I acknowledged the grace of God awakening me to a call to ministry at an early age. My pastor at the time served an essential role in my discerning process. He would always ask me, “Son, are you humble?” I would affirm, “Yes, sir.” He would end with, “Stay humble.” This same verbal exchange happened more often than I liked. It would get on my nerves. Out of respect, I would go along, but I could not understand why he continued to ask me the same question.
In the Gospel of Luke, we find Jesus telling a parable to someone wrestling with the issue of pride. Jesus tells of two men entering the Temple to pray. One, a self-righteous Pharisee, prays, “Lord, I thank you that I’m not like other people, for I don’t do wrong and I give according to the law” (ap). The other person, a despised tax collector, prays, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Jesus says that the tax collector goes home justified before God, not the Pharisee. Pride keeps the Pharisee from being justified before God.
My childhood pastor knew something about success that my teenage mind could not comprehend: success and elevation begin with humility. Looking back on my childhood, I recognize times that I felt pride slipping into my heart and mind. However, the words of my pastor stood at the door of my heart to challenge my pride: “Are you humble?” His words helped save my ministry from being overtaken with prideful pursuits.
What words or thoughts keep watch over the door of your heart, mind, and soul? The words and ideas that keep watch over the gates of our life can determine whether we begin each day in the spirit of pride or the spirit of humility.
O God, I desire to be justified in you. Free me from any prideful thoughts or actions, so that I may live in joyful obedience. Amen.
The theme in the readings from the Hebrew scriptures is abundance. Joel speaks of the time of plenty in the land of Israel. This abundance is not only physical, for it includes a generous outpouring of the Spirit of God. The psalmist sings of abundant rains that allows the land to flourish. The hills, meadows, and valleys all sing praise to God. Second Timothy 4 contains the scriptural passage that brings us closest to the death of Paul. The apostle has been abandoned by many, but the Lord stands by him as he faces his likely imminent death. In the Gospel, Jesus warns us about the dangers of pride. The Pharisee in the parable thinks his personal goodness brings favor with God, but God desires a humble heart.
Read Joel 2:23-32. How has rain been a sign of God’s impending provision in your life?
Read Psalm 65. How has God’s forgiveness freed you to participate in creation’s joy?
Read 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18. When has God strengthened you in the face of evil?
Read Luke 18:9-14. What aspect of your life do you need to approach with renewed humility?
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