Bread – Pride

July 12, 2017


Psalm 73

All in vain I have kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence…” Ps. 73:13

Stuck in the middle of this Psalm is, in one sentence, a classic example of the pride of the world and ourselves.

Asaph, the Psalmist, starts his Psalm by saying to himself (and to God), I believe in God but I see the wicked prosper and not me.  He ends his Psalm by saying that, in spite of his doubts caused by his observance of the ascendancy of the wicked, he knows that God exists and that God is “his strength and portion forever.”  Ps. 73:26

But in the middle is this great statement:  “And not only that, Lord, but I am better than they are – I keep my heart clean and I am innocent.”  (I took great liberalities with the actual text, which you can read for yourself in the first line.”

We look around as Christians, as people in this world, and how often does it cross our mind that we ought to be resentful because we are “better” than they are.  After all, we are righteous and they are not; we are washed in the blood of the Lamb and they are not; we have a “clean heart” and they do not.

Whoa, folks.  Who here reading this Bread or, for that matter, anyone in the world, as a “clean heart.”  Do we not covet, gossip, worry, protect our precious positions of power, scheme, speak sometimes with untruth and, certainly, un-love?  Do we not dream about a better vacation, a better lifestyle, a better car, a better bank account, a better job, a better relationship?  Do we really, really have a “clean heart.”

As for being prideful in our righteousness, whose righteousness have we taken on anyway?  Is it ours or His?  If we are righteous at all before God, who achieved that?  Was it us in our sinful state or was it Him who died for us and who intervened in our life at a time when we were dead to breathe His spirit into us so that we might have eternal life?

Asaph did not keep his heart clean “in vain” because he is human, and he did not keep it clean at all.  Asaph did not.  We do not.  We cannot without outside aid.

There is no ranking of sinners.  All people, saved and unsaved, fall short of the glory of God.  Those who are saved see that with great clarity and are grateful that they do not have to pay the penalty to God for those sins, that penalty having been paid by Jesus Christ on the cross.

Where did Asaph’s essential doubts come from?  Did they come from his objective look at the world and wondering where God was, or did they come from his subjective look at the world, through lenses that said “I keep my heart clean” and so, therefore, I deserve better than “they.”

Where do our essential doubts come from?  Do they really come from an objective view of the world or a view through a lens that says “God is being unfair … to me.”

Pride is often listed as our worse sin.  It probably deserves that ranking because it is the lens which distorts our view of ourselves, our view of the world, and our view of God.

Pride is what caused Asaph to believe and say that “All in vain I have kept my heart clean.”  What Asaph could have said was that “But for You, I would not have clean heart.”  And that would be a true statement.  But to get there will require the setting aside of pride.  And how will we do that?  We cannot, but God can … and so we pray, “Come Holy Spirit, and create in me a clean heart.”

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© 2017 GBF   All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (2001), unless otherwise indicated.

 

 

 

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Bread – Pride

December 6, 2012


Readings for Thursday, December 6, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Isa. 2:12-22; 1 Thess. 3:1-13; Luke 20:27-40; Psalm 18

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“Pride goes before a fall” is one of those statements we just make, knowing it is true but not knowing where it comes from. Well, it is a paraphrase of Scripture, from Proverbs 16:18 – “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” What is interesting about the origin is that pride, the focus on “I did it” does not go before a fall; it goes before destruction, which is a much more serious consequence than a fall. From a fall, we can be restored. From destruction, we are gone. A “haughty spirit,” a spirit which thinks of myself higher than I ought to, may therefore be a lesser form of pride, one where we put ourselves first a lot, but not all the time. Pride might therefore be that state of affairs where we believe that there is no higher power than me, when we believe to our core that “I am the Master,” where we have put ourselves into the position of God.

Proverbs is not in our reading today, but it instructs with respect to our readings.

From Isaiah we read: “For the Lord of Hosts has a day against all that is proud and lofty, against all that is lifted up – and it shall be brought low; … and the haughtiness of man shall be humbled, and the lofty pride of men shall be brought low, and the Lord alone will be exalted in that day…Stop regarding man in whose nostrils is breath, for of what account is he?” Isa. 2:12,17,22 There will be day, perhaps not too far in the future, when God will take out the people who are so prideful they do not recognize their absolute need for God, for Christ. They, the prideful, will be destroyed. As powerful as the first two phrases are, the last one strikes me as even more powerful. Why do we exalt people over God, why do we exalt ourselves over God – “Stop regarding man … for of what account is he?” We lift ourselves up as someone important and God yells at us – “Stop it.” But what do we do?

In today’s reading from Luke, we have an example of man’s pride leading to false conclusions. The Sadducees have confronted Jesus over what happens in heaven when seven men (all died) have married the same woman (in succession) and they ask, then, whose wife is she at the resurrection? Jesus answers the question by pointing out that there is not marriage in heaven as we think of it. The Sadducees are not God, they do not have God’s perspective, they do not have faith in God’s promises, they do not have the wisdom of God, and in their pride they apply their reason to their known facts and circumstances and come up with a seeming impossibility which they will then use to stump God. How often do we do the same thing? In our pride we rely upon our own observation of facts, apply our own version of science or logic, and applying our own reason come to our own conclusions about what can and cannot be done. Once we have come up with our options, our alternatives, we then select the one most likely to succeed or least likely to cause us grief, and then go do it in our own power. Then we go to God (maybe, if we even recognize there is one) and say – “see, we did it” and, if the plan went well, say “what a good person I am” and, if the plan went poorly, say to God, “See your way doesn’t work.” When the Sadducees pointed out to Jesus that God’s plan did not work when analyzed from human perspective, from human logic, Jesus essentially says to them – “But that is not God’s plan at all. That is your version of His plan. His plan is something even more wonderful than you can even imagine.” In their pride, the Sadducees had nothing to say.

What is one of the most interesting readings today on this subject of pride is Psalm 18. In the middle of this Psalm, David says this great truth – “For you save a humble people, but the haughty eyes you bring down.” Ps. 18:27. However, if you read the entire Psalm, you realize that David is demonstrating an attitude of haughtiness, of thinking of himself more highly than he ought to, which is sort of amazing. For example, he says at one point “The Lord dealt with me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands He rewarded me…I was blameless before Him, and I kept myself from my guilt.” Ps. 18:20, 23 In other words, I was a good guy and so God helped me – aren’t I something special. The focus is on the “I” and not the “Him” in these statements. So, in one respect, David is insightful enough to recognize that God brings down the prideful, but is not insightful enough to realize that he is acting prideful at the same time.

So why was David, and why aren’t we Christians destroyed because of our pride? I think it is because of a critical difference between pride and haughty eyes. With pride, David would have said “I won the battle.” With haughty eyes, David says “I was a good person, and therefore God won the battle.” With pride, it is me and me alone. With haughty eyes, we think we had something to do with the victory, but we really know, deep down, that it was God’s victory that He let us participate in. Man who is so prideful that he puts himself in place of God goes to destruction. Man who is so haughty that he believes that he can manipulate God through his actions, but recognizes that he is under God and subject to Him, goes to discipline. From discipline, there is repentance, return, and restoration. From pride which puts ourselves in place of God, there is destruction.

But why be talking about discipline on the one hand or destruction on the other? Isn’t there a third choice, one which approaches God in full humility, without pride? Actually, there is but for modern man it is distasteful. It is the recognition that, without God, I am nothing, I am already dead in my sins (and “dead” means “dead”). If I bring nothing to the table, then what is there to have pride in? If it is all God’s, then how can I have a haughty spirit, thinking I am somehow did something or achieved something?

So where do you fall on the pride spectrum? How much regard do you have for yourself versus God? When you look in the mirror, do you see someone who is God, someone who needs God from time to time, or someone who needs God absolutely, at all times and in all places and circumstances. Where is your “pride-o-meter” set? We love to set it at “1” and God’s word to us is that it ought to be set at “0.” Perhaps as we struggle to bring it down we should recognize that, even in this, the battle belongs to the Lord and not to us, and we should therefore pray “Come, Holy Spirit.”

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© 2012 GBF

Bread – Hubris

December 17, 2010


Readings for Friday, December 17, designated by the Book of Common Prayer: Isa. 10:5-19; 2 Pet. 2:17-22; Matt. 11:2-15; Psalms 40, 51, 54

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“Hubris” means “wanton insolence or arrogance resulting from excessive pride” [Webster’s New World Dictionary, College Edition (1974)].

It is an appropriate word to summarize today’s readings.

From Isaiah, we read about Assyria and our Lord’s attitude about it: “Woe to the Assyrian, the rod of My anger, in whose hand is the club of My wrath…’I will punish the king of Assyria for the willful pride of his heart and the haughty look in his eyes. For he says: ‘By the strength of my hand I have done this, and by my wisdom, because I have understanding.’’” Isa. 10:5, 12-13. The King of Assyria acted with hubris toward God because the King of Assyria believed that he was king, that it was by his strength and his knowledge and wisdom that he conquered the then-known world, and he did not recognize that all power, knowledge, wisdom, and authority come from God. “Woe to him [the King of Assyria].” Woe to him because he did not know his place.

From 2 Peter, we read about rotten teachers and leaders: “These men are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. Blackest darkness is reserved for them. For they mouth empty, boastful words…They promise them [their followers] freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity – for a man is slave to whatever has mastered him.” 2 Pet. 17-19. These folks demonstrate hubris against God. We know this because they do not mouth words given to them by God, but instead mouth words which are boastful, which come from pride of the heart. Instead of subjecting themselves to the master of the universe they subject themselves to depravity. Instead of being a slave to the kingdom of God, they are slave to the kingdom of self and the selfish paths which flow from self.

From Matthew, we read about the difference between the best on earth and the least in heaven: “I [Jesus] tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” Matt. 11:11. The greatest man of woman who ever lived doesn’t hold a candle to the most minor person in heaven. What can be achieved through man’s hubris, through his overweening pride, is nothing compared to the achievements of the most humble in heaven.

When you are ready to look around your home or your place of work and pat yourself on the back for the good things you have done, ask yourself if you are behaving like the Assyrian, ready to take credit for having the talents and smarts to “do it,” instead of acknowledging the One Who really did it. When you begin to talk, perhaps to impart information to a colleague, give a presentation to a group, participate in a discussion, or even to pass gossip, ask yourself whether you are behaving like the rotten leader, ready with your boastful words but not ready at all to be slave to the One who gives you the power to speak.

When you think about being the best at what you do, ask yourself this – if I become the best and win the prize on earth, have I done it in a way which makes me the least in heaven?

I am going out hunting this weekend and I hope that the only thing I shoot dead as a doornail is my hubris, my pride. Do you want to join me? You can find the bullets at the foot of the cross.

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All Bible citations are to the New International Version (NIV), unless otherwise noted.

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This and previous Breads may be read, critiqued and commented upon at the Bread blog: https://1bread.wordpress.com

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