Pride Boasts In Evil, Humility Gives In Love

Pride Boasts In Evil, Humility Gives In Love October 9, 2018

One of the great problems of our age, and indeed, of every age, is the self-deceit that comes out of pride. “When pride comes, then comes disgrace; but with the humble is wisdom” (Prov. 11:3 RSV). When we find pride as being a guiding principle of those people who hold positions of authority, their self-deception will lead not only to their own harm, but those who are under their charge. Those who stand aloof from others, those who think of themselves as being greater than others, do not want to hear any criticism. They would rather to be flattered than to be challenged to do what is right. What the anonymous author of the Theologia Germanica described concerning delusional people who considered themselves to be living saints while being in actuality very far from holiness can also be used to describe politicians who consider their own self-made greatness as proof of their superiority of all others:

So this person then seeks and demands that kind of consideration and accepts it gladly from all created beings, again especially from humans. He considers himself worthy of it. All other people are regarded as donkeys or cattle. Everything that benefits his body, his flesh, his natural needs, and enhances pleasure, pastime, and mirth – the deluded saint thinks he has earned it all and seeks and accepts it whenever the opportunity presents itself. He believes that whatever might be done for him is far too little and that he had deserved whatever good thing comes his way. And all the people that cater to him and serve him are described as faithful hearts, that love and abide in truth, mindful of the poor. Yet, they may even be thieves and murderers. The deluded saint praises them nevertheless. He seeks them out and follows them wherever they are. [1]

Certainly, we all should learn from this analysis. We should all be concerned about spiritual delusion, that is prelest, especially if we have people surrounding us who sing our praise without giving us the criticism we need to keep ourselves centered upon reality. Nonetheless, it should not be surprising that what was used to described those who deluded themselves into thinking themselves to be saints in times past could and would serve to represent the inadequacies and delusions of hate-filled politician of today.  Whoever serves such politicians and satisfies their every whim will be quickly praised and given rewards, while whoever opposes them will be squashed down and treated as if nothing.  Such figureheads, as with the deluded saint of old, cannot help but put ramble on with all kinds of babbling, thinking their most inane statements as words of wisdom as the author of the Theologia Germanica understood:

Since the inordinately proud imagine that they know and understand more than all other humans, they jabber more than all others and insist that their words and speech are the only wisdom worth consideration; all other words and speech they declare incorrect, make them targets for scorn, and describe them as folly. [2]

This, it can be said, has normally been the way authorities treat underlings, but now, in a so-called secular society, politicians often present themselves with such hagiography that they often find themselves taking a similar role as the saints did in other times, leading, therefore, to an inadequate if not actually dangerous notion of the sacred being imposed upon society as a whole. When, moreover, the faithful see political authorities, who in their pride, show no wisdom, being defended by and given support by religious authorities, who would not then question the wisdom being offered and guided by religion as well?

Such an alliance between corrupt political and religious authorities can be said to be a part of what led to the downfall of ancient Israel with the Babylonian Exile. Many so-called prophets praised corrupt leaders, decrying anyone who would warn the people of Israel of what was to come if their leaders did not change their way. Yet, God responded, such as we find in the words written down in the book of Jeremiah:

Thus says the LORD of hosts: “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes; they speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD.  They say continually to those who despise the word of the LORD, `It shall be well with you’; and to every one who stubbornly follows his own heart, they say, `No evil shall come upon you.'”  For who among them has stood in the council of the LORD to perceive and to hear his word, or who has given heed to his word and listened?  Behold, the storm of the LORD! Wrath has gone forth, a whirling tempest; it will burst upon the head of the wicked.  The anger of the LORD will not turn back until he has executed and accomplished the intents of his mind. In the latter days you will understand it clearly (Jer. 23:16-20 RSV).

We have not learned the lesson of history. Today, when corrupt politicians promote evil for the sake of their own personal gain, they are more willing to listen to the contemporaries of the false prophets of old, all those who applaud them for their evil and say nothing will be done about it, than those who give prophetic warnings of the doom which is to come to a people who follow such evil.[3] They consider unjust victories against their opposition as proof of their superiority; but it will be for nothing as a day of reckoning will come, “For the LORD of hosts has a day against all that is proud and lofty, against all that is lifted up and high” (Isa. 2:12 RSV). Those who think themselves great and boast of their greatness shall find, in the end, their supposed greatness was mere illusion as they have made nothing great of themselves. “For if any one thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself” (Gal. 6:3 RSV). Likewise, those who promote those leaders who do evil because of what they think they can get out of such leaders will find that whatever good they establish is truly nothing and undermined by their consequentialism. They too will find the day of reckoning coming, and as they have made nothing of themselves, they too will find themselves truly to be nothing.

We must, therefore, follow the example of Christ, who in his humility came to serve all in love:

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any incentive of love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfishness or conceit, but in humility count others better than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which was in Christ Jesus,  who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,  but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men  (Php. 2:1-7 RSV)

Those who do not show such humility, those who do not act out of self-giving love but instead self-seeking gain, do not deserve positions of unquestioned authority. When they promote evil, they must be resisted. It might require sacrifice, just as prophets in Israel often found themselves sacrificing their own private good as they criticized the cruel leaders of their day and age, but that sacrifice for the common good demonstrates someone who is truly on the path which leads to holiness because of the way it imitates the way of Christ.

[IMG= Pride (Superbia), from the series The Seven Deadly Sins by Pieter van der Heyden [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons]

[1] Theologia Germanica of Martin Luther. Trans. Bengt Hoffman (New York: Paulist Press, 1980), 91. The Theologia Germanica, while collected, edited, and published by Luther, was a medieval Germanic text which is worthy of study and consideration. There are questionable ambiguous statements in it, but this is common with mystical literature as a whole. D

[2] Theologia Germanica, 91-2.

[3] For example, those who indicate the dangers of climate change find themselves ignored as the world continues to slouch towards its own destruction. Donald Trump’s administration, while knowing the rising temperatures of the world,  continues to gut regulations which would otherwise help combat climate change, risking a major crisis showing itself upon the world scene in a couple decades time.  There are many who decry these warnings, saying that nothing bad will happen, just as Israel was told by false prophets nothing bad would happen despite the evil being done by its leaders; but evil will always bring its own destruction, and climate change demonstrates the kind of consequences which happens when society as a whole ignores its role as guardian and protector of the earth.

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