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greggordon

The Publican and Pharisee, A Lesson in Pride and Humility

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When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom. - Proverbs 11:2

 

Pride and the Devil

 

When we speak of pride we also often times think of the devil. He was the beautiful angel who through transgression and pride fell from his place with God to a fallen state. Lucifer, an anointed cherub of God became the devil, the father of lies (John 8:44). He was soiled and became filthy and the enemy wants to defile all those who are unsoiled also. When we are free from pride the enemy of our souls desires to sow prideful thoughts into our life. Pride is a preoccupation with self, it is to say that I am more important then all others. Pride says "I" am always right. Pride is when at all costs we need to revenge ourselves of our abusers. Pride says that we are more important then others and when sinned against our rights are more important. Personal glory and importance leads to a proud heart and opposition to God (1 Peter 5:5).

 

Pride and Selflessness

 

Pride is in some ways the opposite of selflessness. When we are humble we seek the good of others even when we have been hurt by someone. Disgrace and shame comes with pride because God diminishes the proud one under his own displeasure. Just like Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar, we can be blinded by Pride and a sense of self-importance thinking we are able to control situations and even people.

 

Ephraim of Philotheou says, "The mercy of God supports all of us, but if we are proud, God will lift off His grace and we will become worse than the others."

 

This is a profound thought that God himself shows everyone grace, mercy, and gives constant help. And when we see others in the body of Christ fail, or cause abuse, if we become proud, judge them overly and do not do it all in love, we can have God's grace lifted from our lives. And the sad result can be the brother who fails, when we judge him we can become worse then that brother. When we have pride against others in the body of Christ we have insulted the Creator Himself. We should never look down on others, never think we are better especially when we see another of our brothers and sisters fail.

 

The Publican and Pharisee

 

In Luke 18:9-14, we see the famous story of the Publican and Pharisee. It is a great contrast between pride and humility, self-assuredness and humility. The first error of the religious leader Jesus pointed out was of being "confident." It was a self-reliant attitude that I am in a better place with God then most and therefore can speak down to others and also not need God's grace as much. It is a subtle deception on the road towards knowing God we can start to trust on our past experiences of grace and not rely on the grace of God daily. And what happened? The religious leader, "looked down on everyone else" (Luke 18:9). He did not take the humble role of a being below others as a servant but rather assumed priority over others.

 

In such a contrast we see the Publican come to our Lord and simply say in humility, "God, have mercy on me, a sinner." (Luke 18:13). This one humbled himself before God, no matter how holy or progressed in our Christian lives when we humble ourselves we keep our position of walking with God in His presence. But once we exalt ourselves then we are cast away.

 

In a famous drawing of this scene, we see the Publican bowing and humble, and the Pharise exalted and with one hand judging the other and the other praising God. Then in the picture we notice the hand of God blessing with grace and mercy the Publican only. Let this be a reminder that when we judge others we cannot praise God with the same breath and miss God's blessing in the process.

 

Serving Others In the Body

 

When we have pride in our own accomplishments and skills we are taking the credit for these things to ourselves. The reality is all giftings given to brethren in the body of Christ is to serve and help others, not ourselves. To follow the way of pride is to follow the way of the devil. The follow the way of humility is to follow in the way of the Lord.

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I was thinking about this a few days ago. I think people easily recognize excesses of egotism or indeed the worship of other celebrities. However I think the wholesale normalization of egotism has shifted what is perceived as "pride". That is, prioritizing the self above all else, revelling in the perceived excellence of one's children. Look at how the meaning of the world "righteous" has shifted in common use from being virtuous to being judgmental. perhaps because most people no longer accept being called out over their casual acts of pride?

 

I was thinking about the outbreak of the "Prosperity Gospel" during the 70s and 80s where the likes of Bakker spouted that those who did (and donated) as the Lord wanted would get wealth and power on Earth, essentially inflating their importance in the world.

 

I think what is considered a normal self-affirming, ambitious and admireable person now would, if transported back in time, be seen as a prideful and conceited person in the context of a community that lived overall a less affluent and self-obsessed lifestyle.

 

If I ask myself very honestly what I consider most important, my own answer might be less than ideal.

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