We are in our second week of Lent – the season of preparation before celebrating Easter, the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. To some, Lent is the season for “giving things up”. I know people who have given up chocolate, alcohol, meat, FaceBook…I think this is a very personal choice that should be done prayerfully. Giving up luxuries can help to remind us of the sacrifice Jesus made in dying to save us from our sin (Luke, Chapters 22-24); or it can help us to remember the 40 days He spent in the Wilderness preparing to begin His ministry. In the Wilderness He had to turn away from temptation by Satan (Matt 4:1-11). Jesus is the most powerful example of obedience we have to follow. He came to Earth to do what the law could not do for us, He came make us holy (Romans 8:1-7) – so Lent is a wonderful reminder of that. I do think, sometimes, we can look at “giving things up” to Lord a bit differently. In this series of posts Acceptable Offering I am suggesting that there are other luxuries that we should give up, permanently, that can get overlooked. Today I want to take a second look at Pride, which I have written about recently.
We tend to think of Pride as displayed when a person is boastful, arrogant, self-aggrandizing, or self-promoting. The Bible is absolute on its condemnation of this sort of behavior. There is another way that Pride enters our lives, a sort of back door. The sin of Pride has another face. When we elevate ourselves above God, we are idolizing ourselves, making ourselves into a false idol. This is the root of all Pride. But think of this: are there times when, rather than spending time with the Lord in prayer and in devotion to the Word, you have spent time dwelling on yourself…your flaws…your inadequacies? I have always struggled with this and felt that it was just a mark of good character, to feel shame at my shortcomings and ignore my strengths. When people complimented me it was hard for me to take, so I would deflect it. Any positive comment about my appearance or intellect or my house, I would simply not accept. I would demure and explain it away. Now I see that this was an ungracious attitude and I try to stammer, “Thank you”…but many times I still forget and make some uncomfortable explanation. With years of practice, I have one ready for any situation. A pretty outfit? Got it on sale, not thank you. I have naturally curly hair that sometimes gets noticed. I say, it’s just the weather today…you should have seen it yesterday, not thank you. Generally, I did fairly well in school. If I received compliments from teachers or fellow students on a paper or a test that I had worked hard on, I would say, just lucky I guess, not thank you. If I received a compliment on my cooking…the recipe is so easy not thank you. I used to feel like this was the height of humility, and being humble is a good thing. I never put myself above others, in fact I would put myself down publicly for a variety of reasons…to avoid the appearance of pride, or to make others feel more comfortable, or to make people laugh, or before someone else could put me down I would beat them to it. To make my best effort and never acknowledge that I had tried – this felt like the most noble accomplishment. I know this behavior came out of a real lack of self-esteem – most of the time I did not feel worthy and so compliments made me uncomfortable. But when I did feel a sense of accomplishment over something, I would not let myself enjoy that either. This is a vicious way to treat yourself. It is a cycle that repeats itself continuously till you cannot imagine that there is any good in you anywhere.
In our culture, we have a way of twisting things to the point of distortion. Humility is a good thing. But humiliation is not. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up (James 4:10, NKJV). Our culture is so rich in Pride that we don’t know what it is to be humble. People would say that low self-esteem is the same as humility, the opposite of Pride. We tend to feel sorry for those with low self-esteem and despise the prideful person. Yet they are one in the same. Whenever we focus the majority of our thought-life on ourselves we are taking our minds of off God, we are consumed by ourselves, we are elevating ourselves above God – this is a luxury we cannot afford. She who is self-indulgent is dead even while she lives (1 Tim 5:6). Think about it. The Bible does not tell us to dwell on ourselves, rather set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God (Col 3:2-3). In fact we told, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things (Phil 4:8). We are told to occupy our minds with God, to pray without ceasing (1 Thess 5:17). A mind filled up with God has no place for self-centered thinking.
The world would tell us that it is almost noble to feel low self-esteem. But God wants so much more for us. David is a great example of choosing a better thought-life: Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him, my salvation and my God (Psalm 43:5). Turning our thoughts to God, from ourselves, brings us to a new place of peace and rest, because we are doing what we were made to do. Peter says you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy (1 Peter 2:9-10). Remember, you are not your own; you were bought at a price. (1 Cor 6:19-20). Jesus, who paid that price, said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). We are not to live downtrodden lives, consumed by guilt and fear and hopelessness – lives consumed by self. We are to live in such a way that honors God – a life focused on Him and pleasing Him will yield fruit and the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Gal 5:22-23). Pride in any form is unhealthy for us. The antidote for what ails us is found in turning our hearts and minds toward God:
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
Serve the Lord with gladness!
Come into His presence with singing!
Know that the Lord, He is God!
It is He who made us, and we are His;
we are His people, and the sheep of His pasture.
Enter His gates with thanksgiving,
and His courts with praise!
Give thanks to Him; bless His name!
For the Lord is good;
His steadfast love endures forever,
and His faithfulness to all generations. Psalm 100
JustAgirl…just like you.