Week of May 22, 2013

Todd JonesMy Dear Friends,

“Pride goeth before a fall.” So said my father to me shortly after I shot my first quail rising from a covey and exclaimed out loud how easy this was. I long ago learned that this expression was a popular paraphrase of Proverbs 16:18, which in the King James Version says, “Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” Time also has taught the truth of my father’s timely words! Many misses since that first lucky shot have ingrained in this person a healthy fear of pride. Pride is complicated, though. I recall my father saying on one important occasion that he was proud of me. I have drawn strength from those words all my days. They came as a blessing upon my life. I have also tried to express that same pride I have felt for my own children when the occasion called for such a fatherly response. But pride can also be very dangerous, and can lead as the Bible says to destruction. Shakespeare says in Troilus and Cressida, “He that is proud eats up himself: pride is his own glass, his own trumpet, his own chronicle.” C. S. Lewis noted, “A proud person is always looking down on things and people; and of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you.”

Worship is many things, but to worship God rightly is always an act of humility and an antidote to unhealthy pride. That is why the Psalmist proclaimed, “I was glad when they said unto me, let us go into the house of the Lord.” The Psalmist also said, “Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty.” For the Psalmist, the worship of God was a clarifying experience. It was a way to escape from the suffocating world of self into the large and freeing world of God. When James Burrill Angell, who served for 38 years as President of the University of Michigan, was asked the secret of his success, he said, “Grow antennae, not horns.” Angell understood the danger of pride and human ambition. Pride makes us aggressive for ourselves, while we are always better served to make ourselves more sensitive to others. Sensitivity to God makes us more sensitive to those who share life with us. And people are always drawn to those who have good antennae, who watch, listen carefully and seek to understand those they encounter. “Let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness” (James 1:19).

Charles Haddon Spurgeon understood how dangerous and tricky pride can be. “No matter how dear you are to God, if pride is harbored in your spirit, God will whip it out of you. They that go up in their own estimation must come down again by the Lord’s discipline.” There is surely such a thing as healthy pride, but usually, it is finally a pride that finds itself mixed completely with gratitude. “What have you that you have not received?”asked the Apostle Paul, who knew that God gives us all gifts freely to enjoy. Fred Buechner grasped this fine line that we humans must walk if we are live wisely and well. “Self-love or pride is a sin when, instead of leading you to share with others the self you love, it leads you to keep your self in perpetual self-deposit. You not only don’t accrue any interest in that way but become less and less interesting every day.”

Lord, save us from ourselves, and help us more and more to learn to walk in humble obedience and grateful acknowledgement of Thee!

With Love and Prayers,

Todd Jones

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