Pride is a terrible thing. It is an inflated sense of one’s own importance. It reflects the state of inner self obsession which exists in us all. And it leads us into trouble which only makes matters worse.
This week the French president Francois Hollande has suffered a terrible humiliation. He had to announce that he would stand aside and refrain from seeking re-election in the Spring next year.
The terrible reality was brought to a head by his Prime Minister on Monday this last week. It took a rival to impress upon him the weakness of his position, and to oblige him to face the truth of his unpopularity.
That reality has been there for at least two years. It was a reality which the French president’s pride refused to acknowledge. If he had, he could have announced long ago that he would not stand. He would have retained the moral authority he had from being elected in the first place. He would have been seen as someone regarding the facts in the face and taking the responsible, appropriate action.
Instead he continued, allowing it to be believed that he would stand for re-election. Because he wanted to stand for re-election. He simply refused to believe that his presidency was unpopular. He looked at the world through the eyes of his own estimation of himself, instead of taking account of the evidence about him, and the failure to deliver what he promised – the downturn in unemployment in the first year of his presidency.
Now he is seen as politically weak and exposed. He lacks authority even though he remains in office until May next year. Not only do his own party see him as unelectable, along with the rest of France; he now admits he is unelectable, no longer enjoying the confidence of the people. And he will be seen as weak on the all important international scene. He therefore weakens French influence internationally.
He is humiliated. And it is always a sad sight to see a human being humiliated. Especially when it results from their own foolish self deception.
Now, I don’t write this to denigrate this man or his position.
I write by way of taking a contemporary example to illustrate a spiritual truth about us all.
The prophet Jeremiah is recorded as hearing these words direct from God.
“The heart is deceitful above all, and desperately wicked: who can know it ? I the LORD try the reins even to give to every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings.”
[try the reins is simply a Hebrew expression indicating examine a person’s motives].
That we all deceive ourselves at times about our own importance in the scheme of things, I find to be true. And that we can be mistaken, as a result, is also quite true.
But desperately wicked ?
We need to start by recognising who is saying this – and if you find that difficult, then simply take it as true for the purposes of this analysis.
God says it about the inner motives of human beings.
He says that human beings are fundamentally selfish, and that selfishness is wicked, that is is fundamentally evil, ie opposed to God, defying God, rebellious to God, in antagonism to God, refusing God and refusing God’s assessment of what we are.
The very act of refusing to believe God’s assessment of what we are is hostile to God, and therefore wicked.
We say that our view, our judgment, our assessment is superior to what God says. If it is God speaking, then that must be the case.
But – you may ask – we are assuming this is God speaking; just because someone claims God is speaking, does not make it so !
Which is why Christian believers should always use their heads to rationally assess what is being said.
Those who appeal to mere emotion or prejudice, do not do God’s work. I have found that they do their own work, for their own ends…
When I read the letters [epistles] of the apostle Paul, I find there someone who lays out a well argued case clearly and with authority, but always by way of appeal to his listeners to accept what he says.
To return to what is recorded by Jeremiah, the statement bears examination. In the light of the absolute perfection which God – by definition – must be, then we human beings in all our imperfection are – by comparison – wicked.
That contention bears examination when you consider what is reported in the news every day.
It even bears examination – if you stop and think about it – in each of our lives. I very much doubt that anyone reading this can claim to have lived a blameless life, even to have actually done something which they are not desperately ashamed of, or regret.
So the statement recorded by Jeremiah has the hallmark of truth.
And the truth is where we must start if we are to have any hope of assessing our lives realistically. And we need to assess our lives realistically, if we are to come to appropriate and responsible decisions.
And avoid the desperate humiliation that follows when we do not.
So, in a world saturated in materialism, in entertainment, in violence, in misrepresentation of our sexuality, in promotion of ourselves and our desires, there is a place to stop and consider just who God is, just who we are, and how He can help – or indeed hinder – us.
I have found it to be true that Pride is a terrible thing, and that it comes – as the Biblical Proverb says – before a fall… “Pride goeth before destruction and an haughty spirit before a fall ” [Proverbs 16.18].
Jeremiah says that God rewards us [or punishes us] according to what we do, and the outcomes [fruit] of our actions. This French President made it an election pledge to introduce a law to subvert God’s created order of marriage between a man and a woman.
He carried through on his promise; he has been rewarded accordingly.
God orchestrated the circumstances of the French President’s humiliation. And yet the French President is himself responsible for that humiliation by his own foolish refusal to recognise reality, and to live by God’s created order.
We can see here the reality of how God is sovereign and reigns, yet men have free will to act responsibly or irresponsibly.
But if punishment is true, so is reward for those who do as God says; he intervenes in their lives for good…
The LORD is my Shepherd; I shall not want;he maketh me to lie down in green pastures; he leadeth me beside the still waters, he restoreth my soul; he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me; thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies, thou anointest my head with oil, my cup runneth over;
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.