Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

November 4, 2012


Haughty folks are on a collision course with God


            If you have a haughty spirit you are on a collision course with God. When it comes to humility God is not ambiguous. There are no ifs, ands or buts about it; God plainly says in Holy Scripture that he will humble the proud. You can count on it as surely as you can trust the sun to rise tomorrow.

             Wise old Solomon taught this long before the earthly days of Jesus. Proverbs 3:34 is well known: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” James quotes this verse as he urges his readers to “submit yourselves to God” (James 4:6-7). James knows that the proud are not likely to “submit” to God. Still James holds out this precious promise – “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up” (4:10). That is a promise: the Lord will lift me up if I humble myself before him.

            The Apostle Peter was also impressed with Solomon’s warning, quoting it in his admonition to young Christians: “Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5).

            That little known “minor” prophet Obadiah offers this stern warning to the proud: “The pride of your heart has deceived you, you who live in the clefts of the rocks and make your home on the heights, you who say to yourself, ‘Who can bring me down to the ground?’ Though you soar like the eagle and make your nest among the stars, from there I will bring you down,” declares the Lord” (1:3-4). Good old Obadiah knew how to “shell the corn!”

            Pride not only puts us at enmity with God, it separates us from him. Pride spoils our witness and renders our service to God null and void. Pride stinks in the nostrils of God. To understand the grave danger of an arrogant spirit we have but to remember Jesus’ parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Luke 18:9-14).

            This parable strikes a hammer blow to the ugly nature of pride. The Pharisee was puffed-up with conceit about his own goodness. The Tax Collector on the other hand was the perfect example of humility, crying out to God, “Have mercy on me, a sinner.” He knew his condition and admitted it. Every time I read this story I realize once again the danger of pride. And, frankly, I ask God to save me from it.

            The Tax Collector’s humility gave God the opportunity to “exalt” him or “lift him up” so that he could return home “justified before God.” (To be “justified” means to be made “right” with God.) After justifying the humble man Jesus lays out this principle of the kingdom of God: “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” What should get our attention is that no one is excluded: this truth is for “everyone.”

How Jesus could drive home his point! No one, having heard his teaching about the place of honor at a wedding banquet, could ever attend a banquet without recalling Jesus’ warning – Do not assume you have a seat at the head table! Since I first read this caveat of Jesus, I have never been able to walk into a banquet hall without thinking about what he said. I may “look” at the head table but an inner voice speaks to me immediately: “Don’t even think about taking a seat at the head table unless and until the host calls you up there!”

            Jesus made a beautiful connection between hospitality and humility. It is a lesson most of us need to heed – to find ways to offer loving hospitality to the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind. God is pleased, Jesus taught, when we find ways to honor those who are unable to return our favors.

 We have the opportunity to humble ourselves in church by making strangers, especially the poor, feel welcome. Instead of sitting always with our beloved friends or family, we can choose to sit beside someone who is lonely and hurting. That act of love might do more than the sermon to motivate someone to come back to church!

In churches often the poor and the wealthy kneel beside one another to receive the Holy Sacrament. There in the presence of the Lord the ground is level. We are all sinners in need of grace. There we may sometimes find a new friend who can relate to us as we forsake our pride and cry out to God, “Have mercy on me, a sinner.” Such an attitude we should all be wise to cultivate. + + +