The Fine Line

“It was Pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels.” – St. Augustine

Evagrius of Pontus was a monk who drew up the eight deadly sins and slowly they came to the attention of the Catholic Church. In the late 6th century, Pope Gregory the Great reduced the list to seven items, folding vainglory into pride, acedia into sadness, and adding envy. Beginning in the early 14th century, the popularity of the seven deadly sins as a theme among European artists of the time eventually helped to ingrain them in many areas of Catholic culture and Catholic consciousness in general throughout the world.

They are not in the Bible.

However the idea of humility, the opposite of arrogance and pride is a common idea expressed in the Bible and lived by Jesus Christ.

Google “humility in the Bible” and you will see numerous verses devoted to the need for humility, many of those words were spoken by Jesus.

For most of my life, I have struggled to understand the way to be humble yet effective in life; most of those years I stumbled along unsure whether I had remained humble or had crossed the line into pride. I want to be effective in my service to my Lord, yet in being effective, I find myself in a leadership role from time to time. When that happens, the fine line between humility and pride is so hard to walk.

In our book, the idea of hearing from God is the topic and in Biblical history, many Bible characters had received communication from God. When that happened, it always seemed to have a humbling effect on the recipient of God’s message.

Dr. Willard states that the normal response is “Who am I even to suppose that God might guide me or speak to me, much less that my experience should be like that of Moses or Elisha?”

In short, “Who am I that I should receive Divine guidance?”

Dr. Willard feels that when man receives God’s word, it can lead to two mistakes. Number one is that we have a humble response and deny that the word is real. He calls that the “Moses response”. Moses stated that he was not worthy of the words from God and God was asking him to do something that he was incapable of doing.

When I receive praise from a person, I struggle with it. I can say thanks. I can deflect it to give credit to other people. I can deny it and say “it was nothing.” I can say “It is God working through me.” I have blogged on the last response which for Christians who are doing God’s work may be the best, most accurate response.

However the most common response to God may be the “Moses response,” pleading inadequacy.

Dr. Willard says the response is irrelevant. God gave it to you and He wanted to. He had his reasons. Don’t doubt them. We all are special enough to receive a word from God.

The second mistake is claiming that receiving a word from God makes us special or important.   If we think that God’s effort to communicate with us makes us important, that response cancels the positive effect of God’s connection to us.

In short Dr. Willard states “His guidance will pretty certainly be withdrawn.” This mistake is pride and God does not want us to be “puffed up” by the reception of his word. He wants us to heed it, respond to it and use it to further His kingdom.

1.refrain from pretending we are what we are not

2.don’t presume a favorable position for ourselves

3.don’t push or override the will of others in our context.

These three rules are what Dr. Willard says are “the fail-safe recipe for humility.” In fact, he jokingly says try this recipe for a month and there is a money back guarantee if it does not work.

Pride is a problem for many of us. It is hard to be humble. It is a mystery to walk the fine line between effective living and the temptation of pride and the practice of humility.

Maybe we should all emulate Moses, even though he errs on the side of being too humble and doubting God’s confidence in him. He was a humble man and God admired this trait. Nevertheless, it says in Psalm 25:9 “He [God] guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.” Maybe we need to have faith that God will do this for all of us.

He has our best interest in His heart.

Our way is the humble way.

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