19 Apr Best Dressed
“If others have reason for confidence in their own efforts, I have even more! … but now I consider [my efforts] worthless because of what Christ has done.” Philippians 3:4,7
Not long ago, my community group organized a murder mystery party to celebrate our leader’s birthday. The theme of the party was “Murder of a Millionaire,” so most of the characters were supposed to come in elegant garb.
Now, I don’t consider myself a girly-girl, but I love dressing up. Any excuse or occasion will do. As an incentive, there would be a prize awarded at the end of the event for best dressed (a prize aptly named “Dressed to Kill”). I was determined to win that prize. For weeks, I told everyone in my group that I was out to get it. I bought some new shoes; I pulled out a semi-formal dress that I’d never expected to have any reason to wear; I spent a good hour on my hair and makeup (and anyone who knows me could tell you that that is atypical).
I arrived dressed to the nines and feeling confident in my efforts. I looked over my competition. Some others looked sharp or had costumes that certainly suited their roles, but I wasn’t alarmed. The prize, I thought, was as good as mine.
Then, she arrived. Playing the sister of the dead millionaire, my rival-in-accoutrements wore a black floor-length dress, a caramel-colored fur shoulder wrap, pearls upon pearls, and golden gloves that went halfway up both arms. Her makeup was subtle but expertly applied, and her blonde hair was arranged beautifully atop her head. The final touch was a long, black cigarette holder, which she carried with stately grace, a.k.a. Audrey Hepburn. And all of this only served to accent the regality of her natural height.
Needless to say, she won the “Dressed to Kill” award. Not only that, but she won two of the other three awards, “Drama Queen” (best actor) and “Richie Rich” (most money acquired). I cast my vote for her with all the deference she was due. Suddenly, my outfit felt uninspired, my efforts inadequate, and my former confidence embarrassing.
“Suddenly, my outfit felt uninspired, my efforts inadequate, and my former confidence embarrassing.”
My cockiness in this situation is comical, perhaps, but the underlying arrogance is nothing to laugh about. Growing up, I, like Paul in Philippians 3, have had many reasons to rely on my own righteousness and efforts. I was born to parents who were devoted followers of Christ. I received salvation and was baptized around age six. My parents were always active leaders in our church, and our family attended every Sunday morning and Wednesday night. I grew up with VeggieTales, His Radio, and audio cassettes that taught me how to recite all the books of the Bible in order. I participated in Bible drills, VBS, Good News Club, youth group, and local mission trips. I sang with the worship team. I tithed from the first time I started making money. In school, I was known as the “Christian girl” who prayed before meals, wore Jesus t-shirts, and asked her peers if they would kindly refrain from using vulgar language around her.
I.e., if Paul was “a Hebrew of Hebrews,” then I was a Christian of Christians.
It was easy to run on this prideful train of thought when I was in the habit of comparing myself to others. But God, who is so merciful and patient, has used His Holy Spirit and His Word and His Church to teach me (and re-teach me) that the only way to see my works as the dirty rags that they are is by comparing them to Christ’s.
“It was easy to run on this prideful train of thought when I was in the habit of comparing myself to others.”
Christ is not a savior among saviors; He is the Savior. He is not a king among kings; He is the King. He is a category all His own, and next to His life, my own is as shabby as my outfit was next to Best Dressed. Christ’s Father is Almighty God. He never needed salvation, and His baptism was attended by the Holy Spirit and the voice of the Father. He didn’t attend church, He established it. He didn’t memorize Scripture for memorization’s sake but used it to rebuke the devil and spread the Truth. He didn’t give ten percent of His earnings to God but instead gave up His entire body. He didn’t separate Himself from sinners but lovingly let them into His presence and urged them to repent and died for them.
There’s no competition: nothing good that I do will ever come close to Christ’s perfection. If I stop trying so hard to be enough on my own terms, Christ offers me His righteousness. Not only to me, but to all who believe in Him. The image is no longer a bunch of people in a room who are competing for an award. We are all given the award that Christ earned, so we can stop comparing ourselves to each other and love each other as brothers and sisters who are all equally in need of salvation.
“So, remove your dark deeds [including your self-righteousness] like dirty clothes … Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 13:12b,14a
Sarah LaCourse has minimal talent in a few areas—writing, art, singing, DIYing— and exceptional talent in one area: thrifting. She loves having been raised in Greenville with her incredible family and wonderful friends and hopes to live here for a long time. She is the Student Ministry Administrator at our Pelham campus.