• Christ Church, Willesborough

Third Sunday after Trinity Morning Prayer (3 July 2022)


“Pride and Prejudice” or “Humility and Helpfulness”

“May the words of my mouth, and the meditation of our hearts, be acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer” (This is based on Psalm 19:14, but with us all seeking to be sharing in the Psalmist’s prayer.)

Today we have been blessed by having two wonderful, thoughtful and guidance-giving passages from God’s Word, from the Epistle of Peter and from the Gospel of John. I expect that a number of thoughts came to your mind as we heard them. The sermon title indicates some of these themes. “Pride and Prejudice” or “Humility and Helpfulness” In both passages we see lessons about pride and humility. These words remain relevant today.

So today please may I emphasise these key words, which earlier this week, in preparation for the Sermon, so resonated in my mind and heart. I think that together we can find these themes very helpful in both cautioning us, if need, but also in confirming us in the needful Christian walk through life.

Our dear Lord Jesus, as He walked and talked on earth, knew the hearts and attitudes of people. Our Gospel passage, as well as many others, reveals this, as He graciously responded to the proud Pharisees, and as He revealed an understanding of the concerns of the basic person, such as in the illustration of the lady who had lost one of her ten ceremonial coins indicating marriage and family acceptance.

As we are gathered here in church, or perhaps listening to, or reading this, online, there is a particular truth which really makes me marvel, but also tremble. God sees us, and God knows what our thoughts are, how hard or soft our hearts are towards Him and towards others, and how these matters are helping or hindering us as believers or seekers. How these traits impact for good or for ill on others, at times. This reminds us that we need to consider our ways, to take care. So then, I felt led to ponder the issue of personal pride, which is something which any of us may at times have to wrestle with. For it can make us too big for our boots!

With the lovely words of the Apostle Peter about avoiding pride and showing humility, and with the caution (1 Peter 5:5) that “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” which was his quote from proverbs 3:34, as well as with the Pharisees of Luke chapter 10 in mind, let us consider a few lessons about pride, which can help or guide us if we find pride rearing its ugly head in our lives. Remember that Moses was humble, that our Lord was humble. The great Apostles, Paul and Peter, James and John, were humble. Giving glory to God, not to self.

So now for some points about pride. Hopefully in a helpful order, but some will overlap. Every one of these points can be evidenced in the Bible, and sometimes even in some church goers. Listen to the pitfalls of pride. Hands up anyone who never has, or never will, wrestle with pride at some point! And surely we as believers wish to honour God with true humility. Thank God for those times, with the Holy Spirit’s help, we can, and do, experience some humility..

Pride, and its various likely consequences.

1. Pride can lead to smugness and pomposity. This can lead to an over-inflated sense of self-esteem, of self-worth. (So pride can make us big-headed. The Pharisees in our Bible Reading suffered from this. This sadly harms our relationship with God, and even with some others.)

2. Pride can lead to snobbishness. The Pharisees also suffered from this. Remember the teaching about the Pharisees and the Publican or tax-collector. In Luke 18:11, the Pharisee proudly prayed, “Lord, I thank Thee that I am not as others are, and not like this publican. I fast twice a week, and I tithe.” The publican humbly prayed, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” (Luke 18:13.)

In 18:14, Jesus said: “I tell you, this tax-collector went down to his house justified, not the other; for everyone who exalts himself shall be abased, and he that humbles himself shall be exalted.”

The Apostle Paul, before conversion, was proud that he was a well-respected Pharisee. However, (see 1 Timothy 1:15), after his conversion he spoke of himself as “the chief of sinners”. He gave the glory to God. Peter (1 Peter 5:5): said, “Be clothed with humility.”

3. Pride can lead to stubbornness. Our attitude could be, ‘Who are you to tell me this or that? I am me. I know better than most! I know better than you! Anyway, I’ll do what I want to do!’ The outcome of this can be very hurtful for a proud person, as ignoring good advice is not very smart!

4. Pride can sometimes blind us to our own faults. Which blindness is to our own detriment. Others may see us a bit differently than we see ourselves.

5. Pride can make us over-judgemental and critical of others. We can forget the teaching of Jesus that we should take the beam out of our own eye before trying to remove the mote from the other person’s eye.

(A helpful illustration here for me is to remember that is that if I am physically point the finger at someone, three fingers are still pointing at me.)

Do you remember (see John 8:7) how Jesus said, “Let him that is without sin cast the first stone.” Related to this, of course, in John 8:11, is the reminder that where there is sin, Jesus says, “Go, and sin no more”.

6. Pride can make us condescending to others. This makes people feel belittled, or can damage their needful self-esteem.

7. Pride can stifle compassion. The example of Jesus healing a man on the Sabbath day is an illustration. It seems that the Pharisees would prefer Jesus to leave the man unwell until the next day, as healing was a form of work.

8. Pride can make us miss out on some of God’s blessings. God gives grace to the humble. It does not say in the Bible that God gives grace to people for being proud! We need to be humble, to seek God’s approval. Our Peter passage makes that abundantly clear.

Last Saturday morning (June 25th) I was attending a Zoom Prayer Meeting, from the North, which began with a Devotional. At one point the speaker reminded us that there was an expression which said that on Sundays, after the morning Service, people might serve up roast preacher for dinner. There can easily be a critical spirit or a judgemental spirit, even amongst some church goers as well non church attenders. People forget that preachers and other folk in the church are only human. If one dwells on a mistake or a reaction against something one does not quite agree with, the danger is that one can let it spoil all the good of the Sermon. The speaker reminded us that even the best preachers are still human, and can fail to achieve perfection. (I was challenged, as I have come across “roast preacher” at the occasional mealtime, over the years! Years ago, there was on preacher that one or two of my then younger children found not so winsome in his style. In their immaturity we were, on odd occasions, served roast preacher, -- but it was for tea, not dinner! I discouraged this attitude. But have I ever done this? No comment.)

There is a lovely illustration of the tension between pride and humility, in an earnest Christian. Years ago, a brilliant American student got his theological degrees, and was so eminent and talented a young speaker that he was invited to serve at an influential church. But he felt unfulfilled, as he wished to reach wider types of people. He decided to go to England and offer his services to General William Booth. He was accepted, but must go through cadet training, to test his calibre. His first work was to brush the mud off the boots of his fellow cadets. A battle royal raged in his heart. After an influential church position, why this? Then he remembered that Jesus took a towel and washed the disciples feet. He cried out to the Lord and gained the victory over his pride. This new humility laid the foundation for a fulfilling, fruitful, and eventually widely-used Christian life and ministry.

So we are encouraged by Scripture and by example to seek to be humble.

As we approach Holy Communion, here are two thought about Jesus, Son of Man and Son of God.

In His own words (See Luke 22:24-27) we read that He said this:-“The Son of Man came not to be ministered unto (= to be served), but to minister, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”

Finally, in preparation for Holy Communion, we note that lovely kenosis passage in Philippians 2. We are told that “Jesus made Himself of no reputation, took upon Himself the form of a servant, and became obedient, even to death on the cross.

So there is perhaps the biggest evidence of the value of humility. If Jesus had not been humble, then there would be no cross and no salvation!

Let us be confirmed by God’s most holy Word in our prayer efforts to strive to be humble Believers. Let us nip any potential pride in the bud. Let us always seek to walk the truly Christian walk. To walk in the Spirit, as the Apostle would put it.

Remember that there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents. Amen.

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