"Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall."
Proverbs 16: 18, King James Version
"Unpretentious—Jesus' View of Pride and Prejudice"
"Unpretentious" - Lacking affectation. Modest.
How would I describe a person who is unpretentious?
"Always remember, there are two types of people in this world. Those who come into a room and say, "Well, here I am!' and those who come in and say, ‘Ah, there you are!'"
Frederick L. Collins
"Pride and grace dwelt never in one place."
James Kelley, Scottish Proverb
Not long ago my husband and I decided a "date" might be something special at nearly 30 years of marriage. So we went to lunch at a local restaurant close to our home. This establishment isn't some fast-food joint. Eating at this lovely spot, located in a beautiful garden, is truly a dining experience. China. Silver. And crisp, white linens.
We were enjoying a pleasant conversation in a quiet atmosphere when the restful ambiance was disrupted by a booming voice demanding a better table. Seems that the server had taken a couple to a table for two - a reasonable decision since there were only two individuals in the lunch party. But this action obviously displeased the man who demanded that he be seated at a larger table with four seats.
The dear girl, trying so hard to please him, pointed out that both tables that seated four had "reserved" signs on them.
All at once, this man, whom both Jim and I recognized, exploded and said to the server, "Don't you know who I am? I come here all the time. What's wrong with you?" By that time he had the attention of the hostess and everyone else in the dining area. You might think he would have embarrassed himself. Hardly! Instead, he was quickly seated at a larger table and with a self-satisfied grin ordered his "standard" cocktail acting as though nothing out of the ordinary had happened at all.
Because this man has power and money, and is known in the community, he evidently felt this entitled him to preferential treatment and gave him license to demean another individual.
In the kingdom of God, nothing could be further from the truth! The reality in "God's World" is that the first shall be last and the last shall be first. Jesus made this fact clear when He said, "But many who (now) are first will be last (then), and many who (now) are last will be first (then)" (Matthew 19:30, Amplified). This statement was the answer to people who were asking how individuals would be seated when the "Son of Man shall sit down on the throne of His glory."
However, lest you and I think that pride-filled, boastful, pretentious behavior is limited to the world we live in, let's look at the time when Jesus lived on earth.
In the book of Luke, Chapter 18, Jesus relates a parable about two men. It is quite possible He may have witnessed an event like the one in this parable and the real-life experience filled Him with such concern, He chose to relate a parable in order for us to gain a deeper understanding of how distasteful in the eyes of God is a spirit of haughtiness and pride.
This story is about a Pharisee, a religious person, held in high esteem by others as well as himself. And a publican, a tax-collector who was despised by society.
These two men went to the Temple to pray. The Pharisee began to pray like this: "God, I thank You that I am not like the rest of men - robbers, swindlers, unrighteous in heart and life, adulterous - or even like this tax-collector here. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I gain." (Luke 18: 11, 12, Amplified).
What I find instructive for my own life is that this Pharisee not only was chalking up good marks regarding his own behavior, he was judging the lives of others against himself. Obviously he felt the rest of the population was below his standard of upright behavior. Everybody else was robbing, swindling, evil-hearted, and don't forget - adulterers, too! And then the topper. This holier-than-thou fellow had to go so far as to point out to God that he was better than the lousy tax-collector who was also in the Temple praying.
STOP! I find the behavior of this Pharisee so repulsive. Yet, how often, if I am totally honest, have I exhibited the same behavior in one way or another It's so easy to look at another person and start comparing. Does their life match up to my standard of behavior? How do they measure up with the people I associate with? Where does their needle point on my holiness meter? I've done this and perhaps you have, as well. Why? Because of pride! I believe Thalassios, an abbot in Libya centuries ago put it best, "Pride deprives us of God's help, making us over-reliant on ourselves and arrogant toward others." This sounds exactly like the dictionary definition of the word pretentious: "To demand and claim a position of distinction or merit, especially when it is unjustified!"
Doesn't this fit perfectly with the description of the Pharisee and tax-collector? Both were in need of God's blessing…both came to the Temple to pray…both were addressing the same God. But the Pharisee, so puffed-up with His own importance and pious living looked down upon all of God's other children as beneath his elevated stature.
In contrast, the poor tax-man offered this plea to His Heavenly Father: "But the tax-collector, merely standing at a distance, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but kept striking his breast, saying, ‘O God, be gracious be merciful to me, the especially wicked sinner that I am!'" (Luke 18:13 Amplified Bible).
And Jesus said, as He addressed the crowd around Him that day: "I tell you, this man (the tax-man) went down to his home justified, forgiven and made upright and in right standing with God, rather than the other man; for everyone who exalts (herself) will be humbled, but he (she) who humbles (himself/herself) will be exalted." (Luke 18: 14 Amplified Bible).
In the words of one of my favorite evangelists for God, Dwight L. Moody, "God sends no one away empty except those who are full of themselves."
"According to Christian teachers, the essential vice, the utmost evil, is Pride. Unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere fleabites in comparison: it was through Pride that the devil became the devil; Pride leads to every other vice; it is the complete anti-God state of mind."
"Humility once exalted the tax collector,
who bewailed his sin
and cried: ‘be merciful,'
and justified him.
Let him be our example,
for we have all fallen into the abyss of evil.
Let us cry to the Saviour
from the bottom of our heart:
We have sinned, be merciful,
for you alone love us.
Lord, you condemned the Pharisee
who, boasting of his works,
You justified the tax collector
who, humbling himself,
with sorrowful sighing asked for mercy.
For you reject proud thoughts,
but do not despise contrite hearts.
So in humility we prostrate ourselves
before you, who suffered for us.
Grant us forgiveness
and generous mercy."
From Orthodox Lent, Holly Week and Easter
you remain, unseen,
at our side,
present like a poor man
who washes the feet of his friends.
who follow in your footsteps,
we are here, waiting for you
to suggest signs of sharing
to make us into servants
of your Gospel."
Brother Roger Schutz of Taizi
Dorothy Valcàrcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
P.S. My book, When A Woman Meets Jesus, is now available wherever books are sold and on the internet at www.amazon.com, Christianbook.com, or by calling toll-free, 1-800-Christian. You can also go to www.whenawomanmeetsjesus.com and purchase the book through Paypal for $8.00. Or by calling Transformation Garden at 1-888-397-4348.
For more from Dorothy, please visit transformationgarden.com.