Sunday, November 10, 2013

Pride and Humility (Poverty of Spirit 2)

A man's pride will bring him low, but a humble spirit will obtain honor. (Pro 29:23)

The opposite of lowliness is pride.  Pride, in the Bible, has little to do with hubris, the Greek definition of pride.  Hubris has to do with speaking oneself up, to puff up one’s accomplishments, abilities or who one naturally is.  Hubris is the evil of thinking one is more important or acting like one is more important than one really is.

“Pride” in the Bible, however is assuming or maneuvering oneself into a greater position than one ought.  It is the seeking of a higher station, the pushing aside of others in order to increase one’s position in society.  It is insisting upon oneself, in order to rule over others.  It is striving for a promotion, it is promoting oneself, it is seeking one’s increase over another.  This kind of pride is in direct opposition to poverty in spirit.

Some think that Jesus is saying that high social standing, or leadership in any way, is devoid of blessing.  It isn’t leadership itself that is the problem, but how one obtains it, and how one uses it that can be in opposition to God.

Jesus illustrates his different approach this way: "When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for someone more distinguished than you may have been invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, 'Give your place to this man,' and then in disgrace you proceed to occupy the last place. But when you are invited, go and recline at the last place, so that when the one who has invited you comes, he may say to you, 'Friend, move up higher'; then you will have honor in the sight of all who are at the table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."  (Luke 14:8-11)

The path of pride is to directly strive and claim a position which is not our own in the hopes that we obtain it.  “Society is a battle,” say the “proud”, “a competition and only the strongest and wiliest can get ahead.”   Jesus disagrees.  It is those who embrace their poverty and lowliness who have places of significance… not because of their strength or self-promotion, but due to the recognition of their worth.  Recognition of worth does not happen by taking the position we feel we deserve.  Rather, it is taking a lower station and others recognizing the place we deserve.

Of course, this happens rarely in the world.  It happens in the kingdom of God.

The activity of leadership also differs, according to Jesus.  He says, "You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great men exercise authority over them. But it is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."  (Mark 10:42-45)

 The proud use their station of leadership and power to secure and increase their position.  They insist upon their position and use all the power they have to retain their power, they lay the groundwork for wealth and respect for the rest of their lives.  For Jesus, the path of true authority embraces poverty, the poor and helpless among them, using all their power to assist and support others.  It is not about maintaining power and respect for oneself, but for the neediest among them. 

Of course, this is not the way of the world, but of the kingdom of God. 

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