Wisdom and Humility

Proverb 13: 10

Through overconfidence comes nothing but strife, but wisdom is with those who receive counsel.

The God’s Word translation uses the word “arrogance” in place of overconfidence. I guess either will do. The point is that when we think we have all the answers, are the font of knowledge, inevitably we come to ruin. Wisdom is in an abundance of counselors.

If the book of Proverbs stands for any one thing, it is wisdom. Here, then, is another dose of wisdom. Solicit advice, receive counsel. In the end, you still have to make your own decision, but you can do so with more perspective. There is something more here though.

Arrogance leads to strife; the verse tells us. This statement is an acknowledgement that we live in dynamic systems. No one is an island. Your decisions affect others. Even at times when it seems your life course is purely a matter of your own concern, it rarely is the case. Our decisions affect others. When we exclude those people from speaking into our lives, we sow seeds of strife. We convey their unimportance and our lack of respect for their thoughts.

My best friend in college didn’t see many things the way I did. You would think that would make us unlikely friends. However, it was just the opposite. I could have never thought the things she thought or seen from those perspectives without her. She always opened my mind to different views. Even if it was sometimes painful for me to stretch that far, it was always illustrative and valuable. Even to this day, I am a better person for having known her. And she is still someone I call when trying to sort out complicated questions.

My point is, first, you don’t have to have all the answers. That really is God’s job and way too heavy a burden for any of us. Second, being that person only makes others think of you as arrogant and dislike you. Third, it sows the seeds of strife in families, work settings and even in friendship. Fourth, it proves you to be unwise rather than wise. The arrogant prove themselves to be ignorant. What a Catch 22 that is. Only those humble enough to receive counsel prove themselves wise. Last, I would add that it is that person who receives counsel who proves themselves secure. The overconfident, arrogant person is anything but self-assured. The truly secure are able to hear other opinions without being intimidated.

So, who are you and who do you want to be? Can you graciously give advice? Can you receive counsel? It is not a sign of weakness to ask other’s opinions. It is a sign of strength.

Proverb 13

Pride, Advice and Wisdom

Proverb 13: 10               NIV

Pride only breeds quarrels, but wisdom is found in those who take advice.

Among the unpopular topics of the day, this must be one. We have become a proud, arrogant people who value our own opinions above all others and rarely will lower ourselves to receive advice from anyone, even God. We don’t inquire of the Lord because we are smart enough ourselves. Hasn’t God given us wisdom? He has given us brains for a reason, right?

I have observed us become smarter than our doctors, smarter than our lawyers and smarter than our pastors. While no one is perfect and no one except the Spirit has all the answers, surely some people know better than we on some subjects. We have become so prideful that we do not wish to hear advice or even teaching. Learning should be a lifelong process. I heard it said one time that as soon as you stop learning, you die. The point is not that you die physically but rather the person within you begins to decay. How shall we continue to learn when we are unwilling to bow to the expertise of another? Even though the Bible is packed with the wisdom of God, Christians don’t value it very highly. We certainly are not clawing for wisdom. We worship the Bible itself but not the content.

We don’t want to be told what to do, we don’t want to be under the authority of another. To listen to the counsel of another is to raise them above us, and that we will not have. I think, “God, save me from myself,” but perhaps what I should pray is, “Father, save me from my pride.” How do we change this tendency in ourselves, much less in our culture? If we do not humbly seek our God, then how will we be able to receive the wisdom He gives others for us? We talk often about our cultural woes and bemoan how our nations are becoming less godly, but I think people have other things in mind when they decry the current state of the culture. This issue, though, is more dangerous to the fabric of our culture than some of the things people would cite. We need to understand which issues are merely symptoms and which are causes. Pride would seem to be a root cause. In fact, I believe it is embodied in the Ten Commandments in which God told us to have no gods, no idols before Him. Our arrogance lifts us up above God which is the original sin. Satan thought he was as smart as God and his insolence shook heaven. God cast him and all of his cronies out because of his insolence. Then man was silly enough to listen to the devil and elevate himself to godlike status. That is what caused man to eat of the forbidden tree.

Pride certainly does breed quarrels. It won’t allow us to listen to anyone’s thoughts so each person vies for the floor which causes friction. Wisdom awaits those who enable themselves to receive instruction. The question, though, is how to we train our egos to allow advice? What is needful? Perhaps we should throw ourselves at the feet of Christ and ask his advice?

Wisdom is for those who take advice. Therefore, seek wisdom. Inquire of God but also allow yourself to be led by those who have gone before you. If you don’t have anyone who knows more than you, you need some new friends. There is guidance available for those who will humble themselves. I pray that we all can learn this valuable life lesson.  Please think about, or even meditate on, today’s verse and email us with your thoughts.  What can we do to right this ship?  Thank you.

Prideful

Ezekiel 16: 49             CEB

This is the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were proud, had plenty to eat, and enjoyed peace and prosperity; but she didn’t help the poor and the needy.

You know what happened to Sodom, don’t you? The city was obliterated from the face of the earth. What was her crime? The Complete Jewish Bible tells us clearly, “The crimes of your sister S’dom were pride and gluttony; she and her daughters were careless and complacent, so that they did nothing to help the poor and needy.”

Did you know that pride was a sin? What about gluttony? Now that definitely hits below the belt. Sodom was prosperous. Her people had plenty and although they lacked for nothing, their hearts were hard, so that they did nothing to help the poor or the needy.

Does that really sound so different from our towns and cities today? How about the church? Are we, as the church, doing much to help the poor and needy? We can even reduce this analysis to the individual level and ask ourselves how well we are doing at helping others. The New American Standard Bible says that the people of Sodom were arrogant. They were so blessed in their prosperity and peace that they became arrogant. They began to think they were responsible for their wealth and expected other people to make their own way too.

It’s a funny thing. Sometimes when we have much, we become more greedy than those who have less. That is what happened to Sodom. They horded their wealth rather than helping to meet the needs of others.

It’s too late for Sodom but not for us. We have a chance to do something about our fate and that of those less fortunate than ourselves. At every level we can change our perspective and begin to give to others. Our churches can greatly impact their communities. We must change our consumer culture and become one of charity. With our tithes and offerings, even our local churches can have a great impact. Ask yourself, what you can do to effect change. We should all begin with prayer and with seeking God. We should trust Him to show us new paths and we can follow those paths to an entirely different way of living, one which does not only consume the blessing but instead spreads the blessing to those less fortunate. Let’s allow this to sink in and then let’s all find ways to initiate change.

Let There be Peace

Galatians 5: 26

Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another.

This verse captured my attention last week. It’s one of those which I think we read and nod our heads in immediate agreement. We shouldn’t boast or brag, okay. Envy is just wrong, okay but what of challenging one another. What does that mean?

I was intrigued by this verse when I read it from the Amplified version, “Let us not become vainglorious and self-conceited, competitive and challenging and provoking and irritating to one another, envying and being jealous of one another.” So, I think we pretty well understand that we are not supposed to present ourselves in conceit and arrogance. Envy, yeah we’ve got a handle on that too. However, would you have said that God has spoken about competitiveness, provocation, and irritation? It is pretty easy to cast your thoughts abroad and remember instances when each of those has created a less than Godly environment. I am very competitive by nature but I really don’t like being around people whose competitiveness takes the fun out of life. You know what I am talking about. That does not foster a sense of love and peace.

And of course you may know someone who loves to provoke people. I knew one of those. He especially liked to say provocative and hateful things to women. I always thought he must be a bit of a coward to try to pick on and harass people who were not likely to make him pay for his comments in any meaningful way. Had he tried that with men, eventually he would have encountered one who was not feeling particularly righteous that day and would have decked him.

What about the irritants? Are there people who are just a thorn in the flesh of those around them? They are like a burr under the saddle, aren’t they? You just want to get rid of them.

All three of these are symptoms of brokenness. Emotionally healthy people do not have to resort to any of the characteristics described in today passage. We can certainly pray for these folks and you know they need prayer. Sometimes, you may need to gently confront them. Their damage should not become your burden but you may need to let them know where your boundaries lie and what is appropriate and what is not. God did not call you to fix them, he didn’t even call you to hang out with them, which is my third thought. You might consider significantly limiting your association with them. If you are following peace, as we know we should, then you are not going to find it in their presence. These behaviors are every bit as sinful as adultery. Importantly, God has not called you into that environment. Hear this – He has called us out of it.

God is the healer. If we are the ones who are conceited, arrogant, envious, self-absorbed, irritating, competitive, and provoke others into anger or other ungodly thoughts and words, then we must turn to God and receive healing. Only a broken, damaged person does these things, but we serve a mighty God who will deliver us.
You were destined to live in peace and harmony. You are meant to live in loving and caring environments and you deserve that. It is part of what Jesus died to give you so demand it for yourself. Except nothing less!!!

God is . . . not arrogant

1 Corinthians 13: 4

Love is patient, love is kind, and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant.

It is interesting that love is known not only for what it is but also for what it is not. It can be hard to describe what love is but we all understand the imagery suggested by what love is not. Still, you may be a little surprised that “not arrogant” is included in a description of love. So, what does arrogance look like and how does that contrast with love?
Some synonyms for arrogance are: conceit, haughtiness, egotism, and superiority. None of these sound like God. Our Father is not one to brag or self-promote. Love puts other people in first position and that is what God does. Also, arrogance comes often in comparison. Behaving in a superior or haughty manner is often more about putting someone else down in order to elevate oneself. God has no need to build Himself up. There is no one like God; no one even to compare with Him.

Truly there is no room for arrogance in love. Love shouldn’t be self-effacing but it should be modest, putting the love of the other person ahead of selfish, arrogant aims. Because God is love, His first thought is always about you. This is true. He isn’t worrying about Himself. He is fine and He is secure. Everything He has ever done, everything He does is for your welfare. He is not prideful, arrogant or boastful. He is kind, modest, meek and gentle. He is not out to prove how great He is or even to have you constantly bowing and kowtowing to Him. He made you a child. You are His beloved. There is no room for prideful or arrogant expression in true love. Love is not arrogant and thus neither is God.

Rightful Reliance

Habakkuk 2: 4

Behold, as for the proud one, his soul is not right within him; but the righteous will live by his faith.

There are quite a few observations we can receive from the prophet Habakkuk. One of the first is that the proud person and the righteous person are not one in the same. That may seem obvious but perhaps we have not yet made that connection intellectually. We can be either arrogant or righteous but not both.

Secondly, Habakkuk tells us that an arrogant or proud person is not right on the inside. There is something amiss in their soul. This is really tragic. There is damage on the inside and this damage or unresolved injury prevents this person from being righteous. Now in the New Testament, Jesus is our righteousness so one might argue that righteousness still belongs to the arrogant or self-centered person because of Jesus. The problem with that argument is that this righteousness, which was purchased for us by Jesus, must still be received. The arrogant person can no more receive the grace of God’s righteousness through Jesus than he was able to do under the old covenant. God has always been the source of righteousness. We must die to self, take our eyes off of ourselves and live unto Christ if we want to walk in the blessing of Christ. All the blessings are provided for us but they are “in Christ” where we too are supposed to be. We cannot be into ourselves and into Christ. One might even ask how a person can be a Christian, a follower of The Way, with eyes, motivation and passion focused on oneself instead of on the Christ.

Lastly, the self-absorbed person cannot live by faith. Faith is in the rightness provided for us in Christ Jesus. That means that an arrogant person cannot also be a person of faith. This person, even if he confesses to be a Christian will be unable to live and walk under the umbrella of faith. Faith begins with Jesus. Faith comes through an end to self-reliance and a surrender to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Faith comes by hearing and hearing comes by the Word of Christ (Romans 10: 17). Faith, therefore, requires submission to the person of Jesus. Faith requires that we put our egos, ideas, thoughts, reasonings and truly all that we are behind the words of Christ. That necessarily means that we cannot be self-absorbed, self-impressed or self-sustaining and also reliant on the person and words of Jesus. We must take the idol of our intellect off of the throne of our hearts and ensconce Jesus there.

Not one of us wants to admit that we are arrogant because only fools are such. Whatsmore, I may find it quite easy to lie to myself in this regard, but here is the question I must consider, that is, not whether I believe or think myself to be arrogant but rather what others may say about me. If I can be completely honest with myself do I suspect that others might find me self-impressed. Oh dear God in heaven, save me from myself. Repentance brings the oil of gladness and repentance means nothing more than turning and going the other way, it means a change of heart, a change of mind. It does not mean travail or moaning and groaning. Just let Jesus and his word change your way of thinking. Be saved by the renewal of your thoughts, by the refreshing of your mind and be free from the burden of yourself.

Humbly Led

Psalm 25: 9

He leads the humble in justice, and He teaches the humble His way.
You can hang out in the twenty-fifth psalm for a long time. There is much nourishment for the soul here. So how did I choose verse nine? I am often attracted to the verses that promise God will lead me in His paths. I want to know His ways and walk according to His instruction. One of my very favorite verses, in fact, is in this psalm. Verse 4 is a prayer, “Make me know Thy ways, O Lord; teach me Thy paths.” This is a psalm of David. By the time, he reaches verse 9 he has switched into teaching mode. He has gone from request to assurance. David knew that prayer to our benevolent Father results in answers. Therefore, he confidently assures us that our God and Father will lead us onto the divine pathway.

There is a stumbling block here, though, and that is what caused me to stop on this verse. There is a humility requirement. Perhaps, Father does not lead me as much as He might because I am so impressed with my own wisdom. Maybe, just maybe, my arrogance and independence prevents me from walking in His ways as well as I could. I wonder.

As you continue through this psalm, you discover that God’s instruction and guidance is for those who revere Him. Perhaps some of us get so caught up in trying to come up with answers that we never actually humble ourselves before the Lord and ask for His wisdom. And you know something else? Sometimes you don’t even have to ask. I find that if I will quiet myself down, He will offer His guidance free of charge. Maybe it doesn’t seem like arrogance for me to work so hard searching for answers but if we are truly humble and we revere the Lord won’t we allow Him to speak to our needs and questions? What is it, if not pride, when we are so caught up in our thinking that we do not appeal to His wisdom? Is this not putting our own intellect and problem solving skills on the throne?

We have a promise from the Lord that He will lead us and teach us His way. Let’s make ourselves available for Him to fulfil that promise in us.