The Modern Pilgrim #18 In which the Good Shepherd calls to Pilgrim from outside the Palace of Pride. He requests her return to the journey with him. Pilgrim pretends not to hear him.
Have you ever noticed it’s easier to recognize pride in someone else? It’s a sneaky sin which creeps in through the cracked windows of our souls.
When God sees it, he will try to correct us. He’d prefer private discipline to public humbling, but he’s not opposed to it. He wants useable, teachable hearts. Others-oriented. God-oriented.
I once scored a job interview with a large florist. I grew up in this industry and spent time as a designer in a smaller shop. I entered the interview cocky. They’d be lucky to hire me. I also genuinely wanted to design again.
Interviews for floral design require live skill demonstration. No worries. My potential boss walked me back into the workroom and that’s when pride school went into session. Six designers paused and looked up from their work. They stared at me and I stared at their work. I’d been out of the field for a decade. Basic design principles remain unchanged, but trends shift.
As I arranged, it became clear that my best work looked dated. I cringed beneath the polite comments of the other designers. My piece looked like a poodle skirt in a room full of Calvin Klein cocktail dresses.
These talented, people, still hired me, BUT I spent the next five months in designer purgatory. I didn’t design. Instead, other designers created pieces and then I’d copy them exactly, 20 or 30 times for mass distribution at the various stores this business owned or weddings and banquets. Pride-0 and Humility-1
The Bible shares several pride tales, worse than mine. My favorite? Nebuchadnezzar. The greatest ruler of the Babylonian empire. Israel’s conqueror. Temple destroyer. Antagonist in Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego’s story. And, because of pride, a man-beast, living in the wild for seven months. (Daniel 1-4) But how did this happen to a great king? More importantly, how might God bring me down to size, if I fail to recognize the same sin in my life?
I made some observations about Nebuchadnezzar and his refusal to receive God’s correction about his pride.
God warned Nebuchadnezzar in a dream that he, God, was the power behind the throne
Nebuchadnezzar conquered Israel, Nineveh, and countries like Egypt. When he married his wife, the Mede and Babylonian empires merged, granting him enormous wealth and power. He built the hanging gardens of Babylon, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. He built thirteen magnificent cities. All in forty years. Because of him, by 600 BC the growth of Babylon was so significant it became the center of the known world. But that wasn’t enough.
The Bible tells us that God chose Nebuchadnezzar to be his instrument of judgement for Israel and other nations. (Jeremiah 27:28) It was God who gave Nebuchadnezzar the increase to his empire. (Daniel 2) Nebuchadnezzar’s thank you was to grab worship for himself. (Daniel 3)
We should celebrate what God does through us, but success reveals character. Our old nature starts to think we are a little more special than someone who hasn’t done what we’ve done. Our accomplishments build a platform under us that cause us to secretly look down on others. As TS Eliot said, “Most of the trouble in the world is caused by people wanting to be important.” Our flesh longs for people to know when God allows us to play a role in something great. It’s not content to advance God’s kingdom if no one knows what we did.
God tried to correct Nebuchadnezzar’s high opinion of himself with a display of power and superiority
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego are publicly rescued by God’s appearance in a furnace. The king sees this miracle and is amazed, however his only response is to decree that no one can speak against the God of Israel. (Daniel 3)
How many times have I seen God do something amazing in my life? Healings. Miraculous provisions. Restorations and recompenses. Opened doors. Clear demonstrations of his superiority. And yet, something in me still wants to toot my own tiny horn sometimes.
A humble person is grateful for all God gives, like job interviews. Humility allows God to provide opportunities and open doors to display the skills he’s given us. Humility trusts God to keep no good thing from his children and takes rejection peacefully.
God graciously granted me that job but made his point about pride with my public design fail. His giftings to the other designers were far superior to mine at that moment. And I thought I’d dazzle them with my skills. Hah! Just like Nebuchadnezzar wanted people to be amazed by his accomplishments and worship him. How’d that work out? Couldn’t even get a furnace hot enough to burn up Israelites.
Nebuchadnezzar didn’t factor God into his power equation. Neither did I. There was no thought in my head during the interview about how God might like to use me in that place. I just wanted God to give me a job designing. See the difference in orientation there?
C.S. Lewis said, “True humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less.”
When Nebuchadnezzar continued in his unthankful arrogance, God brought him low.
Daniel 4 tells an amazing account of the depths an arrogant king sunk to because of pride. We are all familiar with modern day Nebuchadnezzar stories and frankly, I believe we are about to see a great deal more.
God is doing a brand-new thing in the world right now. There is a Great Awakening and a returning to a true faith instead of religion. The people he chooses to use to spread the gospel and build up the body will be humble and teachable. That is his established pattern throughout the Bible. The prideful wind up as cautionary tales. So, I’m asking myself some questions and I challenge you to do the same.
Where is pride lurking in my soul? In which things am I trying to be certain people know I had a part in that? What am I tempted to boast about, even if I don’t say it out loud? Where are the areas of my life where I am most bothered to not receive a compliment? That’s where pride is hiding.