Galatians 5:25-26. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
When we live from Christ’s indwelling life we are remembering that we are constantly full and constantly connected. So when Paul tells us to not become conceited, we can hear him telling us to not lose sight of Christ life in us, and the fullness it offers. In others words he is saying what he just said- keep in step with the Spirit.
To be conceited is to be paradoxically full of empty glory. How true it is that we are constantly seeking glory from things that can never really fill us up. Those things that fade too quickly like our beauty, physicality, or stuff. Or those things that can never quite give us enough glory like the job success, or our knowledge, or our behavior. These things all eventually come to and end in one way or another. Your glorious kids grow up. Your sweet spiritual growth hits a wall. Your cool friends move away. Your productive business struggles.
We are all made by God for glory. But we are made for the glory that can only come from something or someone larger than us. More glorious than us. And that of course is only God. Only God is bigger than humanity. So only God can satisfy the desire for glory that we all feel every day. When we try to fill our desire for glory with these things that fade, we will become conceited or “full of emptiness.”
Then what Paul teaches us next is extremely important: WE WILL TREAT OTHERS BASED ON HOW WE FEEL ABOUT OURSELVES. And so the progression in Galatians 5:26 looks like this:
Step 1: Failure to stay in step with the Spirit. That is, to receive the grace of Christ and his never ending love into my heart and mind moment by moment.
Step 2: Rather than filling up my need for glory (meaning, value, purpose) with Christ, I fill it up with things that fail me and leave me empty.
Step 3: I feel good at first about my attempts to find glory. So, I begin to provoke others. I believe that I am better than them. I feel superior. I lord it over people. “Look at me!”
Step 4: The things I sought glory from crash. So, I feel terrible again and begin to envy others. I feel inferior. I don’t matter. “Don’t look at me!”
“To live is Christ” prevents this progression of emptiness. Christ in me means I am always full, always satisfied. Not by my own self esteem, or self worth. The truth is we feel like we are worthless because we are. That is, apart from Christ. Without him we can do nothing. This is why we must embrace our new reality in the Spirit, by whom we are never worthless. The Spirit displays his glory through our worthlessness. Our emptiness reveals his fullness. Our weakness demonstrates his strength.
Do you feel empty of glory? Are you a provoker? Do you envy others? How does the gospel prove that you are full and not empty?