My Empire of Me
Matthew 19:29,30 Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.
Yesterday, I referenced those who claim that they would do anything to leave behind destruction and follow God but remain unwilling to do what it takes. I recently sat in a meeting with one such individual whose stubborn refusal to grasp reality began to frustrate me. As the mountain of excuses and denial grew, so did my anger.
I realized, during the encounter, that my anger was misplaced. That which I found so irritating in this individual was exactly what I had done not so long ago. I too, have made excuses, denied and rationalized my bad behavior into massive destruction.
So, I let go of my frustration and I carried on with the meeting, but later, something about the encounter nagged at me. I was proud of myself for being able to see my own past destruction in this man and I was proud that I let go of my anger. I was proud that I was no longer making the same mistakes he was…
And there it was… My pride. It is so comforting to look back at the me of three years ago and see how I have grown. I take pride in my progress and recovery. After all, I am doing this pretty well, am I not? It is in my pride that I betray my continued focus on self. My pride reveals the subtle sleight of hand of which my flesh is capable. My flesh nature wants to focus on me no matter what. My pride can take even my past destruction and turn it into a celebration of how great I am now.
I may have left behind the excuses and denial regarding drug use, but I still use those defects to protect my empire of me. I may be in recovery from an addiction to pills, but I remain terminally addicted to what I want. Though it is less obviously destructive now, I remain prideful, pursuing me. I do what I want with my time. I eat what I want. I cling to the things I want. I, me, mine. I am still riddled with pride.
This, I think, is the most common pitfall for those Christians who really do have it together regarding the most obviously destructive behaviors. For those who live life in such a way as to avoid the big sins, pride becomes the greatest distraction from God. God, thank you that I am not like these idiots. Save me from their stupidity. I cannot handle how horrible everyone else is…
In my pride, I focus on me and remain just as blind to God as if I was using drugs. At least in my drug use, I knew I was doing wrong. In my pride, I fool myself into thinking that I am fantastic. When I look down on the stupidity of others and elevate myself above them, I elevate myself above God.
My pride is as destructive as any other defect, as in it, I follow me instead of God. This is why Jesus said that if I want to be his disciple, I need to deny self continually. The first will be last and the last will be first. I cannot pursue self and God.