As church leaders today, we face the same trials, temptations and traps that all who have come before us were subjected to. These are identified in 1 John 2:17 by the Apostle John as,” the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.” Scripture also teaches us that there are three Biblical antidotes to these toxic diseases. The remedies the Bible offers us is integrity, humility and wisdom, which all can help restore health in our lives.
In my last post I wrote that integrity is the foundation of healthy leadership because you can only effectively lead people if they trust you. If you lose people’s trust, you’ve lost it all. Having integrity is also a confidence booster. Whoever lives honestly will live securely, but whoever lives dishonestly will be found out. Proverbs 10:9
I like what “Honest Abe” Lincoln had to say about integrity.“Character is like a tree and reputation like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing”. Integrity is best lived out along side of humility. Humility is the gift God gives us to deal with the pride of life.
John uses this phrase “the pride of life”, which is found only once in the Bible, but the concept of the pride of life, especially as it is linked with the “lust of the eyes” and the “lust of the flesh,” appears in two more significant passages of Scripture—the temptation of Eve in the Garden (Genesis 3) and the temptation of Christ in the wilderness (Matthew 3:18) The pride of life can be defined as anything that shifts the supremacy of God to the exalting of ourselves which leads to arrogance, ostentation, presumption, boasting, pride in self.
I have known arrogant, know it all, kind of Christians and I must admit at times I have been one myself. Jesus half-brother James writes to us about the two-sided coin of pride and humility. When he says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” James 4:6. Based on this verse and others like it I have known Christians who have been raised to shun the world and all that is in it. I have known other Christians who out of a desire to be humble, view of themselves as nothing more than unworthy worms.
C.S. Lewis offers what I believe to be the best insight into the essence of being humble. “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less.
The American church is a part of a culture that emphasizes a ‘what’s in it for me attitude’. And let’s be honest, pastors can fall victim to that kind of mindset as well. I’ve got to think about me, my image, my standing in the community, my goals, my dreams, my desires my security. And those who are deeply infected with this kind of pride often fail to see their upcoming fall before it happens.
This is what the Apostle Paul says our attitudes should be like. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Philippians 2:3-5
To counteract my urges to focus on what’s in it for me, I will often remind myself of Jesus’ last night with his disciples who in a teachable time with the heart full of love and humility he washes their feet as a symbol of sacrificial service.