Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

February 14, 2010


Arrogance is an ugly spirit that can rob us of many blessings


Pride is not necessarily ugly. A healthy self-esteem requires some degree of pride in oneself.

The people of New Orleans are proud of their Saints. They should be. And we can be happy for them.

Archie Manning is proud of Peyton even though the Colts lost in the Super Bowl. It is good for a father to take pride in his son’s achievements.

Pride, however, is dangerous. It can lead to arrogance and few things are uglier than arrogance. Haughtiness is universally despised, and rightly so. Nobody enjoys being around a conceited person. Pride can “go to seed,” so to speak.

Power and affluence tend to produce the wrong kind of pride.  The rich and famous are apt to think they are a cut above the common people. The bank president does not go to lunch with the bank’s custodian. Donald Trump does not socialize with the maids who keep his penthouse clean. People are expected to know their “place” and respect those with a higher rank in life.

Naaman of the Bible is an example. In the days of the prophet Elisha, Naaman was the commander of Syria’s army. His power was second only to that of the king. Like General Douglas McArthur in recent times, General Naaman was accustomed to having people quickly obey his commands. Both generals smugly believed they needed advice from no one.

But Naaman had a problem he could not solve. He had leprosy. He knew of no cure for the dread disease. Then his wife’s slave girl suggested he seek out Elisha of Israel for a cure. So desperate for help Naaman swallowed his pride and asked the king for a letter of recommendation. Securing it, he showed up at Elisha’s home with his entourage of horses and chariots and impressive gifts for the prophet.

Elisha was not impressed. Evidently he felt the pompous commander should be taught a lesson. He does not welcome the proud general into his home and refuses to speak directly to him. Instead Elisha sends his assistant out to tell the egotistical general to go bathe seven times in the Jordan River.

Naaman was enraged by Elisha’s lack of hospitality and by the prophet’s idiotic solution for healing.  He saw no reason to bathe in the Jordan when he had cleaner rivers back home in Syria. His pride almost cost him the healing he needed. His servants saved the day by encouraging Naaman to obey the prophet. Finally he humbled himself, obeyed Elisha by immersing himself seven times in the Jordan, and was immediately healed of his leprosy.

Naaman’s story illustrates an important spiritual principle – Blessing follows obedience.  Of course I am speaking of obedience to God. Foolish pride can rob us of the very thing we need the most – the faith to believe that God is, and that he desires to bless his children. Humility, on the other hand, can open the door to many blessings.

Until we are willing to “come down from our high horse,” there are lessons we can never learn and blessings we cannot receive. I had been married for several years before it dawned on me that someone other than me was cleaning the toilets in our home. That someone was my wife.

Meditating one day on the humility of Jesus, who stooped to wash his disciples’ feet, my heart was stabbed awake by the awareness that I had expected my wife to do the toilet cleaning. Ashamed of myself, I began to share this mundane chore. Humility helped me overcome foolish pride.  Her new attitude toward me was a powerful, unexpected blessing.
          Reporters and city officials gathered at a Chicago railroad station one afternoon in 1953. They were waiting to meet the 1952 Nobel Peace Prize winner. A few minutes after the train came to a stop, a giant of a man - six feet four inches - with bushy hair and a large mustache stepped from the train. Cameras flashed. City dignitaries met him with hands outstretched. People began telling him how honored they were to meet him.
          The man politely thanked them and then, looking over their heads, asked if he could be excused for a moment. He quickly walked through the crowd until he reached the side of an elderly black woman who was struggling with two large suitcases. He picked up the bags and with a smile, escorted the woman to a bus. After helping her aboard, he wished her a safe journey. As he returned to the greeting party he apologized, "Sorry to have kept you waiting."
          The man was Dr. Albert Schweitzer, the famous missionary doctor who had spent his life helping the poor in Africa. In response to Schweitzer's action, one person said with great admiration to the reporter standing next to him, "That's the first time I ever saw a sermon walking."

Humility may be rare but it is the only cure for the ugly arrogance that blocks our receiving the spiritual blessings that are available to us. + + +