If you are familiar with Laffy Taffy wrapper jokes, then you have probably heard this joke before: “What is the worst kind of pie?- Humble Pie!” While Laffy Taffy jokes are almost 100% corny (this one included), we find a bitter truth in this feeble attempt at humor: “Humble Pie,” or humility, is a tough bite to swallow. To humble oneself is not an easy task, but it is a necessary one.
I’ve had to eat that pie a number of times. I can’t help but think back to Thanksgiving of 2016 for one of those times in particular.
My wife likes to make a non-traditional Thanksgiving food for our feast at my church: Jalapeno Poppers. She works hard at making them early that morning, so that there can be enough for lunchtime. This year we had gotten them ready and packed the rest of our food into the car to transport it to the church. When we got there, Crystal took some personal things into the church, but I insisted that I take all the food in. Because I am a man, I had to bring in everything in one trip. (This is a common characteristic of true men. Whether it is luggage after a trip or bags of groceries after a trip to the store, men bring in everything on one trip!) So, I strategically grabbed item after item carrying every single item into the church. As I walked up the stairs, I notice some things in my arm shifting around, but before I could stop to change anything- CRASH! The dish of Jalapeno Poppers that my wife slaved over that morning was all over the stairs. Not to mention that there were a considerable amount of people standing around the door, I was completely and immediately humbled. It was as though my mouth was forced open and a piece of Humble Pie was shoved down my throat. And it tasted a whole lot like Jalapeno Poppers.
We read in John 3 about a man who knew about humility. Consider these verses:
He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease. John 3:29-30
John was asked a question by his disciples concerning baptism. They asked him, “Why is the person who you baptized (Jesus) now baptizing others and why do they now follow Him? [paraphrase]” It seems as though they expected John to be jealous. They thought John should be reacting differently. After all, not only are people going to Jesus to be baptized, but people who John baptized are leaving him to follow Jesus (John 1:35-40)! John is losing his disciples. How terrible must that have felt! To see people who you have cared about and poured your life into just leave brings feelings of inadequacy, insecurity, and a host of others. However, when John was confronted with this question, He responded not with jealousy or anger. He instead provides us with a short monologue that speaks volumes of a Biblical principle that wrapped around John’s entire character.
John told his disciples this: anything that John was able to do for the Kingdom of God was because Someone else allowed him to do it. John’s authority to baptize came from heaven. Besides that, he reaffirms his own identity. He isn’t Jesus; he only came before Jesus concerning time and mission. John was to prepare the way for Jesus by proclaiming Him in the wilderness.
John then continues on by giving us a view into his character. When a best man at a wedding sees that his friend is getting married, he is joyful. In the light of the question he was asked, John is saying this, “I would gladly take the place of the friend if it means that Jesus has the spotlight.” John’s life was characterized by humility.
John told his disciples that it didn’t matter that Jesus was baptizing and people were following Him because John’s purpose in life was to remain humble and allow Jesus to be magnified. That’s what John was saying in verse 30 that we quoted above, “He must increase, but I must decrease.”
When I look at our culture, I can’t help but characterize it in one word- pride. Everywhere I turn, people are concerned about what they want, how they can get ahead, and how they can better themselves with little to no regard for the state of other people. As is too often the case, many things that characterize our society creep into the church like a plague; and pride is no exception.
Pride in the Church
Pride rears its ugly head in many different ways. People are prideful in various ways. Consider these possibilities:
1) Unwillingness to Serve- You won’t serve in any capacity God wants because you risk the chance of serving in a ministry that is “less glorious.” Maybe you don’t want to help set up the fellowship hall for an upcoming meal, but you jump on the opportunity to teach a Sunday School class. To my shame, I’ve been there. I had the opportunity to intern at my home church the summer after my freshman year of college. Being given some sort of freedom as an intern, I had a number of jobs that I could have been involved in. Truth be told, I enjoyed a lot more the responsibilities of songleading at different events and being involved with the teenagers over the job of sanding a bus that was getting ready to be painted.
2) Controlling Attitude- Maybe you do serve in all the ministries because you want to run things your own way. You would rather not include other people because they might “mess stuff up.”
3) Inability to be Wrong- People cannot correct you because you are always right. You think you are perfect.
There are multitudes of other ways that pride manifests itself, but I think you get the idea. Pride is everywhere, and, if we are not careful, it will sneak up on us and drag us into its lonely lair.
If you and I were to be honest with ourselves, we would have to admit that pride has caught our hearts more than once. It’s a hard thing to battle, and everyone has to fight. However, there is a solution. When we, like John, finds our life’s goal in being the friend of the bridegroom, pride disappears and joy fills our life. When we magnify (increase) Jesus and humble (decrease) ourselves, we find the joy that only Jesus can give.
This is not an easy thing to write about, and if I were the reader, I would most likely feel just as uncomfortable. However, if we are going to live a joyful Christian life, we must attack this ugly monster of pride head-on. How do you do it? How do you get rid of pride? It is the most simple, yet difficult task: more of Jesus, less of you. There is only one throne of your life, and you can’t sit on it and be joyful.