“Outdo one another showing honor…”
The attitude of pride and arrogance is like a cancer in the body of Christ. A prideful spirit focuses all the attention on itself, sucks up all the body’s resources, and if unchecked will, ultimately, spread throughout the body bringing death in its wake. That is the power of pride.
Pride comes in all shapes and sizes. It is the arrogant and boastful person who likes to be the center of attention; never really listening to what others have to say, only waiting for another opportunity to speak. It is there in the unyielding, undisciplined spirit that refuses to submit to the authority of God’s Word, and certainly not to the authority of the elders. Pride is at the heart of the disaffected member who clings to the bitterness of past offenses and refuses to forgive and be forgiven. It is pride that keeps us from confessing our sins that we may be reconciled, sharing our sorrows that we may be comforted, revealing our needs that we may be supported, and withholding our gifts so that others may be built up.
To be honest, pride is the sin that I struggle with most. I think this is one of the great hazards of the ministry. It’s difficult to stand in front of a congregation Sunday after Sunday, preaching the Word, and not letting the appreciation and praise from the congregation go right to your head. When the congregation is growing, and people are responding to the gospel, the temptation for the pastor is to think that this is his work, and to revel in the glory.
Add to that my disposition toward those activities that highlight individual achievement. I love to run, and when I cross the finish line, that’s one more thing to boast about. I love the theater, to stand front and center in the spotlight, leading the show and hearing the applause of the crowd.
All of these things feed the prideful spirit. And yet, when you feed pride, it’s a lot like eating Chinese food. You get filled up quickly, but an hour later you’re hungry for more. There’s never enough praise, never enough attention, and the successes of others is a threat to your achievement.
So how do we root out this pernicious and perilous pride? I believe the apostle Paul is addressing this in Romans 12:10 when he tells the Christian, “Outdo one another showing honor.” It almost sounds like a sport. Make a competition of honoring one another. If you are going to excel at something, if you want to show off, then show your mad skills in honoring those around you. If you want to stand in the spotlight, use your time there to bring glory to God and to honor others.
In order to truly honor others, you have to begin by humbling yourself. Paul writes in Philippians 2:3, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” Humbling yourself simply means having a right understanding of your own situation in relation to God and to others.
Here’s the humbling truth: Standing in the presence of God apart from Christ you are a wretched and wicked sinner in desperate need of salvation. It doesn’t matter how eloquent you might be, or what achievements you’ve had in work or in play – all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23). And the Good News is just as humbling, for it is by “grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” There is no place in the body of Christ for pride, and if we are to boast, let us boast only in the cross of Christ our savior (Gal 6:14).
Once we have a true measure of ourselves in the light of God’s Word, and when we come to trust in His sovereign work for our eternal security, then we can have the confidence and strength to seek the honor of others before ourselves. Pride is really nothing more than a defense against a perceived threat. When we rest secure in the promises of God, then pride serves no purpose, and we can honor God and one another as we are commanded.
Let us then root out this pride that so easily disrupts the Christian life, the arrogance that keeps us from being reconciled and united in the Lord. Trusting in God’s grace, let us confess our sins, seek forgiveness, and preach the Good News of Salvation in Jesus Christ for all eternity. Resting secure in His work, may we outdo one another in showing honor.