Monday, April 21, 2014

The Pride of Life

I read a disturbing and convicting article aimed at leaders recently.  It suggested that sometimes christian workers, especially missionaries suffer from the "pride of life."  In other words they may take more than a little pride in what they've suffered, what they've given up, what they've done and who they've become.  

Tissot The Pharisee and the publican BrooklynIt reminded me immediately of the Pharisee we talked about in last week's post.  As he stood before God, he told the truth.  He hadn't extorted money, bribed any official or cheated on his wife.  He took a sidelong look at that poor (and obviously) sinful tax collector and was glad not to be him.  He was literally proud of his life.  So what's the problem?

We didn't want him to be ashamed of all those good things, did we?  No, no more than we neglect to honor those who put everything on the line to follow God.  Yet, there's obviously more to the story.

I am wondering what was behind that self-justifying prayer. Jesus had referred to the Pharisees as blind before (John 9:39-41).  But what sin in his own life was that Pharisee blind to?  Was he neglectful of the wife he was proud of being faithful to?  Was he cruel to those whose sin was no more serious only more obvious?  Surely he wasn't altogether unaware that he too had offended God? Could that be why he displays no gratitude for his own forgiven sins?

That phrase, "the pride of life" that so aptly applies to the Pharisee may apply to us too.  In fact it catches women coming and going.  When we use the word "proud" we often mean "someone or something is awesome."  As in, "I'm proud of my daughter." That's a positive meaning, but how big a stretch is it to move from there to "I did a great job raising that kid.  Look how awesome she is!"? Tiny. We pour work into discipline, education, good manners, and good character into our kids, shouldn't we get some credit?

And yet.

Are we in our heart saying "Thank you God that I'm not a neglectful mom.  I homeschool/care about my kids education.  I take them to Sunday School, recite memory verses with them, and be sure they are on top of Bible Bowl every year.  Thank you God that I'm not like that mom I know with the bunch of brats."  Surely not?

I feel confident that my judgmental self has edged over that line more than once.

But maybe you're not a mom, or at least that's not an area of temptation to you.  So how else could pride rear its ugly head?  What about our houses (decoration for an example), our hobbies (scrapbooking and blogging jump to mind), or our husbands (best provider or best dad)?

Pride is a fearful sin.  It is insidious.  We are often deeply entrenched in it before we begin to realize that we are suffering from it. Worse it is a sin that is often fed, not starved by a Christian lifestyle.

Think about it.  How many temptations can you name that be increased by obedience to God and fellowship with his people?  Yet when we consider the Pharisee it's clear that the very religious observances which should have been helping him "mortify the flesh" like fasting had become an occasion for pride. Yikes.

Like gluttony, a sin that's hard to stop because you can't QUIT eating, pride can be hard to conquer because it can feed on the very things you must not QUIT doing.  We should try our best to be great moms; we should encourage our wonderful husbands; we should continue to work for the Lord and work out our salvation.  So how do we defeat pride?

I think the very first step is to recalibrate our measuring stick.  Last week the Pharaoh compared himself to God and measured himself God's equal.  Nebuchadnezzar compared himself to all the kings of the world and congratulated himself on being the best.  The Pharisee compared himself to adulterers, extortionists and the humble tax collector and found himself worthy of God's favor.

True humility is to measure ourselves by God's ruler.  How much are we worth?  Enough for God to send Jesus to earth to live and die for us.  How little are we worth?  Compared to Jesus even our righteous acts are like dirty rags (Isaiah 64:6). Humility is the deep seated knowledge of our own sin.  Humility is clear-sightedness when all the world is blind.

I wish that I could say that these two posts on pride were merely occasioned by the intersection of three stories in my study.  However to tell you that would be to shade the truth.  These two posts on pride are written from a nasty suspicion that there's a lot more pride in my life than I ever acknowledged before.  I'm doing some soul-searching.  How about you?  Leave us a comment and tell me how your defeating pride!


Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE(R), Copyright(c) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

No comments:

Post a Comment