As a young man, God graced me with many opportunities. I was blessed with health and strength, a bright mind, a place of leadership, a heritage of holiness, and the trust of people. At age 30, I started to believe that I deserved more, that I needed to be somebody, that my place was to be first. What hubris! To this day, decades later, I feel great sadness at the pain that my choices of that time brought to my family, my church, and to the lives of other people who were caught in the conflict. I must hasten to say that God is a wonderful Redeemer, able to take even our worst failures and use them for good. In my failure and loss, I learned to drink deeply from the well of His amazing grace. Truly I know that He is a loving Father who ‘disciplines us for our good!’
Hubris is excessive pride, self-confidence that transgresses into arrogance. It is a point of vulnerability in us all. Americans are in the middle of a Presidential campaign and if ever there was a display of hubris, it is there – in both parties. Watching some of the candidates strut and boast, pose and preen for the cameras, and pretend that they among all 300 million Americans have the answers to our national challenges makes me disgusted. Hubris is the sin of the blessed. Too often those most gifted, those who are successful, trip over themselves, starting to believe all the wonderful things that others are saying about them.
Saul, the first king of Israel, was told to go to a violent, warring nation and destroy it by the Lord, through the voice of the prophet Samuel. But by that time, Saul had become impressed with himself, believing the praises people sang in his ears. So, he kept plunder and brought it back to Israel. Samuel met him and said this of his hubris – “Although you were once small in your own eyes, did you not become the head of the tribes of Israel? The LORD anointed you king over Israel.” (1 Samuel 15:17, NIV) Saul, you knew you were not much, but God made you. How could you forget that? “Why did you not obey the LORD? Why did you pounce on the plunder and do evil in the eyes of the LORD?” (1 Samuel 15:19, NIV) Here comes the kicker! “For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has rejected you as king.” (1 Samuel 15:23, NIV)
Hubris is a destructive, divisive, and sinful thing.
Marriages crumble hubris causes a man or woman to to take advantage of his/her spouse, assuming “she will never leave” and then she does.
Pastors fail morally because hubris blinds them to their own vulnerability to temptation. “I could never do that,” they tell themselves, only to fall hard.
Major corporations who were trendsetters in industry, outselling all the competitions, develop hubris and a decade later are broke, footnotes in history.
Churches, once influential in the work of the Lord, can become full of hubris and alienate the Spirit who their true Power.
Here’s God’s warning: “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” (1 Corinthians 10:12, NIV) The opposite of hubris is humility! Nobody comes by that easily or naturally. It is a trait of character that must be cultivated. Pride makes us enemies of a jealous God who will not share His glory or authority! So the Word tells us to “Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (1 Peter 5:5, NIV) When we feel the conviction of the Spirit, when the testimony of the Holy Word speaks truth to us, we start see our desperate condition. What will we do? One response is to conceal our sin and pridefully proclaim our justification. That was Saul’s response to the Lord. “What are you talking about? I did obey God. I did the job God set for me. I brought in King Agag and destroyed the Amalekites under the terms of the holy ban. So the soldiers saved back a few choice sheep and cattle from the holy ban for sacrifice to God at Gilgal—what’s wrong with that?” The Message (1 Samuel 15:20-21
The only real answer is to humbly confess our need of a Savior. And, God says “I live in the high and holy place with those whose spirits are contrite and humble. I restore the crushed spirit of the humble and revive the courage of those with repentant hearts.” (Isaiah 57:15, NLT)
Humility is not to be confused with a lack of desire for excellence! The children of the Lord, in whom He places His Spirit, should be people that live admirably. Is there a better model of excellence than Daniel, a man who held to his love of the Lord while serving in the court of a pagan king? He rose to the highest levels, a trusted counselor to the king. Accomplishment or recognition will not bring on hubris in anyone who realizes that he is who he is only because of the grace of God. When we feel ourselves becoming impressed with by ourselves, this question needs to come to the forefront of our minds: “Who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not??” (1 Corinthians 4:7). “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit,” Paul wrote, “but in humility consider others better than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3)
Hubris or humility? What will it be?
Take the wisdom of Jesus with you today as you meditate on this word from the Word. “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3-4, NIV) “All of you, serve each other in humility, for “God opposes the proud but favors the humble.” So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor.” (1 Peter 5:5-6, NLT)
Come Thou Fount Of Every Blessing
Come Thou fount of ev’ry blessing,
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace.
Streams of mercy never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet
Sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount I’m fixed upon it,
Mount of Thy redeeming love.
Here I raise mine Ebenezer,*
Hither by Thy help I’m come.
And I hope by Thy good pleasure
Safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger
Wand’ring from the fold of God.
He to rescue me from danger
Interposed His precious blood.
O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy grace, Lord, like a fetter,
Bind my wand’ring heart to Thee.
Prone to wander Lord I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love.
Here’s my heart Lord take and seal it
Seal it for Thy courts above.
John Wyeth | Robert Robinson
© Words: Public Domain
* Ebenezer comes from the Hebrew words ’Eben hà-ezer (eh’-ben haw-e’-zer), which simply mean “stone of help”, A memorial