I struggle with pride. I know what I’m capable of accomplishing and it’s very easy for me to trust in myself. I know what I’m good at; I know what other people are bad at. Pride is something that comes naturally to me. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been good at almost everything I’ve ever attempted: school, sports, socializing and, for the most part, faith have always come very easy for me. I’m not looking to brag (I don’t think), but I’m hoping to give some context to my reflection for this week.
Because of my pride, I fear failure. Ego is a very fragile thing and very easily shattered. I’m the kind of person who generally doesn’t try anything unless I know I’m good at it. I’m very sensitive to cues that I might be less than adequate. I’m constantly comparing myself to others, mentally calculating how I stack up against those in my environment. Even now, I’m hoping my confession doesn’t make you think any less of me. This is my reality, my constant struggle. Every waking moment, I must war against a mindset that demands my glory at all costs.
Pride has many appearances. This week, I saw it most clearly evident in a surge of jealousy towards a Christian brother. He was getting an opportunity to do ministry in a context that I particularly enjoy, and I found myself becoming upset. In that moment, it mattered little to me that he was being used by God to bless others because it wasn’t me being used. For a moment, my desire to feel needed was more important than the edification of another.
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. -Philippians 2:1-4
What does it mean to “do ministry”? To minister is to serve. Paul describes a humility that makes the needs of others more important than ours. This is the antithesis of pride. Pride is selfish by nature: its focus is completely on self. Pride thinks about what I can do, how I am being perceived, if I am getting praised, whether I can make myself stand out even more. Paul speaks of humility as counting others more significant than oneself.
I’m struck by the words Paul uses to open up this section of discourse. Essentially he tells us, if we are to claim any experience of God, we must walk in unity. Unity is built through humility. Pride is not only detrimental to our personal walk, but to the unity of the Church. Pride divides because it makes us seek our individual good above the good of the community.
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. -Philippians 2:5-8
Humility in its purest form was modelled to us by Jesus. This is the message of the gospel. God, in Jesus, became man and suffered death for our good. No human in history has had more justification for pride than Jesus, and yet He died the painful death of a common criminal for us. If God could elevate the needs of treasonous sinners above His own, how much more is required of us who are recipients of His grace and called to be His followers? The solution to pride is to be reminded of the gospel again.
Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. – Philippians 2:9-11
What should be our primary motivation for killing pride? God’s glory. God is on a mission to redeem mankind and free all creation from the curse of sin. At the end of time, He will bring about a new heaven and earth and unite all creation under the banner of His worship. Today, He calls us to be His hands and feet building His kingdom. We pray for His Kingdom come and His will be done on earth as it is in heaven. We don’t lose our individuality but leverage our unique gifts to proclaim His great name. Our pride, our glory can only get in the way of that. We kill pride by remembering the gospel and we kill pride for the sake of God’s glory.
Yet pride is more resilient than headless cockroach and has more rebirths than the Batman franchise. Pride doesn’t ever really go away; it simply hides in new disguises. I’ll likely struggles with pride until the day I die, fighting a constant battle to remember the gospel. And because I don’t think I’m the only one that fights this battle, I’d like to conclude with a wonderful scripture for meditation.
Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!