By Kirk Roberts, Elder
The Burden of Pride
Sometimes I come across scriptures that I know I’ve read many times before, but I read them afresh and they just strike me. Recently after a hard day I “just happened” (yea, right😊) to read one that was a balm to my soul, and had to read it several times, the last couple almost with my eyes closed. Let this soak in…
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
One thing I love about scripture is when we get these direct insights into who Jesus is, His character. But there are some, like this passage that offer even something more, almost “relief” or a sense of freedom. I’ve often discussed with colleagues at work that are in similar situations of our adult lives that careers, ambitions and other motivators that contribute to our identity, and it is a balance. On the one hand how fulfilling using our God-given talents can be, when it is part of something bigger. But on the other and how empty it can be when that thing/talent becomes so big it is our identity. It really is a fine line between acting, accomplishing, doing v. being.
It is to this conflict I believe Jesus was speaking here in Matthew. “Take my yoke, all who are weary and burdened”. All who are doing instead of being. All who are carrying the burden of worshipping false gods our culture offers. All who might be too proud to admit we cannot do it on our own.
Often I talk a lot from my own experience when making point, but there are some subjects, like humility I need to use quotes from people much more qualified than I am. AW Tozer, in Pursuit of God, talks to the burdens of our human condition, one unfortunately I know all too much about.
“Regarding the burden of pride, the labor of self-love is a heavy one. Think for yourself whether much of your sorrow has not arisen from someone speaking slightingly of you. As long as you set yourself up as a little god to which you must be loyal there will be those who will delight to offer affront to your idol. How then can you hope to have inward peace?”
Until reading this I have never considered Jesus’ sharing of His yoke as a relief from pride, but that’s exactly what it can be…Jesus says this “burden” of pride is unnecessary: “I am gentle and humble at heart, and in me you will find rest for your souls”
You know what the hardest detail of Palm Sunday is for me to resolve, the part of the story that if I am completely honest I have struggled with a conflict between head and heart (meaning I understand the message but from my completely imperfect perspective initially seemed like a missed opportunity)? The Donkey…
When telling stories I like it when symbolism fits the audience. A few years ago I was in Ski Dubai, an indoor actual ski hill in a shopping mall. It was August, with the temp outdoors at 54⁰C (or about 132⁰F). We were watching people ski down the hill and I was standing in a North Face Skiwear shop, watching people try to figure out why they would buy a ski jacket. For me It made no sense to try to impress those who primarily live in the desert with expensive skiwear purchased from a high-end store.
Yes, the palm branches and blankets laid out before the approaching “King” had very relevant meaning to that relatively poor community. And I can relate to all the enthusiasm of the day that pointed to finally the Messiah coming to conquer the evil empire and rescue the chosen people from their persecution. But riding on a donkey, a small colt, according to scripture was very intentional (even prophesied about), and therefore extremely symbolic. It was certainly not what I would have chosen – mine would have been very impressive in both appearance and in size. Which is why Jesus (not an idiot like me) is the more relevant source for us to learn true character from, this time His humility.
It’s almost what we would call the “anti-pride”, and why for me personally this is the most convicting of all the human character traits of Christ we get to learn from. I think we would all agree with Paul’s teaching that pride and humility obviously cannot co-exist, and for me the real hard question that often I struggle with is why the world (and to be honest ME) has chosen pride over humility???
Greek philosophers in biblical times had no use for it because it implied inadequacy, lack of dignity and worthlessness to them. And I think it pretty obvious our world today has bought into the same position, as we are taught to avoid anything resembling weakness. Even those who try to act humble often don’t get it, or as CS Lewis said: “A man is never so proud as when striking an attitude of humility.”
So often, even those of us trying to achieve humility miss the point altogether. Our attention is in the wrong place, our focus is on ourselves and therefore perpetuates the problem. Biblical humility is not belittling of oneself, but exulting or praising of others, shifting the focus. That is where the story of the person of Christ comes in, who is the answer to so many of our fundamental questions in life, and we will come back to tomorrow in looking at His character of humility.
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