I have a growing concern for those who serve in Christian leadership. And from the title of this piece, I’m sure you can deduce my area of concern. It’s an area of susceptibility that every believer needs to be conscious of, but especially those who are greatly gifted.
It is very doubtful that any believer sets out with a willful thought like, “I’m going to be sure that everyone knows the good I’ve done and no one will ever get credit for that which I’m responsible.” That would be obvious error and the need to repent would be glaring. Pridefulness is much more of a sneaky little fox than that.
Perhaps it starts out innocently enough in response to a question. Someone asks who began the project that appears to be the solution, or inquires about the champion of the latest great idea. And since honesty is our trademark, we cannot tell a lie. Quickly, we crow to inform others of our superior ingenuity.
The prideful individual rarely acquires the habit of arrogance all on their own, though they are 100% responsible. We applaud their greatness with accolades and fail to give thanks unto the actual giver of every good and perfect gift (see James 1:16-17). Don’t be deceived, the mindless lauding of mere humans goes a long way in fueling carnal egos.
However, let me emphatically say that I am not opposed to us giving honor and showing genuine appreciation. Lisa and I have had the privilege of participating in many opportunities to give and receive appreciation. A simple pat on the back and a few words of grateful appreciation can be like fresh wind in the sails of God’s chosen servants. It’s a needed ministry. As a matter of transparency, I really appreciate it when someone notices my efforts and sows seeds of gratitude in my heart.
The danger comes when those whom the Almighty has both appointed and anointed begin to believe every piece of positive affirmation their ears can retrieve. Latching ahold of our own goodness, it seemingly grows into a need to make sure others know what good deeds have originated with us. This reminds me of what I’ve recently learned about the word arrogance. Pride, self-righteousness, arrogance – you can think of them synonymously for this article’s sake. Yet, a light was turned on for me when I found out that arrogance, coming from a Latin word, means to “lay claim for oneself.”
As has been said before, we should not believe our own press. Paul’s inspired instructions to the Church at Rome readily come to mind. “For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith” (Romans 12:3). Our obvious need is to think correctly about ourselves. Let’s not get swept away into thinking carnally that the Kingdom of God can’t successfully move on without us.
What about confidence in your calling, gifts, and abilities? Yes, I do believe there is a place for some confidence. But that confidence must be placed in the Originator. Remind yourself often that it is only by His grace that there is any suitability in you for His work.
The way of our Lord Jesus Christ teaches us the paradox of greatness. His chief key for great leaders is to keep the servanthood word picture in mind. At the beginning and end of each day, we must remember that we are in, but not of this world. Therefore, let us remember that we are beholden to Him as we submit ourselves one to another in acts of servitude.
Is it any wonder that Scripture repeatedly emphasizes the need for humility in God’s people? And isn’t it wonderful that even though God knew the dangers we would face in His service, that He chooses to use us anyway? Christian leadership is, as some say too often, a blessed and highly favored people!
So what do we do with this cautionary admonition? Above all, let’s not vilify one another. Such activity does little to help and actually serves the self-righteousness of the one doing the vilifying. I recommend a more humble approach. The solution is found in the Bible admonition to pray one for another. The companion step is to remember to check yourself, lest you give into the temptation of pridefulness. After all, we are all susceptible to such arrogance, regardless of how many talents we hold.
What’s the big deal? God opposes pride. Scripture is replete with examples of how He distances Himself from those who persist in pridefulness. The end result is the lack of His anointing for the work He has positioned us to fulfill.
Join me in prayer. “Father, help me to obey Your Word. You have told me to humble myself. I realize that You are the only reason for any good that others might see in me. Draw near to me and use me in any way You desire. Jesus, be Lord of my life in new ways today and cleanse me of pridefulness. And when You grant me discernment into a fellow servant’s pridefulness, help me to keep my mouth shut and cover them in prayer.” Let all God’s people say…