I just couldn’t do it. It was painful not to, but I couldn’t do it.
The other day I hit my app to find the cheapest gas. There were warnings that prices were going up. So I did what every good hearted, red blooded Canadian would do: find the cheapest of the cheapest gas. However, I already knew what the top result was going to be. But I found pleasure in pressing that digital “Find Gas Near Me” button anyway.
I am a member of a not-to-be-named “wholesale” warehouse retail outlet store. It fills one with awe and wonder the moment you flash your membership card. Fellow members will know exactly what I mean when I say that if you go in hungry at the right time, you walk out full; for free.
This not-to-be-named retail outlet store recently opened up a gas bar. I remember the moment I discovered it’s existence in my city. What a wonderful day. Ever since, I cannot remember a day when this gas bar did not have the cheapest gas in the city. And this day was no different.
I passed a competitor gas station who was brazen enough to charge a full $0.006 more per litre. The injustice! I passed that station feeling that it was just not good enough. Even though it was probably the lowest gas price this year, I wanted the cheapest. As I approached the not-to-be-named gas bar, I was blown away by the line up of cars. Apparenty, I wasn’t the only one who was enticed by the price. As much as it pained me, I could not wait in that line for 6/10 of a cent savings. So, I sheepishly drove back to the other station. To add insult, I pulled up on the wrong side of the pump. I hate doing that.
I have bought fuel at the gas bar before. One recent time, as I stood there with my sunglasses on, pumping my cheap gas, with the “members only” sticker just within my vision, I noticed something. All of us at the pump kind of looked the same. We looked a little… smug.
It could have just been me; if so I can accept that. In the wholesale store everyone is the same, everyone members, no big deal. You can’t get in unless you flash your card. But outside is where we get to show off. As the commoners pass close by, you can’t help feel a little highbrow pumping the cheap gas.
In actuality, there is nothing to be smug about. Anyone can get a membership card these days. It requires basically nothing of us to enjoy the benefits. Entitlement is so subtle.
I fear this creeps into Church thinking. As I stood there at the gas pump, the comparison was swift and sharp. Is it possible that we carry an air of smugness outside the church walls? We must be open to this possibility. Jesus once told a parable about a man who was confident in his own righteousness,
The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: `I thank you, God, that I am not a sinner like everyone else. For I don’t cheat, I don’t sin, and I don’t commit adultery. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! (Luke 18:11 NLT)
I have noticed this same smugness in my own life creep up at times. I’ve had the priveledge of working with some really great people in the secular workplace. When it comes to commitment and compassion in their lives, they put me to shame whether people of faith or not.
I often take credit for the benefits of Eternal membership that I did absolutely nothing for. Well, except ironically at first for coming to the same conclusion of the second man in Jesus parable,
`O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.‘ (Luke 18:13 NLT)
So I am left with the difficult question, “Which of the two men am I most like today?”. Once I realize that the parable is not a comparison of the two men, but rather a comparison of each man to God, it keeps me from becoming too smug.