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The deeper wisdom of humble faith

Lauren is a talented interior designer, and she knows it. That’s why she hates it when an outsider tries to teach her something in her field of expertise. It happened just recently again when Mary and Bob gave her advice on how to use color to accent a room. That conversation drove her crazy. She respectfully tuned out their poor advice while mentally listing superior alternatives, before sharing that list with them. She did them a favor—their silence was proof of approval.

Or take the other day, when she was asked to volunteer to help clean the church kitchen after an event. That made her angry. Don’t they know she has important things to do with her time, and better ways to use her gifts? For example, she recently met with this famous movie star and they really hit it off. She loves telling people how she, Lauren, gave sensible advice to this actress for her next role. See, she has more important things to do.

She encourages her tendency to compare to others, in every area. She sees it as a competitive spirit. Comparison has been encouraged by her teachers and her parents as far as she can remember. She truly believes it’s the path to personal growth—when you measure yourself up against others, and increasingly notice progress.

Since comparing is a source of growth, she does others a favor by flaunting her latest success. She just lost 15 lbs and is letting everyone know. She would not mention the actual weight loss, but her tight-fitting clothes show the progress well enough. She has noticed the appreciative looks around her at the firm. She is proud to know she is inspiring them to try too. God knows some of them could use some weight loss too—take Sharon and Kim, for example.

She got aggravated with that stupid Bill at work recently, who dared hint that she was judgmental. What a complete idiot. But here is the truth: if people don’t have their act together, that’s because either they’re not trying hard enough, or they choose to rely on others rather than work hard. She makes a point of never asking anyone for help. What would they think?

She prides herself on her humility. Take her house, for example. Considering her status and salary at the designing firm, she could afford a much bigger one. So, there. Plus, she is at church most Sundays. They should be grateful, because here’s the honest truth: that church really is not half as good as it could be. Hum… maybe she will give the head pastor some much-needed advice next time she sees him.

Our world is full of Laurens. Do you know one? She might never have heard a key Scriptural message from proverbs: God gives grace to the humble, but justice to the proud. Jesus Himself, in Matthew 7:1-2, warned us that we will be judged by the very standard we use to judge others. God won’t even pull up the ten commandments; He will look at how we treated others, and that will be the basis of how He treats us.

A sobering thought. Indeed, it is a terrifying thought, apart from the grace of God. Mark Twain famously said, “It’s not the parts of the Bible I can’t understand that bother me; it’s the parts that I do understand.” The way I see it? Anything short of begging for grace is sheer folly.

In our previous article and podcast episode, we focused on fear, and we saw that fear stems from a deflated view of God. Today, we see that pride stems from an inflated view of self. French is going to come to our help by showing us that bad pride always stems from comparison.

In French, we have two words for your one English word “pride.” Orgueil (pronounced [ɔʁɡœj]) is always negative, and it is always pride in relation to someone else: it’s comparing to others, and coming out on top. Conversely, fierté (pronounced [fjɛʁ.te]) is generally in relation to yourself. You are your own standard, and you measure improvement against yourself. It is much more positive. Orgueil and fierté  teach us that true pride is humble because it knows its limits and surrenders to God.

The true glory of mankind is not to seek glory for ourselves—that is worldly pride. Humans are truly glorious when we seek to know God. Our purpose and identity are found, not in pridefully seeking to make ourselves equal to God, but in seeking to know God. Humble pride seeks not to be God, but to know Him.

As believers, we have an awe-inspiring privilege: we are beckoned to enter the Throne Room boldly… on our knees. That is pride rooted in humility; it is God-dependence rooted in gratitude. When we approach the Throne to pray, for others and for ourselves, we nurture humility which, in turn, breeds gratitude and compassion. Pride cannot pray. Therefore, prayer is the antidote to our all-pervasive pride; prayer is both the soil and fruit of humility.

You can’t enter the Throne room without being captivated by the beauty of the Sovereign. His beauty is supremely displayed in the Son, the radiance of the Father’s glory (Hebrews 1:3) cloaked in the humility of human flesh (Philippians 2:5). The Book of Proverbs highlights the wisdom that is from above: a crucified Lord, foolishness to the proud but salvation to the humble.

Listen to Episode 85, released May 3, 2021 – “Can my pride be good?”

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