“Whenever there is trouble over who is the greatest, there is trouble over who is the least. That is the crux of the matter for us, isn’t it? Most of us know we will never be the greatest; just don’t let us be the least.” – Richard J. Foster in his book ‘Celebration of Discipline.’
Pride is a stealthy culprit. While we are typically loathe to embrace it in others, we often fail to see it operating in our own orbit. The Bible has plenty to say about pride. Matthew 20:20-28 illustrates it well when the mother of her disciple sons, James and John, asked Jesus to carve out a special space for her sons in His kingdom. Author Richard Foster describes such thinking as establishing a “pecking order.”
Two of our Missional Communities are grappling with similar topics in our study on Personal Transformation. Gospel writer Luke tackled the issue of pride and how it manifested itself among religious leaders:
Then Jesus told this story to some who had great confidence in their own righteousness and scorned everyone else: “Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a despised tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not a sinner like everyone else. For I don’t cheat, I don’t sin, and I don’t commit adultery. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.’ “But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’ I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” – Luke 18:9-14 (NLT)
I particularly like the New Living Translation because the Pharisee’s prayer uses the word sinner, where other versions use more generic phrases such as other men or other people: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not a sinner like everyone else.’ You can just hear the judgment dripping from his words, much like the colossal raindrops from a summer thunderstorm.
Before we condemn the Pharisee, though, let’s try an experiment of filling in the blank. ‘I thank you, God, that I am not a ___________ like ___________.
Can you hear this?:
I thank you, God, that I am not driving a beat up clunker like him.
I thank you, God, that I am not ravaging through trash cans like her.
I thank you, God, that my teeth aren’t rotted out like my neighbor.
I thank you, God, that I am not a mental case like my co-worker.
I thank you God, that I am not …
In a recent sermon series, Pastor Mark challenged us to live with boundless love, the type of love that loves equally. He calls it an expression that requires us to live beyond “love management.” Ridding ourselves of pride is a good first step toward that boundless love.
With prayer, practice and perseverance we can change this:
“I thank you, God, that I don’t have a pride issue like …”
“I thank you, God, that you love me enough to help rid my character of ___________.”
The blank belongs to you.
Transforming through Him,
P.S. It’s not too late to join up with one of our Missional Communities. Click here to learn more.
Photo credit/Ian Allenden