By, Isam Itson III
Pride goes before destruction,
and a haughty spirit before a fall.
19 It is better to be of a lowly spirit with the poor
than to divide the spoil with the proud. – Proverbs 16:18,19.
Pride is about my power, prestige, and control. I do not want to be perceived as powerless. I want to measure up to the people I admire. I fear losing face and looking powerless, inadequate, or foolish in front of others. I fear being laughed at, disregarded, and dismissed. I want my social status and livelihood to be safe and secure from harm. I want to be seen as valuable and worthwhile by the people around me. How does God expect me to trust him when he does not seem to be concerned about my personal sense of security and significance? Sound familiar?
Everyone struggles with pride. So, how do we overcome it? By embracing humility. Humility recognizes our inadequacy, weakness, and powerlessness without God. Pride says I have everything under control. A lowly or humble spirit says God is in control. Pride says my life is in my own hands. Humility says I am in God’s hands. But how do we let go when we don’t feel safe? How do we stay on track pursuing God’s unique purpose for us to help others when our lives are turned upside down by overwhelming tragedy, loss, betrayal, or injustice? How do we think appropriately about ourselves in relationship with God and others when we are under intense social or financial pressure? How do we replace pride with humility?
Rich or poor, privileged or marginalized, we all answer to God for how we embody his love and faithfulness in our lives from day to day. Overcoming our fears, embracing our weakness, and accepting God’s limitations is critical to our growth and maturity in Jesus Christ. Leaning into God’s strength, love, and faithfulness is crucial to living lives characterized by courage, hope, peace, love, and joy. This is the kind of strength and integrity God wants to build into us. He wants to use us to show others that his love and faithfulness is invincible.
So, how do we live for God with grace and gratitude, helping others even when our lives fall apart? How do we replace pride with humility? We allow God to shape us into genuine representations of his invincible love and faithfulness. We allow God to faithfully walk with us through the inevitable and unimaginable loss and heartache we suffer in life so that he can encourage others through our faithful example. We trust God to cover us as we progress through life rather than spending all of our time and energy covering ourselves. We embrace our absolute poverty in relationship to God which frees us to be used by God in his extravagant service to others.
The apostle Paul wrote to the church in Philippi on this very subject.
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. – Philippians 2:5-11.
Paul wrote to a congregation that met in the home of a rich person and was filled with poor and enslaved people. Paul’s letter reveals that God wants us to follow the example of Jesus Christ. Paul wrote to every person in that socially and economically diverse congregation. He encouraged them in light of their common profession of faith and hope in Jesus Christ. No matter their social status or material circumstances Paul called each person there to follow the example of Jesus Christ. No one was excused. He challenged them all to humbly put the interests of others before themselves. In essence to treat each other like members of their immediate family.
Just like Jesus told his disciples, Paul wanted them to love each other as they loved themselves and their own families. The text cited above says that Christ emptied himself by taking the form of a servant. The original language is better translated; he willingly set aside his status and privilege as God and became a slave. He set aside his glorious status in submission to God the Father, for our benefit and God’s glory. Even to the point of crucifixion.
Crucifixion was physically excruciating. But the worst thing about crucifixion in Jesus’ culture was the shame it brought to one’s family and the humiliation of one’s self. It proclaimed your powerlessness and inadequacy to everybody. The eternal Son of God became one of us and embraced dishonor, shame, and a tortuous death for our sake as the embodiment of God the Father’s love for us. The Father sacrificed his Son for our sake. The Son humbled himself for our sake. And God blesses us with the responsibility and privilege of giving our lives for the sake of others with the same wholehearted extravagance.
Rich or poor, young or old, man or woman, God calls us all to be ready to lay everything aside for the sake of honoring and expressing his love for others. No matter the personal, social, or economic consequences. We replace our pride with humble and faithful obedience to God. How do we become this type of follower of Jesus Christ who is faithful to God in word and deed, no matter the cost in treasure, status, or honor, for the glory of God the Father, in imitation of Jesus Christ? First, we meditate on who God is and what that means about who we are. Second, we practice putting others before ourselves and obeying God in the little things so that we will be ready to respond faithfully to God’s love for others when faithfulness costs everything. Pride gives as little as possible to God. Humility gives everything to God.
1. What or who, are you tempted to hold back from God and keep for yourself? Why?
2. How can we show humility in our current personal and professional relationships?
3. What are some of the little ways you already put others before yourself?