Tag Archives: pride

When praying for someone is an act of aggression

pharisee and tax collector“I’ll be praying that God show you the error of your ways.”

It should be nice to have someone say that they’ll pray for you, right? Yet look at the above statement. There’s something about it that smacks of the Pharisee’s prayer in Luke 18, the pious superiority revealing itself in HolySpeak.

The “loving” statement above says that we have a difference of opinion, but my opinion is God’s opinion. It’s like the old joke about the two musicians arguing about how to perform a Bach concerto. Finally one says, “Listen, you keep playing it your way. I’ll keep playing it Bach’s way.”

Condescension. “Someday you’ll see how wrong you were.” Smug superiority. “Yes, I used to believe that way, until I really studied these passages.”

Here’s a news flash: You’re wrong.

Here’s another: I’m wrong.

Here’s a whole string of them: N.T. Wright is wrong. The Pope is wrong. Your preacher is wrong. That guy who is on every workshop is wrong.

We’re all wrong about something. And we need to act like we’re aware of that.


Image courtesy Sweet Publishing

Knowledge that puffs up

proudI’ve shared with some friends a concern I have about attitudes I see in our churches. Worse, these are attitudes that I see in me.

On the one hand, there are areas in which I’ve become uncomfortable with traditional interpretations and longstanding traditions. I’ve come to see things in a different way. If I’m not comfortable, I communicate those things poorly, coming across as: “If you were truly enlightened, you would understand this issue as I do.”

In other areas, I play the exact opposite role. I grow frustrated with those who seem more interested in criticizing and rejecting than they are in actually evaluating the status quo. I look on in dismay as they seem to dismiss God’s Word in an attempt to conform to culture. On my worst days, I communicate the idea that I stand for truth while they are promoting heresy.

If I’m not careful, in each case I put the emphasis on knowledge, rather than on love. Which is something that is directly addressed in the New Testament:

“We know that we all possess knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know.”

(1 Corinthians 8:1–2)

There is no need to stand idly by while the church drifts away from what is most pleasing to God. Nor is there an obligation to kowtow to legalism in order to please the overly sensitive. However, there is a great need for humility, for entering every discussion with the recognition that we may be mistaken in some way.

I had a roommate in college that I only shared a room with for one semester. One Sunday, the speaker at church made a reference to unwritten creeds. My roommate was reflecting on that idea later, and he said, “Our only creed is the Bible. When we need to know something, we consult it. We’re always going to find the same thing, but we consult it anyway.” And that last line states the problem well.

One of our teammates in Argentina described what he had found upon visiting his supporting church while home on furlough. They had a new preacher, a man who had been blessed to learn everything learnable during his 35-year lifetime. The man had written a book on biblical interpretation. My teammate asked him if there was any chance that he was wrong about anything in that book. When the man replied that there was no such chance, my teammate said, “Then there’s no point in our discussing the Bible.”

When we enter a discussion with our minds made up, then it can hardly be called a discussion. When we think that truth begins and ends with us, then we will spread division everywhere we go. When we value our knowledge above our love for others, then that knowledge will never equal truth.

I shared the following short prayer with those friends on Facebook:

Father, help me to value love over knowledge! And especially help me to love those who know more than I do.

photo by David Schauer on FreeImages.com

The monster within

monsterI should comment one other thing about this past Sunday’s bilingual service, something more personal. This combined service led me to wrestle with one of the monsters  in my life: my ego, my desire for recognition. As we prepared for having a bilingual service in the main auditorium, I was very anxious to see things go well. Besides my usual desire to see the Sunday assembly be a time of edification, I also wanted the service to be something that people would be willing to do again soon. I wanted the service to go smoothly so that the congregation would be interested in holding more combined services. Those are desires that I feel good about.

But there was something else at work, there is something at work in me. I want people to notice me. I want them to applaud and praise me. I want them to say, “Wow, Tim’s a good preacher. My, Tim really does a good job with bilingual preaching. Goodness, isn’t he talented.” Pat me on the back, throw flowers at my feet, break out the ticker tape parade. Even at church tonight (Wednesday), I had an ear out for people that wanted to compliment me on what had been done on Sunday. [I even dreamed of some people saying, “Tim should preach for us every Sunday.”]

That’s the monster I wrestle with, the human pride that wants to run my life. I’m reminded of a story I heard of a church where one member said to the preacher, “That was a fine sermon,” and the preacher responded, “I know.” The member didn’t know what to say, until the preacher added, “The devil has been whispering that in my ear all morning.” When someone does something well in ministry, Satan is there to inflate his pride, feed his ego, and turn something good into something harmful.

If that desire, the need to feed my ego, ever controls my ministry, I pray that God will hinder what I do and deny me the success my ego craves. I don’t want the praise of men; I want God’s praise. My constant prayer is that God will speak to his people through me and that all the glory will be his not mine. The monster is always there, hoping to consume me, but God is able to deliver me from my own ego. “Not to us, O LORD, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness.” (Psalms 115:1)


hu·bris (hyōō’brĭs)
n. Overbearing pride or presumption; arrogance

While traveling last week, the blog feeds continued to pile up. There were literally hundreds of posts waiting to be read when I got back. Sorry, folks. I just couldn’t do it.

But I happened to read one of the first ones, a blog by a preacher seen as “progressive” in our brotherhood. He was voicing his views on the role of women and made the following statement: “This post isn’t about the issue of women and gifts, per se. Time will take care of this, anyway. Churches will realize they were wrong — just as on the issue of race.”

I was saddened by the incredible arrogance of this statement. “Don’t worry… someday everyone will be mature enough to hold my opinion.” It’s an attitude long associated with the “conservatives” in our brotherhood, the old “You can hold my opinion or you can hold the wrong one.” We need to be confident of what we believe. We need to hold strong opinions. But we need to have the humility to recognize that we can be wrong! Especially when godly, intelligent, studious brothers and sisters disagree with us. We need to enter a discussion willing to listen and learn, and change if necessary! When we believe that we hold the only opinion and that others only need to mature and see it our way, we’ll never get anywhere.

I’m afraid that attitudes like that will lead to division in our brotherhood. There is no room for gnosticism in the church, no room for illuminati. We are all growing and learning. I don’t see things the way I saw them 10 years ago, and I hope to grow more in the next 10 years. But at times I return to an older position, seeing that my “new insights” were wrong. If we aren’t willing to do that, then we aren’t maturing at all.

My friend and colleague Steve Ridgell has an excellent post on this same issue. Take some time to read it.

And while we’re at it, let’s take some time and get over ourselves. “Another round of humility for this table, please.”