31 March 2010

No place for pride

There are many 'sins' that we would rate as bang out of order, like adultery or theft or violence. But in the Bible, the sin of pride is no less appalling. The Bible repeatedly warns us how dangerous pride is. Consider Proverbs:

Pride and arrogance I hate. (8:13)

When pride comes, then comes disgrace. (11:2)

Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall. (16:18)

The Lord tears down the home of the proud. (15:25)

Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the Lord. (16:5)

So we should not be surprised when God humbles us through life's circumstances, if we have in any way begun to give the impression that we are in any way superior to others, or doing so much better than them.

One very distinguished Christian has recently written how grateful he's been for the humiliations he's had to endure in his old age. It has served to remind him how dependent he is on God. He says, 'Humiliation is the road to humility. Having plumbed the depths of utter helplessness it is impossible to climb the hill of self-confidence.'

In fact, any moments and feelings of pride inevitably mean we have moved away from the foot of the cross. It is there that we remember how 'wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked' we all are before the searching eyes of God. We remember we have no goodness of our own to boast about, but only the forgiveness of God, and the goodness of Jesus that God has clothed us with when we come empty-handed to him.

Here are some marks of genuine humility:

  • Saying 'Thank You' for all things. Gratitude is a soil in which pride does not easily grow.
  • Accepting criticism and correction. Hurt feelings are usually and indication of wounded pride – especially when we don't get our way!
  • Regular confession of sin to God. Acknowledging our sinfulness to God keeps us mindful of our dependence on him for mercy.
  • Readiness to listen to another's point of view rather than air our own.
  • Guarding time for prayer. The proud person doesn't feel the need for prayer. The humble person prays much.
  • Never feeling any task is beneath us, however menial. Jesus washed the disciples' feet!
  • Taking the gospel seriously, but not ourselves. We're infinitely ridiculous and we need to laugh at ourselves frequently, and be happy for others to laugh at our absurdities too.

God says he opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6). No place then for pride in our own lives or in the church. Let's pray for the message of the cross to inflict a fatal blow to our pride this Easter.

Simon Smallwood
Vicar St Georges