Tony Jenne has been a faithful volunteer for Bob Russell Ministries for the last two years. One of his assignments is to pick up retreat attendees at the airport and drive them to Country Lake Camp, where our minister’s retreats are held. During the forty-five minute trip he often strikes up a conversation with the preachers and discovers their hobbies and interests.
A couple of years ago an attendee shared with Tony that he enjoyed playing golf in his spare time. Tony is an avid golfer. He’s also a golf ball hawker. He gets a kick out of finding lost balls and reusing them or giving them away as gifts. He decided to bring the minister he’d just met a dozen pro-v1 golf balls that were almost like new. That’s about the best gift any golfer can receive.
The next day I encountered Tony as he was making his way from the parking lot to the lodge and noticed he was carrying an egg carton. When I asked if he was delivering groceries, Tony informed me the carton contained a dozen new golf balls as a gift.
Now, in all fairness, Tony and I had discussed playing golf on several occasions. However, being the egocentric person I am and having developed an entitlement mentality over the years, I naturally assumed the golf balls were for me. I responded, “Well, Tony, thank you very much! I really appreciate that,” and took the golf balls from him and carted them back to my car.
Tony didn’t have the heart to tell me the truth at the time. He just walked away empty handed and that impoverished, young minister never got the gift. Two years later (actually last month) after we had become a lot better acquainted, Tony unfolded the rest of the story to me and we laughed both at my presumption and his reticence to be truthful. But I felt like such a fool! How could I be so self-centered? How embarrassing!
I was reminded of the fact that pride is a daily battle for most of us. Just about the time we think we’ve got our ego under control, it resurfaces and drags us down again. We can do some stupid, embarrassing and sinful things when driven by ego and frequently we’re not even conscious of it. But others are aware of it long before we see it in ourselves. And our self-centeredness hurts our Christian witness and credibility.
C.S. Lewis insisted that pride is at the core of almost every sin. Why do people commit adultery? It doesn’t usually begin with sexual attraction but with ego – we’re flattered that someone shows an interest in us. Why do people succumb to greed? It’s usually because possessions are a way of proving our self-worth. Why do people get so easily miffed when someone criticizes them or disrespects them? It’s because we have an inflated view of our own importance. Why are people so slow to apologize? It’s because we are too prideful to admit we can be wrong. Why are people so self centered and narcissistic? It’s because we think the world revolves around us.
That’s why Jesus instructed His disciples to, “…deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). The battle with pride is a daily struggle. We won’t win every battle but it’s healthy to evaluate our motives, analyze our actions, recognize ego when it surfaces, repent of it and seek to be more like Christ the next day. The Bible says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Most people do also.
One of my friends joked recently, “I’m not much, but I’m all I think about.”
Take note of how many of your thoughts are focused on you. Seek to develop the mindset of Christ who though He was God, humbled himself and made himself nothing taking the very nature of a servant, … and became obedient unto death – even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:5-8).
Last week The Southeast Outlook carried an excellent article by Denny Dillman titled, “The Poison Of Pride.” Although Denny has been a Christian for decades he began, “I would like to confess to you my deepest struggle in my walk as a follower of Christ: PRIDE.” Then he added, “The contrast of my pride and the humility of Jesus crushes me, drives me to my knees before a holy God.”
Me too. After being a Christian for 64 years I still think a gift of golf balls is naturally for me. That’s why I’m thankful my salvation doesn’t depend on my good works but on Jesus perfect work for me on the cross.
The daily challenge for all of us is to, like Jesus, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4).