THE EMBARRASSMENT OF PRIDE

Is there a balance for the “right amount” of pride? How can we know?

Embarrassment often happens when our pride gets in the way.

Generally, in our country and in our culture, when we are invited to any kind of a bash, we are only able to sit in assigned seats.

Any place of honor has already been designated and reserved for those so honored.

Therefore, it may be difficult for us to understand exactly how to apply the lesson Jesus gave in the parable of the wedding feast and the seating arrangements.

Now he told a parable to those who were invited,
when he noticed how they chose the places of honor,
saying to them,
“When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast,
do not sit down in a place of honor,
lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him,
and he who invited you both will come and say to you,
‘Give your place to this person,’
and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place.
Luk 14:7-9

If you were invited to a presidential dinner with many guests and you arrived early, and was not escorted to an assigned seat, but chose the seat next to the President, you would eventually be told to move.

If this happened after the guests had arrived, you would be embarrassed in front of them all.

This is the scenario Jesus was painting for His listeners.

He told them to not allow themselves to be embarrassed in front of everyone by taking the best place.

Rather, they were to take the lowest place, and then they would be honored by being moved up the ranks.

Consider the benefits of a potluck meal somewhere.

When we were younger and saw all that luscious food spread out on the tables, we would try to be first so that no one would get that delicious-looking piece of meat.

As we learn about these things, though, we eventually choose to be last, because then there is no limit on how much to put on my plate.

I don’t have to consider those coming after me.

Jesus is speaking to something much deeper here than simply choosing a place of honor.

What is it that causes us to want to be noticed?

While pride itself is not wrong, there is an aspect of pride that is detrimental.

PRIDE
inordinate self-esteem

We have all been taught and we all know that this kind of pride can get us into a lot of trouble.

Pride goes before destruction,
and a haughty spirit before a fall.
Pro 16:18

In the parable, Jesus was pointing out there is always someone better than you.

When I was about 23 years old, I thought I had become pretty good at tennis.

My friend, Tommy Davis, had been playing at the country club since he was just a youngster.

We went out for a game one day, and his very first serve knocked the racquet out of my hand.

The male professional players of today serve the ball at upwards of 120mph. If I was on the court with them, I would never see it go by me.

There is always someone who is better than you at whatever you do, and your pride will get in the way if that person shows up unexpectedly in your life.

That pride will become your downfall.

The last part of that verse is also not recognized as a reality to be avoided.

In fact, the haughty spirit is celebrated and cultivated in our day.

For awhile, our self-improvement gurus were telling us to consider ourselves “10-feet tall and bulletproof.”

There is a place of balance in all this which is often missed.

Many people go to the other extreme, though, and become fretful over becoming too proud.

I have often heard someone receive a well-deserved compliment, when someone nearby will say, “Careful. Don’t give her the big head.”

This kind of thinking has gone a long ways in stopping people from giving or receiving encouragement.

The teaching on pride and humility we have received from the generations before us have actually crippled us more than helped us to live with an appropriate attitude.

In trying to make sure that people did not become proud, but remained humble, we have actually destroyed them and their sense of self-worth.

As a result, we came to the place where we thought it was necessary to help everyone develop a good sense of self-esteem.

We are now supposed to tell everyone they are good, they are the best, they are not a loser, etc.

In order to avoid the fallout of disappointment we now give out participation trophies, so that no child goes home crying.

As far as developing self-esteem goes, we can see how miserably this exercise has failed.

A sense of entitlement has replaced self-esteem, and entitlement breeds discontent and anger when supposed needs are not met.

I lived on a block in Harrisburg, PA where many of my neighbors received welfare checks in the mail.

If the check did not come on the day they were expecting it, I heard some of them cursing at the mailman for not bringing their check.

Due to this kind of behavior becoming the norm, many have claimed we should do away with welfare of any kind; but I disagree.

Simply because something is abused is no reason to get rid of it.

Think guns, cars, alcohol, sex, political power, whatever. Abuse is not a reason to get rid of any of these.

Yes. It seems that social welfare creates many undesirable situations; but is that the system, or the heart of man causing the problem?

The answer is obvious when put in that light.

Social welfare helps many who actually need the help.

So, let us not be so proud of our ability and willingness to work that we destroy what may be of help for others not so blessed.

James talks about pride in our ability to get things done.

Come now, you who say,
“Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town
and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”
Jas 4:13

Instead you ought to say,
“If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”
As it is, you boast in your arrogance.
All such boasting is evil.
Jas 4:15-16

That kind of boasting is the pride that can go before a fall.

Many who read this are probably doing okay financially speaking.

We have learned to live within our means with a margin of safety for any possible emergency need.

It is easy in that place to begin to take things for granted that everything will continue as is.

That is what Peter warned us about in his letter.

They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming?
For ever since the fathers fell asleep,
all things are continuing as they were
from the beginning of creation.”
2Pe 3:4

Peter then goes on to remind us that things are being held together by the word of the Lord, but the word of the Lord includes a time when all these things will disappear.

Many of our economic forecasters are warning that our economy cannot survive much longer as we continue to print money to prop up our declining Gross Domestic Product.

Otto von Bismarck, chancellor of Germany, established the first modern welfare state in the late 19th century.

History shows that at the beginning, it was a good thing, but slowly became a bad thing for the country.

A wheelbarrow of money would buy a loaf of bread.

What are we doing that is any different?

The BRICS countries of  Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa are working together to destabilize the American dollar among the world’s currencies.

Given our sense of pride as the power of the world, coupled with our population’s sense of entitlement, along with the ever-increasing desire to accommodate every possible squeaky wheel demanding attention, we are also on the downhill slide toward destruction.

We can see the change on the horizon.

Will we try to maintain our pride of position?

Or, will we humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God?

I suggest that we not wait around for our country to get it together, but that each one of us individually recognize the need that is before us to lay down our pride and begin to beg God for mercy.

Let us recognize the reality of the proverb

Pride goes before destruction,
and a haughty spirit before a fall.
Pro 16:18

Let us begin to search our own hearts to see if there be any form of pride lurking within the dark corners of our heart.

We can pray the prayer of David.

Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
Psa 139:23

I know some of what I have said comes close to a doomsday message, which generally does not provide much encouragement.

However, I do believe there comes a time when we may need a wake-up call to bring us out of our lethargy of complacency and cause us once again to realize whose we are and to whom we belong.

I believe that we will not go to destruction along with so many others if we indeed heed the wake-up call.

Daniel tells us in chapter 11 of his prophecy

the people who know their God shall stand firm and take action.
And the wise among the people shall make many understand,
Dan 11:32b-33a

Daniel was prophesying about a time of severe testing on the world, but he brings out this promise for those who will give heed to reality.

While things may look dark and grim, there is nothing to fear for those who will keep their faith and trust in the Lord strong.

May you, brothers and sisters, keep your faith and trust strong so that pride does not bring you down with the others.
Amen.

JESUS THE REBEL

There comes a time when rebellion against authority is absolutely necessary.

If a rule is made, a rebel thinks it is their duty to break it.

Ordinarily when we hear the word rebel, we think of someone who consciously and stubbornly goes against whatever the norm is at the time.

That was the thought behind the book and the movie titled “Rebel Without A Cause,” which came out in the ‘50’s

The decade of the ‘60s saw much rebellion, but most of it was attached to a cause.

We had the Viet Nam war, a rise in pristine puritanical fundamentalism, and an uncertain future with the potential for someone to push the button of nuclear war.

Rebellion by the youth of that time—which would be us Baby Boomers—was almost a rite of passage.

Now, however, we often consider rebellion to be bad, but that is mainly because we don’t want anyone to rock the boat of our comfort.

Our country was established by a concerted and well-informed effort to achieve freedom from tyranny.

All countries today who have a level of freedom have attained that freedom through some form of rebellion.

Remember Ghandi and his rebellion against the British Empire.

Civil disobedience is founded on the concept of using peaceful rebellion to bring about change.

There are times when rebellion against authority is necessary as a matter of conscience.

So they called them and charged them not to speak
or teach at all in the name of Jesus.
Act 4:18

This happened after Peter and John had healed the beggar at the temple.

Everyone that witnessed this miracle was eager to hear what Peter had to say about it.

So he took the opportunity to share the gospel with the crowd, and that upset the leaders of the people.

But Peter and John answered them,
“Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God,
you must judge,
for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.”
Act 4:19-20

We find Jesus doing much the same thing with relation to the Pharisees, who were the rule-makers for Judaism.

They were also the ones who determined if someone was breaking one of their rules.

We find a prime example of this in the Gospel of Luke.

But the ruler of the synagogue,
indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath,
said to the people, “There are six days in which work ought to be done.
Come on those days and be healed,
and not on the Sabbath day.”
Luk 13:14

Then the Lord answered him,
“You hypocrites!
Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey
from the manger and lead it away to water it?
Luk 13:15

The pharisees had made a multitude of rules defining the concept of work which could not be done on the Sabbath.

For instance, it was illegal to walk more than a mile on the Sabbath.

People, being what they are, found a way around that however.

If they had to travel on the Sabbath, they would go as far as necessary on the day before so that they only had a one-mile journey left for the sabbath.

Jesus nailed them to the wall in this incident.

Their hypocrisy was plainly evident in their call against the healing of humans even though they would do the things necessary to take care of their livestock.

Jesus was not against taking care of the livestock. He was against a rule that placed their needs above that of humans.

In another instance when the pharisees challenged Him on His laxness about keeping the Sabbath, Jesus said,

“The Sabbath was made for man,
not man for the Sabbath.
Mar 2:27

He was simply saying that the Sabbath came after man was created.

If it had come first, then it would have more importance for man.

The sabbath was made so that people would be given a break from their constant work.

So, all the rules that had been made in order to fulfill the commandment to remember the Sabbath to keep it holy were meaningless to Jesus.

That is not how holiness is maintained.

Yet, in our day, we have denominations formed around the rules to make one holy—not only for the Sabbath, but also for everyday of the week.

Rules, regulations and required rituals are something we should pay close attention to and not get caught up in them.

They are all designed by humans who think they have a handle on what God requires of us.

The rules are put there by leaders who do not trust the Holy Spirit to do His work in your life.

However, rules and regulations only give us an outward appearance of being right.

It is still possible for the heart to be completely wrong while all the outward behavior is seen as correct.

Paul spoke to this in his letter to the Colossians.

Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink,
or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath.
Col 2:16

If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world,
why, as if you were still alive in the world,
do you submit to regulations—
“Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch”
(referring to things that all perish as they are used)—
according to human precepts and teachings?
These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body,
but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.
Col 2:20-23

Establishing and keeping rules only deal with the outward behavior.

They are made so that the ones making them have something to fall back on should you embarrass them.

They do not address the issues of the heart.

When I moved to Phoenix to help a church there, I didn’t have a tv.

I didn’t miss having one either.

In fact, I was pretty cocky about the fact that I didn’t watch television.

Then one day, after service, I came out to the car and there on the driver’s seat was a little 10-inch black and white tv.

I took it home, hooked it up, and was just as addicted as ever.

The desire had not been dealt with even though the accessibility of the television had been eliminated for quite some time.

The making of rules to control behavior is absolutely not a part of the gospel.

Christianity is not about behavior modification even though that is the way it appears in most places.

A modification in one’s behavior may happen, but that is not the primary goal of Christianity.

And that is why we see so much in the New Testament about watching out for rules being placed on us.

When obeying the rules becomes paramount, then people will sit in judgment on those who don’t keep a particular rule.

This is somewhat like the pharisees who fed their livestock, but didn’t want a woman healed.

Paul talked about this as he was concluding his letter to the Romans.

As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him,
but not to quarrel over opinions.
Rom 14:1

Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another?
It is before his own master that he stands or falls.
And he will be upheld,
for the Lord is able to make him stand.
Rom 14:4

The message in the whole chapter 14 of Romans is about the different things people use to judge the faith of another.

Paul writes about food, about clothing, about special days—including the sabbath—and says that none of these things are worth arguing about.

Arguments generally occur when someone says something about another’s behavior or beliefs.

This always comes from a place of judgment, and judgment comes from a place of superiority born of legalism.

Judging another will never allow you to know what it means to be a vessel of love.

Jesus valued love over judgment every time.

Remember the woman caught in adultery?

That event was a prime opportunity for judging both her and the pharisees, but He didn’t.

He could have judged them for not bringing the man who was with the woman, but He didn’t.

He could have given into the pressure by the pharisees to pronounce sentence against the woman, but He didn’t.

And in His refusal to do so, He once again rebelled against the rules and regulations of His society.

We need to see, however, that His rebellion was always for the higher good in order to maintain the overarching principle of love.

The greatest of all the commandments is to love.

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart
and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind,
and your neighbor as yourself.”
Luk 10:27

This is usually viewed as two separate laws in such a way that we think we can keep one of them but not the other.

However, that is deceptive thinking.

Love does no wrong to a neighbor;
therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
Rom 13:10

Loving your neighbor fulfills the requirement to love God.

As John said

If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar;
for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen
cannot love God whom he has not seen.
1Jo 4:20

No one—not you, not me, not anyone—has been ordained as God’s policeman.

We are not here to enforce the law on anyone but ourselves, and most of us have a hard enough time doing only that.

And finally, there is a verse seldom heard in legalistic circles where the emphasis is on maintaining correct standards of behavior.

For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy.
Mercy triumphs over judgment.
Jas 2:13

Are you hoping for mercy from the Lord when you stand before Him?

This is probably the best guarantee of all the religious sayings and pious platitudes ever concocted for receiving mercy.

Show love.

Show mercy.

I would rather be wrong for showing too much love, than to be wrong for showing too much judgment.

As I read the scriptures, I have yet to find the limits of love, the limitations of mercy.

I invite you to go and do likewise.

Be a rebel like Jesus.

Stretch the limits of your love.

Move out of your comfort zone and love an unlovely person this week.