I’m painfully well acquainted with the word “arrogant.” I’ve been called it by friends, enemies, Christians, and atheists alike. I’ve been compared to a Pharisee – one of the more hurtful blows I’ve taken. After a while there ends up being a whole lot of sets of four tallies crossed out by a fifth, and it ends up screaming for the pause button to be pushed. Maybe I ought to stop being defensive and examine my heart.
I grew up around a brother and dad who engage almost exclusively in discussions about doctrine and theology. I attend a church of expository preaching, dissecting every word in its Greek. After a while, I subconsciously adopt the jargon and my brain begins filing away all sorts of quotes I’ve heard, even if their authors aren’t stored along with them. I got good at apologetics – defending my beliefs and faith. It seems that as knowledge grew, love diminished.
Very firmly I believe that Spiritual growth requires absolutely, knowledge. There are hundreds of references in Scripture stating that God’s design for us is to know Him well, deeply, and intimately. But it’s also no less clear that if we have not love, we are but a noisy gong; that if we gave up our lives in martyrdom without love, it would be in vain. Those words of Paul cut deep and mercilessly!
I know far too many people boasting in their knowledge – this category is the one I am most susceptible to. But I also know far too many people who cling to love so tightly there is no room for knowledge – and typically, repentance ends up being deemed too harsh so that gets dropped too. The love becomes prosperity gospel and the knowledge becomes Pharisee-like. How on Earth to we straddle the two? I’ll tell you. With humble submission to the Holy Spirit. In practice, this has never been harder. I’m in a season of trying to grow in love. When I share my knowledge, I want it to be gently, humbly, and for God’s glory (not for mine). As I’m trying to put this arrogance to death however, my success and blessings of academic and professional achievements grow and offer me a challenge.
In the last month I’ve had the following things going for me (by God’s goodness and graciousness!):
- I received a scholarship on behalf of the Alumni in Business Board
- I’ve brought my company great success
- I was granted a position on a highly competitive worship ministry team
- I was accepted into an Honors Program
These are a few of the things God’s doing in my life and as I went for a jog the other day, I spent my time in prayer and meditation. Let me give you a glimpse of what those thoughts looked like:
My friends think I’m some big-shot. I’m characterized as beyond my years and professional. A friend tells me she Spiritually looks up to me. Everyone thinks I’m set up for great success. Everything’s going right… How the heck is this helping the struggle with arrogance? I mean, I meant it in Spiritual terms but now I’m getting all sorts of reasons to be puffed up. No, but it isn’t me, it’s God. God, thank you! Man, I’m awesome. My boss is going to be so impressed that I went out of my way for this Mother’s Day Blog thing… Dang it! I did it again. Forgive me God! No, the glory is yours! Lord, how am I allowed to experience success while being humble? What the heck does it look like practically to glorify you with these awesome things! Ugh! Woe is me!
Flesh versus Spirit – clear as day, gloomy as warfare. That’s the Spiritual warfare. Is it even possible to experience success and humility? Is it a sin to be good at things?
Yes. It is.
It’s a sin to think YOU are good at things. It is a sin to think YOU are successful, and YOU are awesome. It is right to think, GOD is good. GOD is blessing me, and that GOD is awesome.
The money I make, is God’s loan. The education I receive, are God’s institutions. The voice I have for worship, is God’s gracious gift. These aren’t things given exclusively for the heck of it – though God is good and gives great gifts. These are ‘talents’ God has given us responsibility for and we will give an account for each of them. On that day he will say, “Alicia, my beloved daughter, I gave you a scholarship – what’d you do with it? I gave you a good job – what’d you do with it? I gave you a voice to sing – what’d you do with it?”
May my answer not be, “Lord, Father, I used the scholarship foolishly. I spent the money of my job on material possessions for myself. I used my voice to get a record deal as a pop-artist singing about nothing to do with you but only of whatever would grow MY glory. Sorry!”
May each blessing be received with the immediate question to oneself being: “Thank you Lord for this stewardship. How can I use this to further your Kingdom?”