What’s Worse than Pride? Try False Humility

“They are proud in humility; proud in that they are not proud.” ~ Robert Burton

Being around a prideful person is challenging enough. Listening to someone brag, boast and endlessly promote themselves can be exhausting.

But for me, there is an even more difficult soul for people to endure.

A person who projects a false humility.

Such an individual is egregious because they put a lot of energy into shrouding their pride.

I would have to agree with this sentiment shared by Brandon Mull:

“False humility is more insulting than open pride!”

It can be even scarier if such a person is in a role of leadership.

What makes dealing with such a person so hard is the fact that they work really hard at making themselves impervious to criticism or correction.

I mean, how can you disagree with such a humble, yet high-minded person?

A big problem with false humility is this:

“False humility is often a false front we employ to gain power over others.” (François de La Rochefoucauld)

Throughout scripture we are called on to pursue humility.

But it must be a true humility. Not thinking more of ourselves. Not thinking too low of ourselves. Simply thinking realistically about ourselves.

A few years ago I came across this list and saved it:

Fifteen Signs of False Humility:

1. Uses Religious Terms to Justify Cruel or Questionable Behavior. But a humble person refuses to use spiritual-sounding words as a smokescreen for sin.

2. Preoccupied with Self. But a humble person is as actively interested in others as in himself.

3. Listens to Others Only in Order to Speak into their Life. But a humble person listens to others with loving interest and with an expectation to learn and grow.

4. Admits Small Sins but Ignores Major Sins (Image Control). But a humble person admits sin and also receives an honest rebuke no matter how lowly the source.

5. Inability to Laugh at One’s Self When Others Do the Joking. But a humble person sees the humor in his own paradox of sin and sanctification. He can laugh at his own expense, because he knows that his worth is based not on impressing people but rather in the reality of being loved by God.

6. Publicizes Her Own Sacrifices to Impress Others. But a humble person avoids broadcasting her sacrificial labor.

7. Uses Himself as the Standard for Others’ Performance. But a humble person looks at the life of Jesus as the example, and points people to him.

8. Affects a Humble Tone of Voice While Saying Proud Things. But a humble person doesn’t need to affect his tone of voice to sound mealy-mouthed in order to convince others that he is humble.

9. Believes that Eschewing Money or Fame is the Same Thing as Being Humble. But a humble person understands that pride comes from the heart, not from possessions.

10. Professes Love for God and Neighbor but Acts in a Cruel Manner. But a humble person is consistent between what she says and what she does.

11. Delights in Debate rather than in Dialogue. But a humble person sees conversation as a two-way street with much to learn, not as a battle to win or lose.

12. Is Easily Offended. But a humble person is quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.

13. Believes that Asceticism Leads to Holiness. But a humble person recognizes that sin comes from the heart, not from pleasure.

14. Loves to Impose His Opinion on Others as Truth. But a humble person acts charitably to all, thinks the best of others, and avoids presenting his opinion on a disputable matter as ultimate Truth.

15. Enjoys Judging Other People. But a humble person hands judgment over to God and instead busies herself with loving her neighbor and serving God.

Considering the list above, it seems that, even though we might call it false humility, there is actually no humility in it at all.

It’s just another form of pride.

People who operate in false humility take on the “appearance” and perform the actions characteristic of a humble person but do not believe in being humble as a heart conditioned decision.

As a result, false humility is characteristically selfish and it strives at self-preservation.

As followers of Christ, we are called to humility.

But may it be a humility that reflects the words of C.S. Lewis:

Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.

 

When a “Right” is Cancelled out by a “Wrong”

“I’m not arguing. I’m just explaining why I’m right!” – Unknown

It’s not just enough to be right.

We must act right as well.

And even before that, our attitudes must be right, too.

The Pharisees tried so hard to be right, they actually added new (and unbiblical) rules to God’s commands.

But rather then draw closer to God, they just got filled with more pride.

They poured their energy into the most minute details of piety, but missed the big picture of God’s heart.

They may have been (on paper) right, but Jesus called them out as hypocrites.

Matthew 23 is an stinging display of Jesus’ absolute rebuke of the Pharisee’s so-called righteousness.

In one rebuke, Jesus said to them:

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel! (Matthew 23:23-24 ESV)

And here’s another zinger:

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. (Matthew 23:27-28 ESV)

Here’s what’s really sad: the Pharisees seemed so convinced of their rightness, it appears Jesus words of correction didn’t sink in. They just got madder at Him.

Coming back to us, I think it’s important to realize that our feelings about being right have to be encased in proper attitudes and actions.

If not, we will likely never get heard, and we may even push people away.

Sometimes the problem is we have a tendency to think we are always right. Which is an obvious lack of humility. No one has the corner on being right every time. We all have blind spots.

There is something within most people that rejects the idea of one person having all the correct answers. For some reason, a know-it-all wears people out

Always being right can be wrong. It can turn people against you, stifle conversations and ideas, and make people want to avoid you altogether.

A few questions for processing the problem of “wrong rightness”:

  • How many times have we lost ground gained because we didn’t present ourselves or our ideas with patience, grace and understanding?
  • How many times have we felt right about something, but failed to listen to the input of others?
  • How many times have we felt right about something, but when someone disagreed we resorted to disappointment and anger?
  • How many times do our feelings of being right tend to make us feel less about others who don’t see things our way?

David Stuart and Todd Nordstrom, in an article titles Why Always Being Right Can Be Wrong wrote:

You know it all, you do it all, you win it all. If that’s your attitude, you probably don’t stop to say thank you—or even realize how much others contribute to your big wins. And this, by far, is the worst know-it-all pitfall you can fall prey to. If you don’t stop to say thank you to others, you’re not only rude, but you’re also undermining productivity, happiness, cooperation, and innovation on your team.

Christian counselor and author Emerson Eggerichs writes about how the way we carry ourselves is just as important about feeling right about something.

He wrote an article called, You Can Be Right, But Wrong at the Top of your Voice. In it, Eggerichs makes this point:

“The right tone of voice and the right expression on your face is crucial to effective communication. I have talked with many wives who would like to tell their husbands, “Please turn down the volume. And, please, more than anything else realize how I feel when you speak to me harshly or look at me with an angry glare. Few things hurt me so badly. More than anything, I want to talk things through with you, but when you scowl and growl, like I’ve done something wrong or really dumb, I want to shut down or just scream.”

When Jesus preached his well-known Sermon on the Mount, He seemed to be going after the problem of trying to be right at the exclusion of proper attitudes and actions.

Over and over, no matter the topic He put on the table, he seemed to be asking: “How’s your heart?”

To be fully right, is to integrate our values and ideas and opinions with our how  well we interact with others.

Otherwise, we risk the danger of being right, but cancelling it out with our wrongs.

This Is What Dependence Looks Like

gogglesThe other morning I went to the gym for a swim.

When I got there, I realized I was missing a key item from my gym bag: my goggles.

Which in my mind caused a bit of anxiety.

I did not start using swim goggles until about 8 years ago.

I swam for years without them and didn’t really feel the need for them.

But when I started using them I really enjoyed the benefits.

Better vision and no red eyes after a swim session.

So, when I forgot my goggles, I soon found out how much I needed them and missed them.

I went ahead with my swim, but it was completely uncomfortable.

Every time I opened my eyes I could feel the burn of chlorine.

All this discomfort affected my stroke, meaning I got a less than stellar workout.

When I was done, I promised myself to never forget my goggles again!

I started thinking about all the things I depend upon when I come to the gym:

  • I need the right shoes to run
  • I often need a band-aid to keep blisters at bay
  • I demand light and breathable clothing

If I don’t have these things, I’m a wreck!

It got me thinking about that word: dependence

It’s a word that is highly connected to the activity of living as a Christian.

We are called to rely and depend on God.

How’s this for a picturesque description of the person who trusts God and the person who does not?:

Thus says the Lord: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord. He is like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see any good come. He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land. “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:5-9 ESV)

Yet, I’ll be honest: in those time when I move from God-dependence to self-dependence, I don’t always feel like I did when I forgot my goggles.

I certainly don’t feel such desperation.

Which is tragic!

It shows that I still am very much comfortable with my hands on the steering wheel of my life.

What I need to do is return to the words of Jesus:

“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.  I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 17:4-5 ESV)

The vine always supplies the needs of the branches.

It’s never the other way around.

Yet, I can often be tempted to live like I don’t need God’s protection and provision.

Sometimes I need his direction. Other times I need His discipline.

But that’s the key word: need

Dependence says, “I need you, Lord!”

The truth we must embrace is that God is much better at providing for us that we are.

He always knows what’s best for us.

He always knows what we truly need.

And He has never has a shortage of provisions.

Chuck Smith offered these thoughts about the importance of dependence (and the foolishness of presumption) in the life of the Christian:

Dependence on God is not something we muster in emergencies; it is the realization that apart from His will we cannot presume even our next breath. Dependence sees God as being everything; presumption sees Him merely as a resource for dealing with crises. Dependence is an expression of faith; presumption is an act of pride (2 Chronicles 25:19; 26:16). Dependence is confidence in God; presumption trusts the arm of flesh. Dependence surrenders the need to control everything; presumption attempts to seize God’s throne.

If only I could sense my need for God and His provision the way I felt when I forgot my goggles.

 

 

Fickle Fandom

This past Sunday was Super Bowl 52.

Patriots vs. the Eagles.

And, as you likely know, the Eagles claimed the Lombardi trophy.

(Cue Eagles fans going into a city-destroying frenzy.)

In Super Bowls 48 and 49, the team representing the great Northwest was the Seattle Seahawks.

aaron seahawksAnd up here in the Northwest corner of our county, it was absolutely crazy.

People flew Seahawks flags, wore Seahawks gear and plastered their cars with Seahawks decals. Everyone was giddy to be known as a “12.”

At our Sunday morning worship, there was a buzz in the lobby on game day. People were so pumped for the big game. They came dressed in jerseys and hats.

How fun it was to ride the coattails of a winner!

But after those two Super Bowl appearances, the Seahawks gradually floated back down to earth. In fact, this past season they didn’t even make the playoffs.

And with the Seahawk’s downward glide, fan enthusiasm waned as well. Yes, there are still a few flags, t-shirts and decals out there. But nothing like when the Hawks were on top of the world.

When Jesus carried out his earthly ministry, He too experienced adoration that turned into indifference.

There were times when the people cheered for Jesus…yet not too long after they abandoned Him.

John chapter 6 provides a perfect example of this switch for worship to “What have you done for me lately?”

As the chapter opens, Jesus performs an incredible miracle: He feeds thousands of people using a few fishes and some loaves of bread.

No wonder the people loved Jesus! Who doesn’t like a free lunch?

Having had their stomachs filled for free, the people began to follow Jesus and the disciples.

And then, Jesus started speaking to them about something even more important than physical food (which only satisfies the body for so long).

He began to talk about the fact that, spiritually speaking, He Himself was the Bread of Life.

Here’s what he said to get the people’s minds clicking:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” (John 6:26-27 ESV)

And then, to further illustrate what He was talking about, Jesus said this:

 I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” John 6:48-51 (ESV)

When Jesus said this, two things happened: the masses got a bit confused, and the religious leaders (the Pharisees) got mad.

But Jesus only continued in his teaching:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread[c] the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” (John 6:53-58 ESV)

How’s that for doubling down?

So, why the confusion? Well, some people thought Jesus was introducing some kind of weird cult rooted in cannibalism.

Rather than hearing things metaphorically, they took them literally.

Which is too bad, because Jesus’ point was incredible!

He would soon offer up His own body as a sacrifice for sins, and anyone who “partook” of what He had done would experience the life abundant and the life everlasting!

But, this misunderstanding of Jesus message resulted in thinning crowds.

Verse 66 says: After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. 

Jesus fan base was fading. He drew a crowd for bread, but couldn’t keep them around for eternal life.

Finally, Jesus turned to his 12 disciples and asked them, “How about you? Do you want to leave as well?

Peter spoke for the group and shared some of the wisest words ever uttered:

“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:68-69 ESV)

Truth be told, even the disciples struggled with some of Jesus’ teachings.

But rather than turn away, they stuck with Him.

They kept asking questions, figuring He had a solid answer for those things they couldn’t understand.

Sometimes we may feel the pull to disengage from Jesus and go it on our own.

Maybe we have too many questions.

Maybe we’ve suffered injustice.

Maybe we’ve faced a lot of pain, whether physical or emotional

But think about it. Where would we go? Would we really find life? Would we really engage more truth?

Being a disciple isn’t always easy. But difficulty isn’t a reason to let go of the very thing that can get you through.

Mankind seems to often suffer from fickleness.

But when it comes to Jesus, there is no better alternative to turn to.

He is the Way, the Truth and the Life.

 

 

 

 

 

The “Inside-Outness” of Transformation

Here’s one working definition I have for the church:

The church is the supernatural uniting of diverse people for the purpose of bringing about spiritual maturity and accomplishing God’s mission.

Put another way, God brings us, the church, together with all our uniqueness, and through the INSTRUCTION OF HIS WORD and the POWER OF HIS SPIRIT, combined with the POSITIVE FRICTION OF TRUE FELLOWSHIP, we can expect to experience growth and transformation.

For some of us that may sound exhilarating, while for some of us that may sound intimidating!

I know there have been times when I didn’t really feel like being transformed by God!

But that is precisely why the church exists: to change us from the inside out.

Here’s how it plays out:

God transforms our negative and destructive beliefs into life-giving beliefs about Him

Part of how this begins is realizing that to be a Christian is to view who’s in charge of my life from a brand new perspective.

Romans 12:2 describes this as the renewing of our mind.

Then, out of our transformed thoughts, God can transform our emotions

Where we once had feelings of angst, anger, discord, hopelessness, meaninglessness, malice or fear…

In their place, God can infuse us with emotions ruled by things like peace, purpose, compassion and courage.

Also flowing out of transformed beliefs and thoughts and emotions are transformed actions.

When it comes to being a Christian, our actions are rooted in obedience.

  • Because we can know God
  • Because we believe in God
  • Because we trust God

We can begin obeying God, knowing that whatever He asks of us is for our good.

Perhaps another way to look at all this is to simply say: transformation begins in the mind, works its way down into our hearts, and then, ultimately, finds itself revealing itself in our actions.

That’s because transformation is an inside-out proposition.

We can’t just try to slap external Christian actions onto our life.

God’s desire is that we begin on the inside.