I was going to write about something else this week, but the topic for the ChurchCOM devotion is pride and this week in the Sunday School class my husband I teach, the lesson has to do with pride. It seems like the Lord wants me to share some thoughts on this.
Partly it is because, no matter what one’s political leanings the prideful, profane public discourse today is simply wrong. It is a horrific example to children and anyone attempting to live a godly life. It should never be a part of anyone in a leadership position if in any way, they associate with Jesus.
God dealt very severely in our reading in Numbers 16 with Korah, Dathan, and Abiram and those who acted “insolently” (pridefully) and were not accepting of the place God had given them in ministry. The Lord may not open up the earth and swallow alive people who curse, malign, and boast of power and pride today, but that is only because He is merciful. He expects much better from His people.
How should we act?
We only need to look at Jesus if we want to know how we should act in any leadership position and how pride should have no part of it. To explore this topic more, below I’m sharing my teaching notes from class tomorrow–they are a little rough in the editing department, (and of course you don’t get the verbal additions to the lesson) but I think there is useful material here. The lesson is based on a meditation we are doing in Lent and this week it is on what it means to carry your cross.
Here are my notes:
Take up your cross,
a historical perspective on humility and pride
Teacher, Yvon Prehn
What did the cross mean to people then?
• When the disciples heard this, they were not thinking at all about the price being paid for our salvation, the resurrection, nothing like that crossed their minds
• So what did Jesus challenge mean to them?
• Let’s look at what the cross meant to people of Jesus’ time
In all of this “taking up your cross” is about so much more than little difficulties in life as a Christian.
Various historical accounts from the web (Citation list at the end)
• Crucifixion was not employed in the Old Testament by the Jewish people, as they saw crucifixion as one of the most horrible, cursed forms of death (Deuteronomy 21:23).
• Accounts of crucifixions are recorded among other ancient civilizations, most likely originating with the Persians and then spreading to the Assyrians, Scythians, Carthaginians, Germans, Celts and Britons. Crucifixion was primarily reserved for traitors, captive armies, slaves and the worst of criminals. Over the course of history, different types and shapes of crosses existed for different forms of crucifixion
• Execution by crucifixion became common under the rule of Alexander the Great (356-323 B.C.). Later, during the Roman Empire, only violent offenders, those guilty of high treason, despised enemies, deserters, slaves and foreigners were crucified.
• Crucifixion was often performed in order to terrorize and dissuade its witnesses from perpetrating particularly heinous crimes. Victims were left on display after death as warnings to others who might attempt dissent.
• Crucifixion was usually intended to provide a death that was particularly slow, painful (hence the term excruciating, literally “out of crucifying”), gruesome, humiliating, and public, using whatever means were most expedient for that goal.
• Cicero described crucifixion as “a most cruel and disgusting punishment”, and suggested that “the very mention of the cross should be far removed not only from a Roman citizen’s body, but from his mind, his eyes, his ears.”
Key facts we often miss about crucifixion
• Under ancient Roman penal practice, crucifixion was also a means of exhibiting the criminal’s low social status. It was the most dishonourable death imaginable, originally reserved for slaves, later extended to citizens of the lower classes (humiliores). The citizen class of Roman society were almost never subject to capital punishments; instead, they were fined or exiled.
• honestiores/ humiliores – during the Empire, the populace was divided broadly into two classes. The honestiores were persons of status and property, the humiliores persons of low social status. Only the latter were subject to certain kinds of punishment (crucifixion, torture, and corporal punishment).
• While a crucifixion was an execution, it was also a humiliation, by making the condemned as vulnerable as possible. Although artists have traditionally depicted the figure on a cross with a loin cloth or a covering of the genitals, the person being crucified was usually stripped naked.
• In addition to the horrible pain, crucifixion was a humiliating, shameful death
So what is Jesus saying when he challenges those who want to follow him?
• It didn’t seem anyone was listening, but he was making it clear that he was not on the road to be an earthly king and his followers should not look forward to honors on earth
• In fact, humiliation, mocking, suffering may be yours
• This will be part of the cost of following me
• Because we still don’t hear his message of humility, let’s look at some verses and quotes on pride and humility
• Matt: 20:24 When the ten heard about this (who should sit as places of honor beside Jesus), they were indignant with the two brothers. 25 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
He never asks us to do what he didn’t do
• Phil. 2:5In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
Prison letter verses on Humility
• Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. Eph. 4:2
• Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves. Philippians 2:3
• Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Colossians 3:12
Why is humility so important?
• It’s opposite, PRIDE, is what caused Satan’s fall
• How are you fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How are you cut down to the ground, which did weaken the nations! For you have said in your heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. Yet you shall be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit. Isa 14:12-15
C.S. Lewis on Pride from Mere Christianity
• The essential vice, the utmost evil, is Pride. Unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere fleabites in comparison: it was through Pride that the devil became the devil: Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind. . . . . .
• In God you come up against something that is in every respect immeasurably superior to yourself. Unless you know God as that – and, therefore, know your-self as nothing in comparison – you do not know God at all. As long as you are proud you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on things and people: and, of course, as long
as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you.
That raises a terrible question. How is it that people who are quite obviously eaten up with Pride can say they believe in God and appear to themselves very religious? I am afraid it means they are worshiping an imaginary God.
No danger of pride in Jesus
• (challenge to look to) Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Heb. 12:2
• And he requires the same from us
• Pride brings a person low,
but the lowly in spirit gain honor. Proverbs 29:23
• He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8
Humility now, but The Great Reversal is coming!
• Taking up our cross, is far more serious than we often realize but…..
• The humility and shame of the cross, not the final word for Jesus or for us.
• One day He will be glorified
• We will reign with Him
• Until then we give evidence that we serve the true God by our humility and trust in Him.
• We learn what humility means from spending time in His Word because it is the only source that gives us a true view of how we ought to live in our world.
There are many resources about the historical aspects of the crucifixion summarized and quoted above. Here are some that were used: