Saturday, May 25, 2013
Sugar-coated pride and shocking humility
Pride: the quality of having an excessively high opinion of oneself or one's importance
Humility: having or showing a modest or low estimate of one's own importance
Those definitions sound pretty self-explanatory. We all can point fingers at people we're sure are proud, and can think of others we consider humble. But pride and humility in God's dictionary is not always what it appears to be in our human understanding.
The cornerstone of civilized society and good manners, is to behave graciously and considerately towards everyone. Be polite, don't be arrogant, selfish or egotistical. Be thoughtful of others. Mind your manners. But if our idea of not being proud is based on this, we ignore a huge load of prideful behavior that slips by unchecked.
Moses, according to the Bible, was the most humble man on the face of the earth. But what made Moses the most useful to God? His faith caused him to be bold, aggressive, even confrontational towards Pharaoh and even towards the people of God when they had turned their backs on God. He was tough and unmoving, and took control of what God had placed into his hands. Not the typical description that comes to mind of a humble person.
Prideful people can be very civilized and polite and extremely selfish at the same time.
Humble people can be selfless and giving, while being outspoken, unbending and even angry as well.
The superficial qualities we attribute to these attitudes can be very misleading. What we need to do is learn what God thinks of both pride and humility.
An example of pride could be: Someone has seen a big answer to their prayers. They see that not only has God given them the new job that they've been praying for, they've also learned a lesson about using their faith and trusting in God's promises, even when they hadn't seen any changes yet. God changed their employment problem, but also changed their view of Him and taught them the power of persistent faith. Great testimony, but when they have the opportunity to share it, an overwhelming feeling stops them. "Don't be such a show-off, you haven't even started working yet. If you tell everyone in church about how you've been struggling with doubts, they'll think of you as a weakling. Don't tell them, keep it to yourself. Be HUMBLE."
And so those in the church who are also struggling with the same problems of doubts and unanswered prayer, who could have been helped and greatly encouraged by that testimony, never hear it, because of ugly, selfish PRIDE. Pride disguised as humility.
Another example: Someone feels a heavy weight of depression overcoming them, and they are doing their best to fight it off through prayer and trying to focus on all that God has been teaching them. But day after day it seems to be getting worse. The thought comes to go for some prayer and counseling at church, but a stronger feeling takes over. "You've been in the church this long and you still can't get over depression? What's wrong with you? All you want to do is run to your pastor for counseling... you should know better, after all that Bible study you've been doing. Fix yourself for goodness sake!" And though that person has tried and tried to "fix themselves" to no avail, they still refuse to reach out for counsel, prayer and for a fresh perspective from their pastor to help them fight. They think they're "bothering" the pastor, and perhaps in some churches, pastors really don't want to listen to their church members' struggles... but not in mine!
So once again pride disguised as humility keeps someone captive to their demons for an interminably long time.
Then there's that misunderstood fruit of the spirit, humility: Someone has just given their life to God, and determined to live only for Him. But at work, the gossips and foul-mouthed jokers wants him to join in all their “fun.” He still loves and cares for them, but the ribbing and the joking become ugly as it’s turned against him. He could cave in. Or he could feel intimidated and hide from them. Or he could boldly and kindly let them know that he just isn’t into that stuff anymore. Immediately he’s branded as a snob, as “the church lady,” and much worse. He has to boldly go to work everyday, determined to be happy and blessed, no matter what anyone says. He has to smile, serve, give, and even defend his faith if the situation calls for it. He has to be fearless, courageous, thick-skinned. Humble.
One example of Jesus’ humility? When He kicked out the mourners from Jairus’ house so he could heal the little girl. Another one? When He called the Pharisees a brood of vipers and tombs full of dead man’s bones. Not once ounce of pride ever entered Jesus’ heart, yet He sure did make a lot of people angry with Him! Humility can be pretty hard-core, because it’s doing exactly what God requires, despite the opinions of anyone else around us.
Pride is refusing to do God’s will, and assuming that our own ideas are better than His. If He calls us to battle against evil and we shrink back , call it fear or cowardice, but at the root it’s pride. “I know what’s best God – I don’t trust You to tell me what to do.”
He calls us to let go of a problem and put an end to worry, and we refuse, the root of that is pride. “Of course I have to worry about this! I’m the only one who can fix it.”
He calls us to boldly take control of a situation and trust that He’ll guide us, but we make excuses why we can’t, we are acting in pride. “God, you have no idea what I’m going through, leave this to me…”
Sugar-coated pride and shockingly strong humility. Which one do you live in?