They emerge from self, from spiritual pride, from a contentiousness and competitive spirit that may, if unchecked, merge into spiritual bullying! It is spiritual self deception.
Here’s a very common example:
A big issue I see with all these “conversations” in social media (especially religious groups or pages), is that individuals have absolutely no clue who “the other person” is when addressing a complete stranger. All the normal social niceties and steps in “getting to know you” – such as introducing someone who walks into a room at a social gathering to which they have been invited – have been suspended. There are no boundaries, no basic understandings, often little respect shown. In “normal” life, it’s likely that our paths would never cross, which would probably be a good thing. But on the Internet, the game is on, and there are few if any rules of “social gatherings”.
Additionally there is also not the benefit of body language, tone of voice, or the “instinctual” sense of another person. (Although this can be tuned into through phrasing of sentences, excessive punctuation, and the like.) The “tone” can and often does come across, and in many cases these conversations become the haunt of those looking to challenge others to inflate their own ego – under the guise of “common interest”. These are the self perceived spiritually wise, mighty, and rich.
To borrow an old phrase from the hippie generation, participation in these groups and pages opens you up to a lot of “bad vibes”. I think that’s a valid idea. One that needs to be revisited. Then a great many of these cyber spaces need to be vacated, for lack of spiritual sensitivity and just plain old fashioned civility.
Boundaries seem to be the issue – whether global, national, or personal. I think they need to be a lot stronger in all cases. The question is, why are we being talked out of this solidly sound idea (strong boundaries!) in subtle ways? But I digress a bit, although that digression relates to what we’re addressing here – that if we were engaging in honest spiritual self assessment, we would come before God and lay down our wisdom, might, and riches – exchanging them for knowing and understanding Him, not concepts about Him!
Our Lord is not looking for people who are wise, mighty, and rich in their own eyes whose aim is always to want to be “right”! He can only work with the humble, with those who seek to know and understand Him, especially as they seek to know and understand others. He does not need “defenders” who perceive an enemy in anyone who does not see some dogma or phrase or word as they do. He seeks people willing to put on the Mind of Christ – the mind of humility and surrender to Him.
This spiritual pride was something Jesus was always addressing with the religious leaders of His day. The same nit picking has been the hobby horse that has divided the church for hundreds of years!
His way of addressing this matter? “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life. “I do not receive glory from men; but I know you, that you do not have the love of God in yourselves.”
(John 5:39-42. Read this whole section for deeper understanding.)