Humility

Has success, prosperity and comfort made you… a little indifferent to God? After all, you have everything you need, right? Sure, you say a quick prayer when you’re having a tough day but in general, you get along pretty well all by yourself most of the time. King Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel chapter 4 thought the same thing.

Join us this Sunday as we learn from his mistake… and ours.

If this is your first time here, we’re in a series we’re calling A Resilient Life, studying the book of Daniel. We’re going to spend the next two weeks — today and next Sunday — on Daniel 4. This will be our last look at Nebuchadnezzar. And I’d like to begin today with the last sentence of the chapter, and then we’ll come back to the beginning. Daniel 4:37, the last sentence, reads like this: And those who walk in pride he is able to humble. This is kind of the executive summary of this whole chapter. It’s the reason this story is in the Bible. And I want to make sure we’re all real clear on the idea expressed here — “And those who walk in pride he is able to humble.” This kind of statement occurs over and over in Scripture. Let me give you a few examples. Psalm 31:23: The Lord preserves those who are true to him, but the proud he pays back in full. Or Psalm 101:5: Whoever has haughty eyes and a proud heart, I will not tolerate. Proverbs 16:5: The Lord detests all the proud of heart. Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished. James 4:6: God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. And I’d like to leave those words on the screens for a few moments as I pose this question: Why does God make such a big deal about pride? Why? I think it’s because our world doesn’t. I’ve worked as a pastor for a long time now and I’ve done a lot of counseling. I’ve had people come to me for problems with depression, anxiety, lust, doubt, addiction, lying, anger. I’ve never had someone ask for an appointment so they could talk about their pride problems. Go to any self-help section in any bookstore. See how many books you find about developing humility. You know, pride is an irritating trait when we see it in other people. A woman was frustrated at always being corrected by her husband. It was a sign of pride that he always had to be right. The woman decided the next time it happened she would have a comeback. That moment came and she was ready. She said. “You know, even a broken clock is right once a day.” Her husband looked at her and said, “twice.” In our world, pride is looked upon as irritating at worst and a virtue at best. We think it’s part of being a strong, confident, high achiever. Even in the church we think this. I’ve seen people removed from leadership positions in the church for sexual sin, for financial wrongdoings, for scandals of all kinds. I can’t remember ever hearing of someone removed from a leadership position in the church for having a proud spirit. Some of the most arrogant people in the world are people who think of themselves as spiritual giants. But we don’t confront these people about their problem. A church could have a senior pastor who is arrogant and never gets confronted about his arrogance. But if that senior pastor was smoking a cigarette outside after church, you better believe he would hear about it. I’m not advocating smoking. I’m just trying to make a point. Sometimes pride (which is sin) is deeply ingrained in people in the church who are thought of as spiritual giants. And that was true in Jesus’ day. What I want you to notice is the language God uses to talk about this condition. He detests pride. He opposes pride. He will not endure pride. He will pay it back in full. I don’t believe the writers of Scripture use this language casually. I believe they use it because pride is lethal to our relationship with God and each other. And I want us to see why today. I want us as individuals and as a community to declare war on pride. I want us to consider it an evil that needs to be confronted and dealt with. So lets look at the beginning of Daniel 4. King Nebuchadnezzar, To the nations and peoples of every language, who live in all the earth: May you prosper greatly! It is my pleasure to tell you about the miraculous signs and wonders that the Most High God has performed for me. How great are his signs, how mighty his wonders! His kingdom is an eternal kingdom; his dominion endures from generation to generation. I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at home in my palace, contented and prosperous. (Daniel 4:1-4) I want to stop here so we can understand the setting for this story. Nebuchadnezzar liked to look out on this city that he had built. Look at Daniel 4:29 for a second. Twelve months later, as the king was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, he said, “Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?” (Daniel 4:29-30) Nebuchadnezzar has achieved more than anyone in human history. Babylon, which is the capital city of his empire, was the site of so much building under Nebuchadnezzar that it takes 126 pages just to record the inscriptions that were carved into the buildings that he had constructed. Try to imagine having conquered the known world and then, with essentially only human labor, virtually no machinery, designing and constructing its most renown city. You’ve heard of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Maybe the most impressive was what was known as the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. And Nebuchadnezzar was thought to have constructed these gardens for one of his homesick wives. She missed the trees of the mountains from her homeland, so he built these unbelievable suspended gardens with trees and an amazingly sophisticated irrigation system just for his homesick wife. From the roof of his palace, he could see a double wall running all the way around his city. One ancient historian says the outer wall was 56 miles long, and so wide that you could turn a four-horse chariot around on the wall. Nebuchadnezzar had that wall built. There was simply no city like this city anywhere. The historian, Herodotus, in the fifth century B.C. wrote, In addition to its size, Babylon surpasses in splendor any city in the known world. — Herodotus And it was Nebuchadnezzar’s city. He had it built. It would not be there if it weren’t for him. I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at home in my palace, contented and prosperous. (Daniel 4:4) See, Nebuchadnezzar has now achieved what in our world would be considered “The good life.” This would be the guy that we would all go to for advice on successful living. He would be interviewed on “Good Morning Babylon.” Now, did Nebuchadnezzar think he had a problem? No. — “I was at home in my palace, contented and prosperous.” Who wouldn’t be? Did God think Nebuchadnezzar had a problem? See, one of the great dangers of pride is that the people who suffer from it most tend to be the most blind to it. So God launches Nebuchadnezzar on a journey that will be very long and very painful. And although Nebuchadnezzar doesn’t know it yet, this is the battle for his soul. He has not been in a battle yet that compares to this battle, because this is the battle for his soul. For Jesus said a long time ago, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul?” Nebuchadnezzar was going to lose his soul. He would gain the world, but lose his soul. Alright, lets continue at verse five. We’ll read through verse 19. I had a dream that made me afraid. As I was lying in bed, the images and visions that passed through my mind terrified me. So I commanded that all the wise men of Babylon be brought before me to interpret the dream for me. When the magicians, enchanters, astrologers and diviners came, I told them the dream, but they could not interpret it for me. Finally, Daniel came into my presence and I told him the dream. (He is called Belteshazzar, after the name of my god, and the spirit of the holy gods is in him.) I said, “Belteshazzar, chief of the magicians, I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in you, and no mystery is too difficult for you. Here is my dream; interpret it for me. These are the visions I saw while lying in bed: I looked, and there before me stood a tree in the middle of the land. Its height was enormous. The tree grew large and strong and its top touched the sky; it was visible to the ends of the earth. Its leaves were beautiful, its fruit abundant, and on it was food for all. Under it the wild animals found shelter, and the birds lived in its branches; from it every creature was fed. In the visions I saw while lying in bed, I looked, and there before me was a holy one, a messenger, coming down from heaven. He called in a loud voice: ‘Cut down the tree and trim off its branches; strip off its leaves and scatter its fruit. Let the animals flee from under it and the birds from its branches. But let the stump and its roots, bound with iron and bronze, remain in the ground, in the grass of the field. Let him be drenched with the dew of heaven, and let him live with the animals among the plants of the earth. Let his mind be changed from that of a man and let him be given the mind of an animal, till seven times pass by for him. The decision is announced by messengers, the holy ones declare the verdict, so that the living may know that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes and sets over them the lowliest of people.’ This is the dream that I, King Nebuchadnezzar, had. Now, Belteshazzar, tell me what it means, for none of the wise men in my kingdom can interpret it for me. But you can, because the spirit of the holy gods is in you.” Then Daniel (also called Belteshazzar) was greatly perplexed for a time, and his thoughts terrified him. So the king said, “Belteshazzar, do not let the dream or its meaning alarm you.” (Daniel 4:5-19) Let’s stop here for a moment. Daniel is very concerned about this dream. He knows that this is a statement of God’s judgment, and the coming of severe pain on Nebuchadnezzar. This is very bad news for the king. Daniel is also concerned for himself because this is not a guy who takes bad news real well. Nebuchadnezzar has not, thus far, demonstrated a real open spirit to correction and rebuke. He doesn’t solicit that kind of thing. Who knows what he will do to Daniel if Daniel tells him the truth, because the furnace is not too far away. I’d like you to notice one thing Nebuchadnezzar gets right here. It’s kind of subtle. It’s clear that Daniel has bad news. Nebuchadnezzar can tell from his body language. Daniel is greatly perplexed for a time, and his thoughts terrify him. Nebuchadnezzar can read this, and he could have decided to stop listening. He could have made it abundantly clear to Daniel that he wanted to hear only good news with a positive spin. But he said, “Daniel, don’t let the dream or its meaning alarm you.” In other words, he’s saying, “Daniel, I want you to tell me the truth. Don’t sugar coat it no matter how bad it might be for me. I will not punish you for it. I want the truth.” Now, Nebuchadnezzar is not spiritually mature enough to act on the truth. That would take more time and a lot of suffering. But when that day comes, and it will come — we’ll read about it next week — Nebuchadnezzar would know what he needed to do because of what Daniel says here in these coming words. Nebuchadnezzar had a trusted friend. And Nebuchadnezzar says at a key moment, when he could have not said this, he says, “Tell me the truth no matter what.” And eventually, from one perspective, that’s what saves him. So I want to challenge you right here. Do you have a Daniel in your life? Do you have someone in your life who will tell you the truth about the pride in your life. We all need a trusted friend who will tell us the truth. We all need a trusted friend who will tell us the things no one else will tell us. There was a point in my life when I was working through the twelve steps of recovery. I got to the step where I had to do a moral inventory. So I went away and asked God to point out any sin or wrongdoing in my life. I had about two pages of stuff. The next step was to meet with a trusted friend to confess; so I scheduled a meeting with one of my closest, most trusted friends. I read the list to him and when I got to the end I was so embarrassed I could hardly look up at him. I talked about anger and lust and a bunch of other sins that I would not feel comfortable talking about here. He told me some hards things. He told me the hard truth. And then he asked me to look him in the eyes and he said, “Matt, I’ve never loved you more than I love you right now.” I made me feel so good, I wanted to make up more stuff about myself. Here’s the deal. With the common struggles that many of us have — anger, sexual sins, addictions and so on — at least we know we’ve got a problem. People far from God know they’ve got problems in these areas. But pride comes with a blind spot. So a Pharisee prays next to a tax collector and actually says to God, “God, thank you so much that I’m not like that man. Thanks that I pray and fast and give. Thanks that I’m spiritually superior to that man.” And the Pharisee is so full of pride that he despises the person next to him. He’s a spiritual nothing, but he thinks he’s spiritually advanced. This is the elder brother in the story of the prodigal son. He’s so full of self-righteous superiority that he despises his prodigal younger brother. But he thinks he’s morally and spiritually superior. And this happens still. It happens in churches. So I want to challenge you to have a Daniel in your life. If you don’t have a Daniel in your life, pray and ask God to lead you to one. If you do, sometime this week go to that person and simply ask her or him, “Tell me the truth. Do I have any pride issues in my life? Do I have any blind spots?” Nebuchadnezzar gets one thing right. He doesn’t get much else right, but he gets one thing right. He asks for the truth, and eventually, that’s what saves him. Let’s keep going. Look at verses 19-26: Belteshazzar answered, “My lord, if only the dream applied to your enemies and its meaning to your adversaries! The tree you saw, which grew large and strong, with its top touching the sky, visible to the whole earth, with beautiful leaves and abundant fruit, providing food for all, giving shelter to the wild animals, and having nesting places in its branches for the birds — Your Majesty, you are that tree! You have become great and strong; your greatness has grown until it reaches the sky, and your dominion extends to distant parts of the earth. Your Majesty saw a holy one, a messenger, coming down from heaven and saying, ‘Cut down the tree and destroy it, but leave the stump, bound with iron and bronze, in the grass of the field, while its roots remain in the ground. Let him be drenched with the dew of heaven; let him live with the wild animals, until seven times pass by for him.’ This is the interpretation, Your Majesty, and this is the decree the Most High has issued against my lord the king: You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like the ox and be drenched with the dew of heaven. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes. The command to leave the stump of the tree with its roots means that your kingdom will be restored to you when you acknowledge that Heaven rules. (Daniel 4:19-26) Alright, I want to stop here. This is a strange dream. At the center of it is a great tree — the tree of glory. And it expresses the reality of Nebuchadnezzar’s life. Everyone looks up to him. The tree is visible to the whole earth. He receives constant praise and admiration and recognition. Everyone depends on him. This tree provides food for all, giving shelter to the beasts of the field, nesting places to the birds. He lives with constant reminders of how important he is. Everyone does what he wants them to do. You have become great and strong; your greatness has grown until it reaches the sky, and your dominion extends to distant parts of the earth. (Daniel 4:22) This is a man who understands power — how to acquire it, how to protect it, how to use it to further his agenda. This is a picture of human, proud, stubborn self-sufficiency. “I have accomplished all this on my own. I need no one and no thing.” There’s lots of achievement. It’s an amazing city. But there’s no acknowledgement of dependence on God or that every breath he takes, every thought he thinks is a gift. There’s no sense that one day he’s going to be accountable to God, that he’s to be a steward and a servant to this great city and this great empire and the people in it. A church leader of many centuries ago named Gregory the Great wrote: Pride makes me think that I am the cause of my achievements, and that I deserve my abilities, and leads me to despise other people that don’t measure up. — Gregory the Great Pride causes this illusion of self-sufficiency. “I made myself. I deserve all I have.” I have a favorite story about pride. There was a guy who was a CEO of a huge corporation. He was driving with his wife, and they pulled into a gas station. He decided to pump the gas while she went in to purchase a few things. While he was pumping the gas, he noticed his wife engaged in an animated conversation with the gas station attendant. As they were driving away, he asked if she knew the attendant. She did and explained that they used to date each other when they were in high school. This CEO, as he drives away is feeling kind of prideful in that moment. After a time of silence he says to his wife, “I bet I know what you’re thinking. I bet you’re thinking you’re pretty lucky that you married me, the CEO of a great corporation and not a gas station attendant.” And she said, “No, actually I was thinking if I had married him instead of you, he’d be the CEO and you’d be a gas station attendant.” There’s an illusion inside of us: “I made myself who I am.” So I want to ask you, how about you? Are you ever slow to acknowledge your limitations and dependence on God? Do you ever forget that whatever abilities you have — and they may appear quite impressive — they’re gifts from God for which you ought to be grateful every day? Do you ever find yourself motivated to make people around you or under you know you’re in control? Are you ever tempted to seek power, or recognition, or influence, or praise, for its own sake? See, the irony that Daniel pronounces here is Nebuchadnezzar is going to have his career interrupted by a prolonged bout of insanity. And the truth, of course, is that spiritually he was already quite insane. He was completely out of touch with spiritual reality. God is going to have to act. God is going to have to take this action, because information alone is not going to bring about the development of humility in Nebuchadnezzar. Pride has become too deeply woven into his way of seeing and thinking and living. His agenda, his kingdom, his priorities are all he can think of. So God will have to interrupt his life. God is going to place Nebuchadnezzar under what we might call the “spiritual discipline of being interrupted.” There’s a real interesting connection between our response to interruptions and the presence of humility or pride in our life. How do you handle being interrupted? Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote one of the great books of the twentieth century. It’s called “Life Together.” He writes about what might be called “the ministry of interruptions.” Listen to what he says: In Christian community, one service we should perform for each other is that of active helpfulness. This means simple assistance in trivial matters. There is a multitude of these things wherever people live. Nobody is too good for the humblest service. Nobody in this community is too good for the humblest service. He says: One who worries about the loss of time, that such petty outward acts of helpfulness entail, is usually taking the importance of his own career too seriously. And you need to understand that Dietrich Bonhoffer who wrote that, lest you think he’s kind of a slacker with nothing to do, was a writer, preacher, leader, president of an underground seminary, leader of a resistance movement against the Nazis, and one of a handful of the most influential Christians in any century. He says: God will be constantly crossing our paths and canceling our plans by sending us people with claims and requests. We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God. How do you do with that? I was thinking this week about how often Jesus got interrupted. And what struck me when I went back and leafed through the gospels is — his whole ministry was almost a series of interruptions. He’s at a dinner, and he’s interrupted by a sinful woman that comes up to him. He’s trying to leave Jericho, and he’s interrupted by a blind man named Bartimaeus who won’t stop shouting his name. One time he was going to speak to a crowd, and he was interrupted by a man named Jairus, so he goes out to help him. While he’s doing that, he’s interrupted by a woman who has been ill for 12 years. It was a double interruption. He’s interrupted by lepers. He’s interrupted by children. Hanging on the cross, he’s interrupted by a man who wants a favor. “Remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Hanging on the cross, he’s a loving servant to a criminal next to him. His whole life was one interruption after another. And he’s the Messiah. It’s a ministry of interruptions. It’s part of Christian community. Now, let me say this. This ministry of interruptions does not mean I have to do everything everyone asks me to do. It does not mean that I can let important tasks slide. It doesn’t mean that I can be haphazard about how I manage my time, or fail to follow through on commitments or work in a way that dishonors God. Sometimes people will interrupt me, and I need to say no. But not always. Tomorrow, someone is going to interrupt you. Maybe at work someone will need a favor. Maybe at home someone will need help with a task. Maybe on the road you’ll see someone with a car problem. Maybe someone you don’t even know real well needs to be listened to or encouraged, or noticed. This is a convicting thing for me. One of the most unforgettable stories Jesus ever told was a story about an interruption. Two religious leaders, real spiritual guys, are on a journey, maybe to do a real important ministry assignment, when God crossed their path with someone who lay beaten and bleeding and needed help. But they had things to do and places to go, and they couldn’t be interrupted. And I’m a lot like that a lot of the time. It was a Samaritan, someone all Jesus’ listeners were taught to despise and look down on their whole life long, that they were spiritually superior to. It was a Samaritan who loved enough to stop and show kindness, to let God interrupt him — a Samaritan. So tomorrow if you run into someone who needs help, if an opportunity for serving arises at work or at home, just pause a moment and ask God if maybe he’s crossing your path — just maybe. Because I’ll tell you, if you’re too busy to be interrupted by God, you’re just too busy. Well, Nebuchadnezzar is about to be interrupted. So in verse 27, Daniel does a remarkable thing. This is one of the most amazing verses in this book, and maybe in the Bible. Daniel has now given the dream and its interpretation. He could stop there, but look at verse 27. Therefore, Your Majesty, be pleased to accept my advice: Renounce your sins by doing what is right, and your wickedness by being kind to the oppressed. It may be that then your prosperity will continue.” (Daniel 4:27) A lot of times in situations like this — when someone needs to be confronted —- we pull back, usually out of fear, from saying the hardest truth they most need to hear. Well, Daniel could have pulled back. He could have just given the interpretation of the dream. He could have been quite vague, like “Work on your spiritual life, King.” What does he say to the king, to king Nebuchadnezzar, the furnace man? “Renounce your sins.” Let me ask you a question — when was the last time you used that phrase with someone? Like if I’m arguing with my wife Kathy, “Kathy, renounce your sins, Daniel 4:27.” It’s not a real good idea. Daniel uses it here with no sense of self-righteousness, no spiritual superiority. It gives him no pleasure to say these words. He loved this man. But he says them. He says them to an arrogant and ruthless king who could have killed him with a single gesture. He says them with breathtaking honesty — “Your Majesty, renounce your sins by doing what is right. Renounce your wickedness by being kind to the oppressed,” or it could be translated “the poor.” You’ve got to understand, Daniel is doing some real serious meddling here. When he says, “Do what is right,” it could be translated, “Do justice.” And it includes the notion of a fair distribution of resources. It is, in part, an economic term. He is now addressing Nebuchadnezzar’s use of power and wealth. He says, “Break with your wickedness by being kind to the oppressed, to the poor.” Daniel doesn’t say, “Keep living the way you’ve lived; keep ruling the way you’ve ruled. Just theoretically, theologically acknowledge that God is in control.” Daniel now is messing with how much money is going to go into the hanging gardens, and how many more walls are going to get built around the city. He’s messing with how many more palaces are going to get constructed with the king’s name inscribed on them, and how many more human beings are going to get exiled like Daniel was and conscripted into slavery and treated like tools and objects and beaten and killed in the process? Daniel is doing some very heavy messing now. This is not just about Nebuchadnezzar changing the name of the god he worships, although it includes that. I’ve heard this passage taught on several occasions, and I’ve always heard it strictly in terms of Nebuchadnezzar’s attitude towards God. This verse 27 is rarely pointed out. But according to Daniel, the main behavior, the main action that God is calling Nebuchadnezzar to take, is here in verse 27. Because at the heart of Christian humility lies a concern to serve people. To let go of my foolish arrogance and agenda, to humbly receive grace from God, and serve the people that he loves so much, and especially to notice and see and love and serve those Jesus called “the least of these.” Renounce your sins by doing what is right, and your wickedness by being kind to the poor. This same word for doing justice is used in Jeremiah 22:15 and 16, spoken to another arrogant ruler. These are very powerful words. Look at what it says: “Does it make you a king to have more and more cedar? That’s a line for our day. Does it make you important? Did not your father have food and drink? This king’s father was Josiah, who was a righteous man. He did what was right and just, so all went well with him. He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?” declares the Lord. Is that not what it means to know me? This is not an isolated teaching. Over and over in the Old Testament you’ll find commands regarding the treatment of three groups of people: orphans, widows and poor. It’s directed to that cluster of groups over and over and over. One Old Testament scholar notes that the primary way — not the only way, but the primary way — God judges a community lies in how they treat what we now call “marginalized people.” Be kind to them. It’s at the heart of God’s concern for human beings. I remember getting a newsletter a while ago from a self-proclaimed Christian leader critiquing political candidates from what he said was a Christian perspective. There were lots of issues and bills listed. Not once was concern for the poor mentioned. Not once! It was not considered a Christian issue. Well it is to God! So I want to get personal for a moment here. How are you doing at this? You know one of the problems we have is it’s always easier to see pride in someone else. It bothers us when we see it in other people. But the truth is, one way or another, everyone in this room struggles with this. So if you’ve been thinking about someone who really needs to hear this message, I want to ask you to stop now. This is about you, and this is about me. I was at a store recently to buy a gift for a family member. There was a woman helping me who wasn’t too terribly helpful. It seemed to me like what I was buying wasn’t worth her time. I was kind of in a hurry, and she didn’t seem to be too concerned with doing anything fast. She had apparently worked in the store for a long time. She seemed more concerned with everyone else in the store and didn’t want to give me the time of day. My reflexive thoughts were, “I’m in a hurry. This is taking too much time. Why should I have to wait like this?” And I showed my impatience with my body language, and hurried out of the store as soon as I could after making the purchase. And not until sometime later did I stop and think about that woman who, at an age when a lot of people want to retire, is having to deal with people like me all day long. It’s probably not what she dreamed of doing at this point in her life. And then it occurred to me. This is someone that the God I claim to serve loved and sent his Son to die for. And all I see is my hurry, my time, just me. We must understand this. We must! God is opposed to pride. The reason God opposes pride so deeply is not that he’s easily threatened by high achievers. It’s not. The reason God is opposed to pride so deeply is not that he’s obsessed with getting credit for everything. He’s not that kind of person. The reason God is so opposed to pride is not that it makes him feel better to have a lot of people running around cringing a lot. He’s not that kind of God. I remember hearing a teacher say one time that no one is allowed to be proud except God. And it’s okay for him to be proud, because he’s God. That’s not true. The greatest expression of humility in all time and space is practiced in the interaction of God in the Trinity. God is the most humble being in the universe. And that’s why Jesus Christ — God became flesh — was the most authentically humble man who ever walked this earth. And his kingdom looked nothing like Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom. He did not build lots of buildings with slave labor that had his name inscribed on them. And his destiny was not a tree of glory. It was a tree of shame. And before that tree, before the cross, there is no room for pride. For there was none in the one who hung there. The reason God is so opposed to pride is because pride is anti-community and anti-servanthood and in violation of the relationship between God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Pride is the condition of the heart that is most fundamentally incompatible with love. And so Paul says words like — “Love does not boast. It is not proud.” Because pride whispers to me to be kind only to those people that I can use, or who happen to touch me emotionally. Pride tells me to view people as a means to an end. To value them only if they’re useful to me, to helping me to achieve my agenda, to build my little Babylon, to meet my emotional needs. Pride causes me to be judgmental towards people with problems. It feeds my sense of spiritual superiority and destroys love. And the inability to love is the darkest spiritual sickness of all. Pride causes me to not even think about or see those who are most needy, who are poor or oppressed. Pride causes me to think that maybe the fact that I’m not in a state of obvious material need is something I deserve because of my virtue or my hard work. God is adamantly opposed to pride, and I’m so glad he is, although it scares me sometimes. And we all need to hear this. God is AS capable today as he was over two and-a-half thousand years ago of shutting down anyone — any little kingdom, any life, any career, any family, any church, any organization that gets so caught up in its own little achievements that it violates the humility of the Trinity. So I’m asking that we declare war on this one, as individuals and a church. Just let go of pride. Crucify it on the tree of shame. And when you wake up in the morning, remember that when you open your eyes, when you take a breath, it’s just a gift, and acknowledge your utter dependence on God. And find a Daniel somewhere in your life, and ask her or him to help you with your blind spots. And let God interrupt you every once in a while this week. Because the whole world doesn’t depend on you. And now and again notice and remember the “least of these.” And next week come back and see what God can do with a humble life. Let’s pray as Christian and the team come to lead us in a closing song. Blue Oaks Church Pleasanton, CA

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