A biblical undressing of pride
As we say hello this next week to the month of July (can you believe it? Half way through 2022 already!) We have to say “goodbye” to the month of June. Unless you live under a rock, don’t read the newspaper, don’t watch TV or go online, you’ll probably know that the month of June had been politically and socially set aside to celebrate one particular 5 letter word: pride. This, the last Sunday of June, I wanted to look at what scripture has to say about this five letter word and its antonym: humility.
I don’t approach this topic lightly and I understand that even talking about this topic sets people on edge. To have an opinion that goes against current social standards and practices, an opinion that is based on scripture, well…that will get you in deep water publicly. Regardless of any of that, I want anyone listening or perhaps later reading this on the blog page to know the truth behind Humility and Pride and the Love of Jesus that pursues us all. Let’s look at Luke 14.
Dinner Party with Jesus
Prior to our key section, verse 7-11, the bible says Jesus was eating with some important people. He knew he was being watched to see if he’d do something wrong – something they could call him out on. At the home of the prominent religious person, he healed someone right then and there. He did so on a Sabbath. As he explains the subtleties of doing good even on a day of rest, He stops and looks around the table. Verse 7…
Main Scripture: Luke 14:7-11
7 When he noticed how the guests picked the places of honor at the table, he told them this parable: 8 “When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. 9 If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. 10 But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all the other guests. 11 For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”Luke 14:7-11 NIV
A Worldly View
This concept of humility and pride are woven throughout scripture. In many cases, the secular world might describe it as “Karma” or “What goes around comes around.” This is their way of making a practical observation of humility and pride into a superstition around which some people based their lives.
Don’t believe me? There is more evidence of this in the book of Proverbs.
2 When pride comes, then comes disgrace,
but with humility comes wisdom.Proverbs 11:2 NIV
23 Pride brings a person low,
but the lowly in spirit gain honor. 29:23Proverbs 29:23 NIV
As pride seems to be celebrated in society, I think we’ve lost its true meaning. Pride is not meant to be sought. In fact, seeking and desiring it more often than not tends to lead to an undesirable ending. When approaching this topic, I’m sure many people posted on their social media accounts this little chestnut of wisdom.
18 Pride goes before destruction,
a haughty spirit before a fall.Proverbs 16:18 NIV
When you hear me quote scripture or read someone else post it on social media…perhaps you think to yourself, “Bible-Schmible. I don’t recognize it as authoritative in my life.” Let’s look in the dictionary once again for some common understanding of pride and humility.
The very first definition we find about the word humble is it being used as an adjective: “not proud or arrogant; modest:”
The very next definition we read and I think we all cringe, if we’re honest. It’s the definition we wouldn’t pick. “having a feeling of insignificance, inferiority, subservience, etc.:” The example the dictionary gives is the following:
In the presence of so many world-famous writers I felt very humble.
No one likes to feel insignificant, inferior or subservient. The trouble is that if we don’t pursue the path of humility, if we gravitate toward pride, scripture is very clear …humility will come for us. We will be humbled.
You want to know something I find very humbling? That God would entrust me with this responsibility, week in and week out to share the good news of the gospel, the blessing I have to pastor a people such as you, to lead a home with Jacki and parent two wonderful kids. All those things are great, but with the wrong attitude and mindset, any of those could turn into an opportunity for Pride.
- I hear someone else struggling with rebellious children, I congratulate myself that my family is not like them. We do such a good job!
- I hear of a famous person’s marriage falling apart, I judge them for rushing into it, divorcing their previous spouse. I look at my own marriage and see us standing strong.
- Here’s real low hanging fruit. Preventable illnesses and diseases. I don’t have to illustrate very much for you to understand that proud people think, “You got what you deserved. I’m proud that I’m not like you!” We’d probably never say that out loud, unless we have an impulse control problem or don’t understand social cues.
At every step of the way, and by the examples in scripture – Pride comes through comparison and perceived superiority.
I compare myself to that other person’s situation and I always come out better. I pat myself on the back for something I accomplished. Something I am. And I’m proud. I have a haughty spirit. An Attitude of superiority. That is what pride is all about. But pride only leads to forced humility.
In the “Sermon on the Mount,” Jesus didn’t say: Blessed are the proud, for they will rule over everything. All their desires and wishes will become law of the land. That the proud will get to be in charge.
Nope. Matt 5:5
“Blessed are the meek, (some translation…humble)
for they will inherit the earth.”
Those sound like really good attributes, don’t they? People need to be more humane– more meek. More humble. People need to be forgiving, kind. Humble.
[When we think about it that way, what’s so attractive about pride? That’s a question I hope you leave here today pondering about.]
So we have looked at the bible’s undressing of the topic of pride. Pride, in its various forms are mocked and condemned by the scripture and likewise mocked and condemned the logical conclusion of secular wisdom “What goes around comes around…” “you’ll get what’s coming to you in the end…” “Karma is a…” Well an uncomfortable situation to say the least.
That’s the push and pull of Humility and Pride. And our society is not just tolerating pride, they are celebrating it. I’m sure it doesn’t surprise you to find out that the bible takes this stand on Pride. But Christians, the challenge we have here as part of this congregation is to introduce people to their fresh start in Jesus Christ. How are we expected to do that? Prideful nature seems to be in direct opposition to seeking guidance and wisdom from God and His word…
The Love of Jesus
Have you ever talked with someone who says something like, “Doesn’t the bible say somewhere, judge not lest you be judged?” or “God helps those who help themselves…” or “I just don’t think God would want me to be unhappy or uncomfortable.” Most if not all who feel the need to justify their lifestyles and pride in them based on these types of phrases have probably not read the bible, had anyone who loved them enough to walk them through the bible, or had a genuine Christian be open and loving to them.
Do you know what this is?
It’s an older piece of technology known as a phone book. It’s old, but it still works. The information is all there. It gets updated, published and distributed annually and people can look for someone’s last name and find the phone number listing and perhaps an address of someone they know. Someone they wanted to talk to. The info is there.
Romans 10:9-15 is in 2 parts. The first part is the info all people need to hear and the second is the recognition that sharing this is challenging and difficult.
Here is the INFO:
9If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. 11As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” e 12For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” fRomans 10:9-13 NIV
Why would a lost person ever pick up the book of Romans?
That’s the gospel message. “Bible-Schmyble”
But the author of Romans doesn’t stop with just the good news. He also questions how in the world do we get it in the hands and heads and hearts of unbelievers?
14How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”Romans 10:14-15 NIV
What practically can we do to give this message? Do we, in our pride, act like religious know-it-alls? No. We humbly do three things. Through doing these things, we say this message: “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
- Pray for them
- Keep your prayer life focused on the lost in your life.
- Be there for them – personal issues (perhaps of their own making due to sin),
- still giving care and a listening ear.
- Be willing to guide them, as they respond to the spirit.
This is a story of a girl and for the purpose of sharing this story, I’ll call her “Chelsea.” Chelsea and I went to high school together. We weren’t close, but we had some of the same friends and were in some of the same activities. She was off and on, dating a girl at our school. I can’t remember when, but at a certain point, God laid it on my heart to pray for Chelsea. Surprisingly, the prayer I prayed for her had nothing to do with her sexual orientation. The prayer, more or less, was that God would get ahold of her life and heart. That she would know how much God loved her.
There was one evening that several of us were at an after school practice. I saw her just sitting in the hallway, sobbing. I couldn’t lend any expertise. I didn’t know what to do and I didn’t personally know how I felt about what she was going through. It seemed like it could have been tied to trouble with this other girl, but I never found out. What I did was ask if she needed to talk or if I could help.
She politely said no and we went about our evening. But I still had no peace about Chelsea. If they had broken up or something…that still doesn’t address the most important issue. Chelsea’s heart. Whether she was right with God.
So God continued to keep Chelsea there in my heart and mind. Continuing to pray for her. I had been invited to a small get-together at her parent’s house. The street name and location got into my long term memory. God told me to pray for her and every time I drove by the street her parent’s house was on, I would “say a little prayer for her.” I did this quite a bit while delivering pizzas in that town!
Years passed and I still never reached out to her, to let her know I was praying. But I continued to pray every time the spirit reminded and guided me to do so. I came back after a couple years of college to find out she ended up going to a Christian college and married a guy from high school. Interestingly enough, they were both working at a Christian coffee shop, there in Chelsea’ hometown.
I still think of her and her now family of 5. I think back to how I thought I was inadequate. “How am I supposed to relate to someone going through…what she was going through?” But God didn’t ask me to relate… God just wanted me to be available and faithful.
- Faithful in prayer and in it for the long haul
- Available to listen, even when I can’t relate
- Available to guide, when opportunity is given.
Can you do that, church? How do we introduce people to their fresh start in Jesus Christ? We pray for them. Be there for them. Guide them.
Let’s stay humble as we do. Mother’s Teresa’s most famous quote: