Sunday, April 23, 2006

Humble King

Humility doesn’t come easy for people, especially Americans. We love to take pride in all sorts of things, even though there isn’t any logic behind the pride. We are proud of our talents, as if these are things we somehow created. We are proud of our intellect, as if we created our brains so they function so well. We are proud of our children, even though the accomplishments they achieve are truly theirs and not ours. We our proud of our freedoms, though they were purchased by the blood and dreams of previous generations.

Americans are proud because of our independent point of view, steeped in the independence of pioneers, grasped by those who sought out new lands at great risk. We have the culture of the Wild West reflected in the larger than life characters portrayed by John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, Gary Cooper, and Roy Rogers, iconic characters standing for what was right, regardless of the personal cost. They make us somehow feel that these are the qualities which describe America. We believe them, and it makes us proud.

We take a lot of pride in the things we own. We are proud of our homes, our cars, even our computers. Having the latest gadget is all about bragging rights. Having the fastest car, the prettiest wife, the biggest audio collection are American obsessions. That is why we are such superb consumers. We buy more things than any other culture. And we are pretty darn proud of it.

We can be proud of how swiftly we run, how much weight we can lift, how fast we can throw a ball, even how tall we are (dang, I'm still an inch shy of six foot!). And though these things may reflect a little of how we have fed our bodies, how we have trained ourselves, it seems... odd... that we are proud of things that are really mere descriptions of the bodies we were born to, not things we have constructed for ourselves. A basketball player might be very proud of how he plays the game, and of course much of that has come from a lot of hard work, but his prowess on the court is greatly derived from the coaching he has received, the efforts of others, even more so from the body he was fortunate enough to be given. His misplaced pride is compounded, reinforced, by the millions the public lavishes upon him.

I have a friend who is a humble man. He never speaks a cross word, he is always willing to lend a hand on any project, and always makes little of his own gifts and talents. More than once I have jokingly told him: “You are such a humble guy, Dave. You should be proud of that!” It is unusual to know humble people.

There is a passage in Johnathon Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels when the weary world traveler expresses astonishment at the intelligence of the society of horses the Houyhnhnms) and their lack of pride. The wise horse replies that it would be absurd to be proud of intellect. It would be absurd to feel pride over any feature of the body, to be proud of owning an arm or a foot. Why should one have pride over what one has had no say or effort in obtaining?

We sometimes wonder why God lets terrible things happen (that is the central question for many who read the Book of Job). Why does He grant us such free will, even to do evil? Why does He permit a man to rape his daughter, diseases to wipe out villages, the movement of tectonic plates to cause waves which erase the lives of hundreds of thousands?

We know from scripture, from the testimony of our hearts, that God is in control. I am fascinated by science and when I think about how the universe is held together, the forces of electromagnetism, the inexorable force of gravity, and the mysterious workings of matter, it all points, for me, to a God as an active creator. Consider molecules holding “atomic hands” of shared electrons, the atoms aswarm in particles that are discrete and potential, quarks which are songs sung by infinitely tiny strings, held together by the Will of God. And in the minute workings of these tiny particles He permits the macro universe, the world of Newtonian physics, the world you and I experience, to be manipulated by the free will of beings with weak resolve. Though He holds it together, He permits us to use it to pull ourselves away from Him.

Even in our sin God serves us.

--Phillipians 2:
5b ...Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
6Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
7but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
8And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!

What an amazing thought! We are free to pull away from Him or to draw closer to Him. It is our choice, we can use the elements of the universe which He created, He holds together, to hurt each other, to hurt ourselves, and to gain more things for which we can be inordinately proud.

Perhaps the spiritual realm works somewhat like the Doppler Effect. This is the effect which demonstrates the universe is expanding. Light travels at a predictable, constant speed. All the elements of the periodic table shine with specific spectrums of light with distinct black lines (called absorption lines). As that rainbow slides to the left and right behind those lines we can tell if the matter is racing toward us or away.

In our everyday lives we notice Doppler Effects in such things as the changing pitch of a passing train’s horn, or the radar gun used to measure the speeds of pitched baseballs and speeding cars.

Do you suppose our souls shine in ways that exhibit a Doppler Effect?

Perhaps our souls shine a little toward the blue-white end of the spiritual spectrum when we race toward our Lord, and turn a ruddy, smokey red when we pull away.

When we are proud are we pulling away? They say that Lucifer’s sin was pride.

It is interesting to note that our omniscient, omnipotent, all-providing Lord God isn’t proud. I haven’t found a single passage in scripture that says He is proud. Of course He doesn’t need to be. He is the I Am. He is everything. He has no peers for whom to preen or impress.

So, given that everything we are, everything we own, comes from Him... what are we so proud of?


19 comments:

Musings said...

Dear Curious,

The posting on 'Humble King' was very challenging. But the subject of humility is much deeper than you and I think! You quoted Phil 2.5-8; yes, that passage holds the key. God is, by nature, humble; He is the 'Lamb of God'. Humility is intrinsic to divinity. If the cross does not humble us in a deep and shattering way, we cannot experience Christ!

I request you to visit my Christian spiritual blogs at http://procyon4x.blogspot.com and http://procyon5x.blogspot.com You will like them as Vicki, Paul, Pia, did!

In His grace,
Procyon

jel said...

AWESOME post CS!

did I miss your b day! or is it comeup?

anyway have a great day!

curious servant said...

No, my birthday is Thursday (April 27th). Thanks for remembering!

Jada's Gigi said...

Wow, I have missed so many good posts over the past week or two! I would have loved to comment at least on the "Church" one. :)
Youare so right in that it is so much easier to move forward when we link arms with our brothers and sisters...and almost impossible alone. Christianity is not meant for a solitary experience...the very word "Church" implies "many" does it not?

As for this post, you said
"We know from scripture, from the testimony of our hearts, that God is in control." Something not to be reckoned lightly, "the testimony of our own hearts". Chirst living inside of us always speaks the Truth.
God Bless, brother...and Happy Birthday! :) in case i don't get back over here by Thursday. :)

Becky said...

Good question.

I believe it is our self. Since the beginning this has been our problem. We wanted to be like God. Today it is the same thing. We want to take the credit. We want glory and we want it now. It is a constant battle--and a constant purging.

Alexa said...

Exactly.

Michael Pendleton said...

Gosh! I checked and checked and nothing and then I don't check and BAM! A bunch of new stuff to read!

I wish I could think of really inteligent, witty, and otherwise great comments to make.....but....I'll just say.

I like what I read here alot! =)

Ame said...

We want to say, "I made better choices, so I have better consequences." But Who enabled me to make better choices?

Yes, in our humanity we often take credit for that which we cannot. It is when we take such credit that we are left tossed like the waves of the ocean, for we cannot serve both God and ourselves.

Very well written.

btw - Why does God allow us the freedom to choose even when the choice is evil? How can He be God and allow that? I believe that it is because God is God that He can give us the freedom to choose and then allow us to do so, even when we violate innocence. I cannot always let my children play out their own consequences, but God can.

Joe said...

Great post!

Pride is the essense of sin. It was the cause of the fall of Lucifer and the first thing God said He hates in Proverbs.

BTW: Happy BD, in case I don't get back.

jollybeggar said...

concerning pride: i know that you are a u2 fan. i have always found the word 'pride' in their big 1984 single to be an interesting one...

our language is such that different words carry with them different meanings- whether intended or not, sometimes connections are there by 'coincidence.' one thing is implied, something very different is inferred. both can be truth. such is the nature of communication. example? the word 'pride.'

part of the narrative aspect of u2's song addresses the assassination of martin luther king. king... good word on so many levels. the idea of kingship- in particular a benevolent monarchy- still bears some (although increasingly little as time passes) meaning for us. but that the 'king of the jungle' is a lion and a pack of lions is called a 'pride' is just something interesting to take note of. suddenly there is a richer meaning...

(again, intended or unintended- does it matter? once a work of art is released for public consumption, its impact on the culture that has given birth to it begins to be realized. art touches lives and brings us all to a new level of interaction with ourselves and others if we let it.)

... to the phrase 'they could not take your pride.'

drawing deeper understanding of life is usually dependent upon how deeply we want to understand life and how receptive we are to the messages that are communicated to us through the wide variety of life languages in which we are so conversant, yeah?

i love that you included phil2 as part of your piece on kingly humility... it occurs to me that our sense of self and pride needs to be in the extent to which Jesus expressed our inherent value: in the eyes and the actions of God, we are worth dropping everything and undergoing absolutely anything in order to redeem. therein should be our greatest pride and our greatest humility.

shalom

bjk said...

The spirit of entitlement is so pervasive....thanks for another thought provoking post...Happy Birthday early!!

Kitty Cheng said...

Great insight. Our God is a humble King as well as a servant King. I love that song - "This is our God, the servant King....."

curious servant said...

Jolly Beggar!

Great comment!

I need to think it over a bit.

There is another passage I had in mind when I wrote this post:

"then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others." --Philippians 2:2-4

Though I am a man, the head of a household, with responsibilities which place me in a position of some small authority, I am first, and always, a servant.

I am a servant to my Lord and to others.

This includes you, my reader...

Praying for your Prodigal said...

Your posting and art is simply beautiful! I ran across your blog while doing some research on the web regarding prodigals. I have a blog dedicated to praying for prodigals (www.prayingforaprodigal.blogspot.com)--so was very interested in what you wrote.

God Bless!

Diane

Lorna said...

the ending of this post is superb :)

Gordon Cloud said...

Nice post. Pride is at the root of every sin. Satan is indeed the father of pride. God help us to walk in love so that we may be holy as He is holy.

jel said...

CS, if you get a chance , could go over to my blog! thanks

have a great birthday :)

god bless

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