Pride. From a young age, most of us are taught that pride is the main ingredient to a happy, successful life. Pride tells us to take full credit for everything; step on the little man to get ahead; take no prisoners; and you’ve gotta get yours first. But Jesus never wanted us to live prideful lives. In fact, the very idea of being a servant is contrary to what our nature dictates we ought to be. That’s why it’s so hard for some people to follow Christ. Picture this conversation between Jesus and some random guy, we’ll call Joe.
Joe looked into the sky and saw the Lord. He immediately decided to take his complaints straight to upper management. As he rode the elevator up into the clouds, Joe practiced his arguments, and was pretty pleased at the assumed outcome of the impending conversation. The car slowed to a halt at the top floor. The doors slowly hushed open, and Joe strode toward the Lord sitting casually upon a billowy tuft of cloud. He didn’t even give the Lord a chance to greet him. Rather, he dispensed with the pleasantries and got right to business.
“Have you been listening to me down there?” Joe demanded.
Jesus smiled, “Of course I have.”
“Really? Because, from my vantage point, it seems like you’re purposely ignoring me.” Joe stood before the Lord with his arms folded tight against his chest. His lips were drawn into a thin line. Joe postured for an explanation.
“Joe, why would I ignore you? I love you. I–”
“Seriously, you’re going to hit me with the old ‘I love you’ ploy? Have you seen what my family is going through down there?”
Jesus, realizing Joe needed to vent, slowly stood. He casually walked over to a cloud ledge and peered over it, down toward the earth below. After a few moments of silence, he whispered, “Hey, look at me.”
“Hey, look at me!” Joe yelled.
“Tell me what’s on your mind, Joe,” Jesus said, still gazing over the ledge.
“I’ve gone to church every Sunday for the past four years. I’ve never missed a single weekend service! I’ve paid my tithes faithfully for the last two years, even when the money was tight. I’ve given to missions, taught Children’s church classes, volunteered at soup kitchens and led prayer teams.”
“Yes you have. I’m very please with your deeds.”
“Then why is it, that my house is about to be foreclosed upon? Why am I still struggling to make payments on a family car that’s on life support? Why can’t I afford to buy my kids new shoes and groceries at the same time? Why is my wife stressing over paying for glasses for our daughter, or going to get glasses for herself? Why can’t I afford to give my family a real vacation? Why can’t you just give us a financial breakthrough, for once?” Joe was livid.
Jesus turned to Joe. A compassionate smile graced his face.
“Why haven’t you helped us?! If you’ve been watching, you know what we’re going through down there!”
Jesus walked over, stood before Joe and set a hand on his shoulder. Joe shuddered.
“My Joe, tell me what’s really in your heart.”
Tears welled in Joe’s eyes. He didn’t want to say it, but the words spilled from his lips before he could stop them.
“You owe me, Lord! Everything I’ve done for you; you could at least make us comfortable, like you take care of those idiots who don’t even believe in you! Why should they prosper, while we starve? Why do the Jones get the new truck? Why do the Smiths have a new house? Why can’t my kids go to summer camp with the Kings? Why are they all doing better than we are, when none of them follow you?”
The second the last word lingered in the air, Joe regretted saying it. He clamped a hand over his lips. His eyes dropped to his feet, and his shoulders hunched.
Jesus placed both hands on Joe’s shoulders. “So, do you deserve to be blessed, Joe? Should I grant you the gifts of material things in exchange for your deeds? Do you demand retribution from me?”
Joe knew it was wrong, but his heart seemed to communicate its deepest desires against the advisement of his mind.
“Yes,” he whispered. “I…I want you to give us…things. I deserve them, for all that I’ve done for you. If you can’t give me what I want, what’s the point of me following you?”
Joe looked up into the weeping eyes of the Lord, and his heart burst with remorse. He realized, in that moment, his lustful desires and fearful demands had dishonored the Lord’s sacrifice on the cross for him. He knew instantly, the Lord had been removed from the pedestal of Joe’s heart; replaced by the idol of his own desires.
This is what pride does to us. It tells us that we alone are more important than anyone else. It says, “I am the only one special here.”