Tag Archives: Proverbs 25:6-7

Pride and Prejudice (with apologies to Jane Austen)

She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me. Mr Darcy to Mr. Bingley about Elizabeth Bennet; Ch. 3

A classic line from Pride and Prejudice, outlining exactly the wrong kind of pride – and the prejudice it can lead to.

I am better than you.

To be proud is to have pleasure in achievement.  It can be positive, to take delight in something someone has achieved:

Or right and proper sense of a job well done, or self-esteem.

But more often pride is negative – to have an over-inflated opinion of ourself or our achievements,; to focus on them rather than anything else about your character, often seen as vanity or conceit.

Pieter Bruegel the Elder: The Seven Deadly Sins or the Seven Vices – Pride

Pride, we are told, comes before a fall.   Illustrated keenly by these readings.

This weeks lectionary offers us two options in Old Testament readings.  One from the Apocrypha:

Sirach 10:12-18  (GNT)

12 Pride has its beginning when a person abandons the Lord, his maker. 13 Pride is like a fountain pouring out sin, and whoever persists in it will be full of wickedness. That is why the Lord brought terrible punishments on some people and completely destroyed them. 14 The Lord has overthrown kings and put humbler people in their place. 15 The Lord has pulled up nations by the roots and established humbler ones in their place. 16 The Lord has overthrown empires and completely devastated their lands. 17 He destroyed some so completely that they are not even remembered any more. 18 The Creator never intended for human beings to be arrogant and violent.

And more conventionally, one from The Book of Proverbs:

Proverbs 25:6-7 (GNT)

When you stand before the king, don’t try to impress him and pretend to be important. It is better to be asked to take a higher position than to be told to give your place to someone more important.

Both take the theme of pride – the wrong kind of pride, and give advice on how to behave.

It is right to know what we have done well, and even to celebrate it.  It is wrong to make that the be all and end all of our lives – and even more so to think it makes us better than somebody else.  The trouble with thinking we are so important, is that it makes us see others through our over-inflated ideas, and encourages us to sit in judgement and prejudice.

You, and I, are unique, special, and indeed important – but so is every other person in the world.  It is not our role to make others feel inferior, any more than it is right for someone to do it to us.

The problem with trying to impress others, is that we can lose sight of the real us, we can begin to believe our own publicity – and so might they… Which is difficult if it turns out to be nothing more than a lot of bluster and self-importance.  No one likes to be over looked.  I certainly don’t.  But that means all the more that I should not be overlooking others and what they have to offer by shouting so much about myself.

Sirach reminds us that pride happens when we stop looking at God, and start looking at ourselves.

A sobering thought perhaps?

Forgive me Lord,
the times I stop looking at you
and look at myself,
my achievements,
how special I am.

Forgive me Lord,
when I look at others
through what I think is important.
the times I judge,
and find myself to be superior.

Forgive me Lord,
when I fail to see the special gifts you give to others
when I see my offering
and not theirs.

Forgive me Lord

for my pride

and my prejudices

May my focus always be on you

Who’s invited?

Its great to get an invitation to a party.  But I always wonder who else will be there.  Who will have been invited?  You don’t always like to mention it to others in case they haven’t been!

Sometimes you can reel off quite predictably who will be there, and sometime there are some surprises – people who you wonder why they are there.  How do they know the host?  What have they done to be in that circle.  And you know that at most parties there are some people there because they had to be invited – it’s the “right” thing to do.

The account of the meal that Jesus was invited to, gives us God’s insight on who is the in – or out – crowd – and it’s quite surprising.  Jesus and the Pharisees are still caught up in the argument about what can or can’t be done on the Sabbath, and Jesus moves it on to humility and hospitality.

There are two lessons: don’t think of yourself as better than you are; and think about who you invite to your house – do it for the right reasons.

As Proverbs puts it, “When you stand before the king, don’t try to impress him.”  When we stand before God, he doesn’t see our outward show, but our inner hearts.  The way to please God, is not to put on our best clothes, or be seen with the right people – but to do the right thing.

Hebrews reminds us that this means being concerned for each other, welcoming strangers, not forgetting those who are suffering.

Jesus command is to bring to your hospitality, not those who will invite you back, but those who can’t.  The poor, the crippled the lame.  Those who have no resources.  Those who would be invited by no one else.

That is what God asks of us.  For in inviting them, we are inviting God in.  Remember, when Abram offered hospitality to strangers, they turned out to be messengers from God.  When we welcome people in God’s name, we are entertaining angels.  We are not asked to prefer one over another, but to look for, and rejoice in the good in others.

We need to see the possibilities – not welcoming people because of what they can give – but welcoming them because they are.  Welcoming, accepting, allowing them, not just to the edges, but into all that God has given us and more.

All are welcome by God.  Not just those that think they have a right to be there, but those who need encouragement, who need a special invitation from us.  Those who the world might look down on, but in God’s eyes are special and more than welcome.

Whether we understand God’s love for us, or feel unworthy, poor and lame before him, he wants us with him.  None of us is worthy to be in God’s presence, we are all people who have got things wrong – but he welcomes us all, graciously including us as his guests.

There is a balance of self-esteem and self-worth.  Not pushing ourselves to the front, but realising that we have value.  God wants to honour us.  Today he invites us to feast with him.  And he asks us to invite others to feast with him too.