Despiteful

Romans 1:30 Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,


In graduate school, I studied computer science and one semester took analysis of algorithms, a challenging class. It was taught by a supercilious Spanish professor who treated her students with contempt and scorn. She was a fine academic, attending prestigious schools and publishing many academic papers, but she could not teach nor could she relate to people, including non students, for many of the department support staff found her intolerable.

When a teacher has this type of reputation, most of the students avoid her class. Sometimes this is not possible because the class is mandatory, but as a rule, the class is avoided at all costs, regardless of the interest in the topic. When I took the class, there were only three students, and two of them were PHD candidates who were required to take it — I was the only person dumb enough to enroll on my own volition.

To make a long story short, I had been both a good student and a poor student in college, but I had never been treated with such scorn and contempt. Remember, I was in graduate school. Most graduate students are highly motivated and want to be in school, and if that were not the case, they would be working in the private sector instead of studying. That said, she treated me so poorly that I dreaded going to class. As we went over very difficult mathematical proofs, she would make you look and feel small and worthless. At the end of the year, students are able to write evaluations for their professors. I remember part of what I wrote: “She treated me like a Prussian field marshall treats a conscripted second lieutenant — with complete disdain.”

Toward the end of the year, I had finally had enough. In one class, she started in on me again, and I stood up, gathered my books, and headed for the door. As I was leaving, she told me to sit down, and I responded that I had had enough of her bullshit, and I wasn’t going to sit there and take it anymore. This was difficult because I had straight A’s and wanted to finish my graduate career with a 4.0, but this act of defiance made that impossible. People can only be pushed so far, and I was prepared to fail the class, if need be.

The word despiteful in v. 30 is a translation of the Greek word hybristes, which is where we get the English word hubris. It literally means one who is so uplifted with pride that he either heaps insulting language on others or does them some shameful act of wrong. That describes my college professor — she was despiteful.

Paul used this same word to describe himself. 1 Timothy 1:12 And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry; 13 Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious [despiteful]: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. injurious is the same Greek word rendered despiteful — Paul treated people with contempt because, like my professor, he was arrogant. He was an extremely educated man — a doctor of the law –, and I don’t think it is a stretch to say that he was the equivalent of what we call a professor. And before his conversion, he treated the early Christians with contempt and scorn.

Most of us are not in the position of authority like Paul and my professor, but for those of us who are, how you treat people is important to God. The Bible says that God is “no respecter of persons.” That means, God doesn’t care if you are wealthy or poor; educated or uneducated; beautiful or plain; black or white; he views, treats, and judges everyone the same. We should do the same.

When I was a pastor, I never looked at how much money individuals were giving to the church. You cannot do that because when you start treating one person different than another based on their tithing, you have become a respecter of persons, which is offensive to God. In one church, our piano player quit because the worship team insisted that everyone practice during the week, but she would not. The church secretary said to me, “She’s the best tither in the church.” So be it. If people can’t practice with the worship team then they are not going to be up there on Sunday, good tither or not.

Prayer: Lord, let me not be a respecter of persons, and let me not be someone who makes others feel small.

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