Do you remember The Jerry Springer Show? Did you watch it? (Be honest!)
It was both denounced as trash TV and celebrated as America’s “infamous guilty pleasure.” Springer took all of America’s most bizarre dysfunctional and deviant behavior and put it in front of daytime TV cameras.
There were kung-fu hillbillies, adults who lived like babies, revelations of every kind of disgusting infidelity, brawls between the Ku Klux Klan and the Jewish Defense League, surprise paternity tests (the poor children!), brutal betrayals, and embarrassing proposals. And millions of people eagerly watched it for twenty-seven years.
How could “the worst TV show of all time” be so successful? Why did people like watching Jerry Springer and other shows like it?
I think I know why.
Wasn’t it to feel better about yourself? Wasn’t it so you could think that, despite all your problems, at least you weren’t as messed up as those people? As you watched, didn’t you have the satisfaction of thinking, “Thank God that I’m not like them!”
In other words, Jerry Springer was so popular because it appealed to your inner Pharisee.
It appealed to that age-old belief that God grades on a curve. It encouraged the ever-popular assurance that while you may not be perfect, you’re certainly doing better than the pathetic people on the screen.
In other words, Jerry Springer gave the Pharisaical public targets to deride, despise, and dismiss.
But the truth is, in the grand scheme of things, if you compare your life to God’s Law, you would fail to measure up to it just as much as any of Springer’s guests.
And if you were to compare your image to the standard of Christ’s image—Who is pure light—you’d see the same darkness within you as you so clearly see in the brawling crowds on the show.
What’s the grace-based alternative to indulging your inner Pharisee?
“Do not judge, so that you won’t be judged” (Matt 7:1).
That is quite judging people. Don’t focus on them and their faults. Don’t think that you’re so much better than them. Sin is universal. It's lodged in your heart, too. The only way any of us can be saved is by God’s grace, apart from works. That's the one and only way of salvation because no one is doing well.
However, while you should not look down on people, Jesus didn’t mean you shouldn’t judge between right and wrong actions or between good and bad ways of living. Not at all. The very command “Do not judge” means you should choose one kind of life over another. As Proverbs says:
Keep off the path of the wicked;
don’t proceed on the way of evil ones.
Avoid it; don’t travel on it.
Turn away from it, and pass it by (Prov 4:14-15).
As a Christian, you should definitely recognize the bad paths and keep off them! Maybe one helpful thing about Springer’s show is that it documented how many destructive paths the wicked can follow! (That’s not a recommendation to watch the show!)
Thought for the day: Keep off the paths of the wicked, especially when there are cameras.
When I was down (even as a Christian- usually out of fellowship) I would watch it and YES I got a jolt of righteousness from it. The more in the Word and fellowship the inkling to partake in those is quite lessened to almost gone. Though I can at times be tempted to watch "Cops" another show which can make one glad you arent like "That guy". Fortunately (not at the time I can tell you) I grew up with addicts and mentally disturbed people and I know the end point of such behavior. I have even in early past participated. But yes this post is so true. I always think of the Pharisee and Samaritan sinner. But I also think of Saul later Paul and beyond being drunk or doing drugs or stealing or sexually immoral he was participating in the murder and persecution of Christians. So far it be for me to look down on another. Lastly when I got into my recovery program I interacted with Bikers for Jesus and they would tell me stories that would get the hair on the back of your neck stand up and yet Jesus in His great mercy saved them. Praise God He saves a sinner such as me.
Shawn, this was really good. As I was reading it, it made me think that even though I am guilty of exactly what you described, I can see where people might not conscientiously acknowledge that's what they were/are doing. It reminds me of a quote that JB Bond used to often reference, "If you are not consciously being transformed by the Word of God, you will unconsciously be conformed to the world." We must stay focused! Staying intentional defies the conventional.