Saturday, June 21, 2008

Lenton Meditation: Pride & Humility

Think with me for a few moments about pride and humility. Mac Davis wrote a song that goes like this:

Lord it’s hard to be humble
when you’re perfect in every way
I can’t wait to look in the mirror
cause I get better lookin’ each day.

Folks, that’s pride.

I’m not talking about taking pride in your work, or being proud to be an American. I’m talking about pride as an arrogance that causes us to believe that we’re better than everybody else

+ A pride that leads us to be self-centered, “stuck up”, conceited,
+ A pride that causes us to think we are the center of the universe.
+ A pride that is the exact opposite of humility.
This kind of pride is the worst sin a human can commit because we come to believe that we no longer need God in our lives. We can handle everything ourselves.


Jesus was such an amazing person. When he was baptized he heard the voice of God declaring him to be God’s beloved son. Immediately after that he was tempted by choices we would find impossible to ignore. Just imagine how these situations would look to us today:

+ in the middle of tremendous hunger pains, you are told you can have all the food you want just for the taking.
+ or suppose you are deep in debt and you are offered all the wealth and power of this world, just reach for it.
+ or suppose your life drags through dull routines or blue depressions. You can have a life as exciting as an amusement park roller coaster. Just get on board.
Food, power, money, fame and excitement. And no one would need to know you made a bargain with Satan.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

How could Jesus keep his bearings? How could he remain in the right relationship with God in the face of these temptations? How could he maintain the balance between good self-esteem and humility? Let us look for clues in the Scripture, as found in Philippians 2.

5. Let the same mind be in you
that was in Christ Jesus,
6. who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
7. but emptied himself,
And being found in human form,
8. he humbled himself
and became obedient
to the point of death--
even death on a cross.

Jesus humbled himself and became obedient to his Father. Let us have the same mind in us that was in Christ Jesus.

Humility comes from placing ourselves squarely in the middle of God’s will. And we maintain our relationship with God by being obedient to that will.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gives us the secret for avoiding sinful pride and finding life-giving humility. He speaks of three religious practices which can be either destructive or constructive of our relationship to God. He speaks of charitable giving, praying and fasting (or acts of piety).

He criticized those persons

+ who gave great amounts of money so others would think highly of them.
+ who prayed out in front of others so they would appear righteous.
+ who would fast and tell others so their “holiness” might be seen.

But aren’t we supposed to tithe and pray and do acts of piety? Well, sure we are, but the motive in our heart determines whether the act is good or evil.

To all these practices, giving money, praying, and other holy acts, Jesus tells us one thing is important: do them in secret. In secret, and your reward will come from your heavenly Father.

This Lenten season, I would ask you to consider pursuing acts of piety in secret. If you decide to give charity to a needy person, do so in secret. If you choose to abstain from some food or some activity, do so in secret. If you decide not to pray out in public, do it in your closet, in secret. And you will be blessed.

But beware of taking pride in your humble acts. Self-blessing is a first cousin to self-righteousness, which is the child of pride.