Tag Archives: Pride

It’s Not My Law

I’m sure you’re familiar with the scenes.

  • Someone smokes where it is forbidden
  • While driving there is always that driver that just has to speed past everyone else
  • The driver treats the stop sign as a yield sign
  • A person cuts a few corners on their taxes
  • A witness commits perjury
  • A group of friends set off fireworks after posted hours
  • Parents let their underage teen host a party where alcohol is consumed

This one may not be familiar but it fits. From the Detroit News: “Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said Tuesday she would not enforce a state abortion ban if federal protections are overturned…” (1)

While there are many more examples these, hopefully, raise the question of the day. Why do people feel it’s okay for them to break the law? Why do they feel they can say and act as if “It’s not my law?”

I believe the answer is quite simply “Pride.” To knowingly and willingly break the law is to say, in essence, “I’m special. This law doesn’t apply to me.” “I think it’s a stupid law – I know better so I can ignore it.” Pride puts us in a position of feeling superior, better than and different from others. Pride allows us to make laws and set boundaries as we see fit. After all, it’s not my law.

But make no mistake about it; we’ve all been similarly prideful and willingly broken laws at some point in time. And I believe it stems from our rebellious, sinful nature. We saw it with Adam and Eve when, because their pride placed them above God and rejected His law, they ate the forbidden fruit. The reality is every time we sin we are saying to God “It’s not my law.” The testimony of Scripture is clear.

First, there is law. God has firmly established His law within the world He created and “The Lord reigns, he is robed in majesty; the Lord is robed in majesty and armed with strength; indeed, the world is established, firm and secure… Your statutes, Lord, stand firm…”  (Psalm 93:1&5) “The world is firmly established, it cannot be moved…” (Psalm 96:10) “The works of his hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy. They are established for ever and ever, enacted in faithfulness and uprightness.” (Psalm 111:7-8) The truth is it’s not now and never is ‘my law.’ It’s God’s law.

Second, we all break God’s laws. (2) “What shall we conclude then? Do we have any advantage? Not at all! For we have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under the power of sin. As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one… for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:9-12 & 23)

Third, there are consequences for breaking the law. “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.” (Proverbs 14:12) A basic theme of the book of Judges is that when everyone does what is right in their own eyes, there is chaos in the land.

Fourth, the power to obey comes from loving Jesus. He proclaimed, “If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth.” (John 14:15-17)

Fifth, there is great reward in loving Jesus. Jesus said “If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. (John 15:10-11)

Why this brief overview and summary of Scripture? Because the bottom line is that obeying God’s laws compels and enables us to better obey human laws and to live with joy. The better we understand it the better off we and our world will be; because, after all, “The world is firmly established, it cannot be moved…”

————–

No Smoking Photo by Franck V. on Unsplash

(1)https://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/local/michigan/2019/04/16/nessel-id-never-enforce-michigan-abortion-ban/3487903002/

Gavel – Photo by Wesley Tingey on Unsplash

 

The Place of Honor

I was intrigued, although not surprised by a news item coming from the Olympics. One of our American athletes was upset that he did not get selected to carry the American flag during the opening ceremonies. He was upset with the selection process. Perhaps he should have been selected. Perhaps the selection process is flawed. I have no way of knowing these things. But I do understand the emotion that prompted his public comments and that is why I was not surprised.

We like to think the Olympics are a time for athletes to represent and honor their countries. But the reality is that for most athletes it’s a time to win and be honored. I’m not saying that’s bad or wrong. Rather my issue is that we all too easily equate honor with winning, with being selected to hold the flag. Honor is equated with being the top dog, the most popular, or the most respected. Honor goes to the one who hangs out with or is seated by people of influence. I understand because I’ve too often been there and believed that.

But is that what honor is all about? Jesus had a different perspective. He, in fact, talked about the banquet table and the seat of honor.

“When Jesus noticed that all who had come to the dinner were trying to sit in the seats of honor near the head of the table, he gave them this advice: “When you are invited to a wedding feast, don’t sit in the seat of honor. What if someone who is more distinguished than you has also been invited? The host will come and say, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then you will be embarrassed, and you will have to take whatever seat is left at the foot of the table! “Instead, take the lowest place at the foot of the table. Then when your host sees you, he will come and say, ‘Friend, we have a better place for you!’ Then you will be honored in front of all the other guests. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Then he turned to his host. “When you put on a luncheon or a banquet,” he said, “don’t invite your friends, brothers, relatives, and rich neighbors. For they will invite you back, and that will be your only reward.” (Luke 14:7-12 New Living Translation)

To the Scribes and Pharisees, who deemed themselves men of honor, Jesus said, “The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”(Matthew 23:11-12) Jesus taught his friends and followers the same thing.

“Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him. “What is it you want?” he asked. She said, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.” “You don’t know what you are asking,”Jesus said to them. “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?” “We can,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father.” When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers. Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:20-28)

Not quite the same perspective, is it? The great news is that for Jesus it was not just a perspective. It was also His lifestyle.

As Paul later recorded:

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very natureGod,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.”
(Philippians 2:3-11)

I’m not sure if Jesus’ view of honor would fit in the Olympics. But I wonder – what if we really lived for the true place of honor? What difference would it make? How would our world be different? Are you ready to take the place of honor?

Olympic Rings: https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/13284311374/

Halos That Fall

When it comes to success – to quote Jackie Gleason – “How sweet it is!” (I know, I’ve just dated myself!) We all love the feelings and adulations that accompany success. The warm glow of the success halo makes us feel good and valued. Even if a certain success genuinely humbles us, we still covet that feeling. It’s hard to feel good and grateful without also feeling proud. And perhaps some pride is good – it can be a great motivator.

Yet it is not without due cause that the Bible warns us in Proverbs 16:18 that “pride goes before the fall.” When the head swells with pride or sways with success, the halo of success quickly drops around our necks where it waits to hang us. As someone aptly said “A halo need only drop six inches to become a noose.”

Perhaps you have had some successes, and have many reasons for a healthy pride. Congratulations. But beware – with each success you raise the bar of expectations; and as expectations rise so does the potential for failure and disappointment. And you will, at some point in time, fail or come up short. Realize this does not need to be a tragedy – tremendous monuments have risen from the ashes of failure. But that’s another blog for another time.

My point is this: do not gloat in glory nor dwell in disappointment – do not over-celebrate success nor over-grieve failure. Instead, be grateful in both cases. In success, be grateful to God for allowing us the privilege; in failure, be thankful for His love which is not dependent on our success. The Heidelberg Catechism explains it this way when defining God’s providence (questions 27 & 28):

27 Q. What do you understand by the providence of God?

A. Providence is the almighty and ever present power of God by which he upholds, as with his hand, heaven and earth and all creatures, and so rules them that leaf and blade, rain and drought, fruitful and lean years, food and drink, health and sickness, prosperity and poverty – all things, in fact, come to us not by chance but from his fatherly hand.

28 Q. How does the knowledge of God’s creation and providence help us?

A. We can be patient when things go against us, thankful when things go well, and for the future we can have good confidence in our faithful God and Father that nothing will separate us from his love. All creatures are so completely in his hand that without his will they can neither move nor be moved.

Perhaps that’s why Paul wrote to the Philippians, “Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again – rejoice!” If we heed his divine advice, our haloes will never hang us!

(Halo picture from  https://images.sharefaith.com/images/3/f0103406aa/img_mouseover3.jpg  )