Our Way Is Upward – God’s Way Is Downward
God hates pride, and He opposes proud people—but He loves humility, and He blesses humble people. So turn away from pride and learn humility! Luke 14:11
We see self-promotion everywhere–on social media platforms, podcasts, magazines, billboards and in conversations. Self-promotion, self-flattery, self-glorification, self-importance, and self-praise is attempting to present yourself to others as an accomplished, talented, smart, and skilled person. Self-promotion infects all of us, as we all like for others to perceive us as having admirable qualities, but it is a manifestation of pride and ego. Vincent Taylor said it most bluntly: “Self-coronation, including subtle, unconscious self-coronation—that is the essence of sin.”
The Jesus Way
Though the Bible is filled with admonitions, sermons, proverbs and parables warning against pride and advocating humility, Jesus’ three temptations by Satan in the desert may be the clearest example of how we are tempted to choose the upward path, the path to self-promotion and self-aggrandizement rather than Jesus’ downward path of humility and meekness.
- Be relevant: do something the world will praise you for like making bread out of stones.
- Be spectacular: jump from the tower so that everybody can see you as someone so influential, so important.
- Be powerful: kneel before me and I will give you dominion over everyone and everything.
But Jesus said, “No.” Because Jesus knew that God’s way is not to be relevant, or spectacular, or powerful. God’s way is downward. Blessed are the humble. Blessed are the poor of heart. Blessed are the peacemakers.
When we read the Beatitudes, we are given a self-portrait of Jesus who is also a reflection of the Father: “Who sees me sees the Father.” A portrait that reflects the character of the Father. Poor. Meek. Peacemaker. Thirsting for justice. Full of mercy. Humble.
I have long contended that one of the greatest inhibitors to the broader acceptance of the gospel is the woeful lack of humility on the part of Christians. Experiencing the rich diversity found in the West after a lifetime in the Deep South, and the zealous believers and defenders of the infallible doctrines of The Church of Donald J. Trump and its’ alternative Beatitudes, has confirmed it further. Christian’s full throated condescension, arrogance and certitude directed towards those who differ on political and social issues, and on matters of doctrine and biblical interpretation is a far cry from the path that Jesus advocates. This is especially true of Christians who exclusively stay in their “homogeneous holy huddles,” and in their “Bible belt bubbles” socially, geographically, and relationally. There their views and opinions are constantly affirmed and confirmed by like-minded friends and family and authoritarian, outside in, dualistic preaching and teaching and are never intelligently challenged. The tragic result is that they become blind and deaf to their perceived arrogance by the very people they are supposedly trying to reach with the gospel.
I recognize that there are those who see meekness and humility as a weakness and as an opportunity to exploit. Further, there are those who will not listen unless you shout louder and longer and with more rancor than they do. And, as this post demonstrates, I can be as arrogant, egotistical, condescending, defensive, certain and self-promoting as anyone. Yet, Jesus invites you and me to follow him and become more and more like he was: the image of God humbly appearing in flesh among us. To follow him is a path that inevitably leads us downward toward meekness and humility rather than upward toward egocentricity and arrogance.
Posted on March 2, 2021