TODAY’S SIGNATURE VERSE ••• ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ (Excerpt from Luke 18:9-14 ESV)
PRAISE & PRAYER PROMPT ••• Yesterday, I announced that we’re going to have a series on humility. This is a really complicated topic, and as I sat down to brainstorm how this would go, and how many days we’ll do this, nothing went as I expected. But perhaps that was, in and of itself, an impromptu lesson in humility?? We have to stay malleable to be humble, right?? And besides — none of you need me to define humility. We all know what it is. Anyway — the game plan took a slight detour, but I’m really excited about this. The series will last for seven days, and these are our topics: Humility and Pride; Humility and Self-sufficiency; Humility and Self-care; Humility and Conflict; Humility and Relationships; Humility and Following; and Humility and Leadership.
Today, we’re starting with Humility and Pride.
There’s a reason why Pride is called the deadliest of the Seven Deadly Sins. Pride is, after all, the root of all evil. And before we go any further — let’s be clear. The idea of the Seven Deadly Sins is a human creation. We’re the ones who rank sins according to severity. God views all sin as equally filthy (James 2:10).
When we start thinking about examples of pride in the Bible, we have a LOT of options from which to choose. But few stand out quite as much as the Pharisees. The Pharisees of Jesus’ day were full of pride. And Jesus never hesitated to call them out for their sin of pride, and He frequently did so through parables, often stating, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” (Refer Matthew 11:15, Mark 4:9, 4:23.)
With that said, let’s start with a parable and go to Luke 18:9-14. Verse 9 says, “He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt.” In this sentence, the “He” is, of course, Jesus and the “some” were Pharisees. Verses 10 – 14 talk about two men who went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee who prayed, “God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.” And the second man, the tax collector “would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’”
It’s a very specific lesson on the sins of pride vs. the act of humility. Jesus wrapped up the parable by saying, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
But not all Pharisees were so full of pride that they wouldn’t succumb to humility. Let’s look at Nicodemus. I’m kind of fascinated by Nicodemus, to tell the truth. The Bible tells us he was a Pharisee and a ruler of the Jews (John 3:1) and in John 7:50-51, we learn that he was a member of the Sanhedrin, the group who would later conduct the mock trial of Jesus before His crucifixion (Matthew 26:57-68). So this was a guy with a LOT of power.
And Jesus spoke the words that would become what is arguably the most famous verse of the Bible — John 3:16 — to Nicodemus. We are told in John 3:2 that Nicodemus came to Jesus by night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.”
After that, Nicodemus only made two more appearances in Scripture. The first was when the Sanhedrin were looking to bring charges against Jesus, and Nicodemus said, “Does our law judge a man without first giving him a hearing and learning what he does?” (John 7:51). His council members mocked him for his suggestions, and then the last time we see Nicodemus is after the crucifixion. He and Joseph of Arimathea took part in Jesus’ burial (John 19:39-42).
The Bible is not 100% clear whether Nicodemus was a believer/secret disciple, or merely sympathetic. I guess we won’t know until we get to heaven, but I really want to believe he was. After all, He acknowledged that Jesus was from God in their first meeting.
And I’ve got to interrupt this post to throw a plug in for the series, “The Chosen.” Erick Avari brilliantly portrays Nicodemus’ character, and if his scenes in Episode 8 don’t break your heart, I have to wonder if you are human. It brings tears to my eyes every time I watch.
None of us want to admit it, but we all have a little Pharisee in us. We are often quick to look down on others and think, “Wow — I may have done this, but at least I never did THAT!” We prefer to rationalize our behaviors without giving grace to anyone else’s. We devalue our sins while we emphasize the sins of others. Our pride can get us into all kinds of trouble.
And the only remedy for pride is found in humility. Perhaps even the humility of a Pharisee like Nicodemus who had the courage to seek out Jesus — to acknowledge that He is of God. To know that there is something He has that we cannot obtain on our own. It takes humility to accept Jesus as a Savior and admit that we cannot save ourselves. It takes humility to understand that as much as Jesus loves us — He also loves the person who is different from us.
Let’s go back to the original parable we talked about… When you bow your head before God, do you come as a Pharisee? Or do you humble yourself as a tax collector?
Today, as you pray, thank God for the lessons on humility in the Bible. Thank Him for those who have demonstrated that humility takes courage. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you, too, to be brave enough to shed your coat of pride and take on the mantle of humility.
SHARING ••• My Grace-Full Life is written by Denise Heidel. You are welcome to share anything I write, but please credit my writing and graphics accordingly. Visit www.MyGraceFullLife.com to read past blogs. Subscribe through my website to have My Grace-Full Life delivered to your email. You can unsubscribe at any time. Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are from the ESV translation.