Sermon illustrations


In God’s Image

Pop psychology is wrong when it tells you to look inside yourself and find your value. The magazines are wrong when they suggest you are only as good as you are thin, muscular, pimple-free, or perfumed. The movies mislead you when they imply that your value increases as your stamina, intelligence, or net worth grows. Religious leaders lie when they urge you to grade your significance according to your church attendance, self-discipline, or spirituality. According to the Bible you are good simply because God made you in his image. Period. He cherishes you because you bear a resemblance to him. And you will only be satisfied when you engage in your role as an image bearer of God….

Max Lucado, Unshakable Hope, Thomas Nelson.

Our Moral Superiority

Researchers at the University of London concluded that “a substantial majority of individuals believe themselves to be morally superior to the average person” and that this illusion of ours is “uniquely strong and prevalent.” They write, “Most people strongly believe they are just, virtuous, and moral; yet regard the average person as distinctly less so.”

And among their study participants, “virtually all individuals irrationally inflated their moral qualities, and the absolute and relative magnitude of this irrationality was greater than that in the other domains of positive self-evaluation.”1 And we have a lot of self-delusions. Perhaps you’ve heard that 93 percent of us genuinely believe we’re above-average drivers.

Perhaps you’ve seen studies that show we also think we’re smarter than average. And we’re friendlier too. Plus we’re more ambitious than average. You might think with all of this awesomeness, we might have an ego problem, but good news: we also rate ourselves as more modest than others!

So, yes, we’re better at everything than everybody, but at least we’re humble about it. That’s not surprising because we’re us, and, you know, we’re cool like that. But what about people we assume simply must be less moral than us? Murderers, thieves, and the like—surely they’d have a more reasonable assessment, right?

Why, no, actually. The incarcerated population also thinks they’re more moral than everyone else. Prisoners find themselves to be kinder than the average person. And more generous. The professor who conducted the study of prisoners wrote, “The results showcase how potent the self-enhancement motive is. It is very important for people to consider themselves good, valued, and esteemed, no matter what objective circumstances might be.”

Brent Hansen, The Truth about Us: The Very Good News about How Very Bad We Are, Baker Publishing Group.

To Look White

Many minorities actually try to change their appearance to look more light-skinned or white. Eliza Noh, assistant professor of Asian American studies at California State University of Fullerton describes how her sister got plastic surgery to make her eyes and nose appear more European-looking because she thought her own appearance as a minority was “ugly.” There is a boom for plastic surgery in China and Korea, where some clinics perform as many as one hundred procedures a day to reshape eyelids, noses, and faces. Dr. Kim Byung-Gun says, “They always tell me they don’t like their faces…the Chinese and Korean patients tell me that they want to have faces like Americans. The idea of beauty is more westernized recently. That means the Asian people want to have a little less Asian, more westernized appearance. They don’t like big cheekbones or small eyes. They want to have big, bright eyes with slender, nice facial bones.

Adrian Pei, The Minority Experience: Navigating Emotional and Organizational Realities, Intervarsity Press.

Two Sketches

In 2013, the soap company Dove released a series of short films featuring women who were the subjects of an FBI-trained forensic artist. Without actually seeing the women, the artist would draw each woman based on how she described herself. Later, the artist would draw the same woman based on how a stranger described her.

The reveal was shocking. The sketches drawn from the stranger’s description were always more beautiful than the ones in which the women described themselves. The point: many women don’t realize how beautiful they are. The ad was an attempt to help women accept themselves and find greater contentment in their intrinsic beauty.

Donald Miller, Building a StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen.

See also Illustrations on Existence, HumanityIdentityInsecuritySelf-Awareness