I am in a small group of sorts that meets on Saturday evenings. It’s part of a program called Starting Point, and I have really enjoyed it. It’s not exactly a class but it is at the same time. It’s an open environment where anyone can ask any question about faith without feeling silly about it. It’s really great, and we have a really great group.
We have an assignment coming up pretty soon where we need to bring a list of the sins that we struggle with. Not an easy assignment, let me tell you. And I really had no intention of talking about this today, but then I read today’s verse and it was all I could think about.
23 For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. 24 Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.
Everyone has sinned. Not one person is righteous. Not a single person can meet God’s standards. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re going or where you’ve been or how you got there; nobody is good enough. But God declares us righteous through Jesus’ sacrifice. So because of Jesus, our sins can’t control us.
But, because we’re human, even though we don’t have to live in sin, our sin still follows us around. And I’m pretty sure I’ve nailed down the big one that always trips me up.
I truly struggle with pride.
But it’s not the pride you normally identify as “the sin of pride,” with all the strutting and bragging. No, I’m too smart for that. I’ve grown up in the church, after all, and I know pride is a sin. So I learned at a young age to conceal my pride behind a mask of false humility.
For example, when people complimented my writing, I used to dismiss it. I used to thank them for their kindness but insist that I really didn’t know what I was doing. I think in some way I was trying to be humble about it, not taking credit for something I did. But that’s not true humility. Even as I was telling someone that I didn’t really know what I was doing when I wrote a script, inside I was telling myself that I was such a good Christian for not taking credit for it.
Do you see the disparity?
True humility acknowledges the gifts God gave you and redirects the credit to Him for any results those gifts have brought about. Denying that I have a gift for writing is not only dishonest, but it diminishes the glory that rightfully belongs to God.
Okay. Imagine that someone gives you a beautiful piece of jewelry. Or a really expensive car. And they just give it to you. And when people come up and tell you how awesome it is, you just say, “Oh, this? It’s just some trinket.” Or you say, “It’s not really that special. Everybody has a car.” When you should say, “Isn’t my friend the best? Look what he’s done for me, and he’ll do the same for you too!”
Pride manifests itself so many ways in my life. I was talking with one of my best friends this past weekend about my inability to ask for help. Ingrained in my mind is this desperate need to do everything myself. I have this petrifying fear that people will think I’m weak if I ask for help, even when I need it. And that is pride.
And in many of my relationships, pride rears its head too because sometimes I’m tempted to think people owe me. Not money, though. More of the time, I just feel like people should appreciate the sacrifices that I make for them. I spend a lot of money on other people. I invest a lot of time in other people. And many many times, I don’t get anything in return. Sometimes not even a thank you. And when that happens, pride rears its ugly old head and tells me that I should be offended. That I should never do anything to help anybody again. But what did I give to someone else that actually belonged to me? It’s not my money. And it’s not my time. So what right do I have to be offended that someone else didn’t express appreciation to me for something I gave them that wasn’t even mine in the first place?
And that’s the danger of pride. Not the strutting and boasting kind of pride. The quiet, stealthy, Christian pride that creeps into our lives when we don’t expect it. It convinces us that we are good people and that our time belongs to us and that our money is something we earned or that our work is something we did all by ourselves. This kind of pride tells us that we’re justified to seek recompense or to feel slighted if we don’t receive it.
But are we really?
What kind of pride did Jesus have?
Did He dismiss His gifts when people praised Him? No. He always redirected the praise to God instead of hiding it behind a mask of false modesty. Did He ask for help when He needed it? Heck, yes. He had an inner circle of friends (Peter, James and John) who went everywhere with Him, who He asked to pray for Him (granted, they were losers and went to sleep when they were supposed to be praying, but He still asked them). And did Jesus expect recompense for His sacrifice? Absolutely not. What could we pay Him anyway? Did He die on the cross so we could thank Him for His sacrifice? No. He died on the cross to make a way for us to reach God.
Jesus had the right to be as proud as He wanted. But He left heaven (where He is worshipped every second of eternity) and came to Earth as a blue-collar worker. And even beyond that, He gave up His right to humanity and made Himself a sacrifice for us. Beaten until He wasn’t even recognizable. Hung on a cross to die in a humiliating way. And for what?
So that God could declare us righteous.
Where’s the pride in that?
So am I saying that I’ve got this pride thing all figured out? No way. All I’m saying is that I’ve identified it in my life and that it’s the biggest sin I struggle with. But it certainly does make dealing with it easier if I know what to call it.
Everyone struggles with sin. That’s what the verse today says. Everyone has fallen short of God’s standard. It’s different for every person, though.
But all sin has one thing in common: Jesus defeated it.
And that’s a pretty cheery thought for a gloomy Wednesday morning, don’t you think?