Anytime you think less of someone because they’re not a member of your race, denomination, gender, or social group, you’re displaying an elitist attitude. Elitism is rooted in pride, and ‘God opposes the proud but shows favour to the humble’ (James 4:6 NIV). Here are two Bible examples of the elitist ‘they are not one of us’ attitude:
1) When God poured out His Spirit upon the seventy elders who led Israel, they all prophesied. Two of them were not present when it happened. Later, Joshua saw them prophesying and reported it to Moses. ‘“My lord, forbid them!” Then Moses said to him, “Are you zealous for my sake? Oh, that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put His Spirit upon them!”’ (Numbers 11:28-29 NKJV). Joshua believed that only a select group were qualified.
2) ‘John said to Jesus, “Teacher, we saw someone using your name to cast out demons, but we told him to stop because he wasn’t in our group.” “Don’t stop him!” Jesus said. “No one who performs a miracle in my name will soon be able to speak evil of me. Anyone who is not against us is for us”’ (Mark 9:38-40 NLT).
If you exclude others or feel superior to them in any aspect of life, read these words from Paul: ‘But whatever I am now, it is all because God poured out his special favour on me – and not without results. For I have worked harder than any of the other apostles; yet it was not I but God who was working through me by his grace.’
Have you ever looked down on someone because they didn’t share or possess the advantages that you enjoy in life? Do you feel superior to others in any aspect of your life? Do you believe that being part of a particular denomination puts you in a special class? Maybe your well-toned physique makes you feel superior to the overweight multitudes. And what if you are renowned in your community? Do you think you should always be escorted to front-row seats at public meetings? If so, it’s time to submit your attitude to the Holy Spirit.
But when it comes to elitism, there is another side to the coin. It’s possible to label a person or a group as elitist merely because they enjoy a particular advantage that you find intimidating and alienating due to your own self-doubt, or to try to improve your image in others’ eyes. Politicians do this. A candidate may accuse his opponent of elitism simply because of access to family wealth, or a diploma from a prominent university, or a high profile, or influential friends. As a result, that opponent accuses the other of reaching out to blue-collar workers and being disingenuous about how regular and down to earth they are.
In the final analysis, it’s not what you do but what you believe that establishes whether you have an elitist attitude. The truth is, it’s easy to spot pride in others and hard to see it in yourself. That’s why Peter writes, ‘Humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honour.’
Copyright © Bob and Debby Gass