I’m pretty sure it was innocent, but I still laugh when I think of the sweet gift that a church member gave to me one day, a copy of C.J. Mahaney’s book Humility: True Greatness. How does a person respond to that kind of a gift? I laugh even now thinking about it. I don’t think this person was secretly saying she thought I was proud (at least I didn’t get that idea from her). It was simply a heart-felt gift to me as her pastor, meant to bless me and care for my soul. For that I am thankful because I know from the testimony of Scripture and personal experience that pride is something every Christian struggles with in one form or another.
First Peter 5 gives a much-needed call for every Christian to be humble. The Apostle Peter even begins by placing himself as a fellow elder with those whom he is writing to showing his own need to humble himself under the Lordship of Christ. Peter, a man who throughout the Gospels struggled with pride, understood from years of experience that the church will not function as it needs to if we all hang on to our pride.
Beginning first with the elders, Peter addressed the leaders of Christ’s church with the need to achieve two purposes–shepherd and exercise oversight (v. 2). Interestingly, he does not limit his comments to these activities alone. Like our heavenly Father, Peter is concerned not only with deeds, but also with the attitudes of the heart.
Peter wrote that elders are to lead and oversee but they are to make sure that they are not heavy-handed, or leading out of an attitude that expects the royal treatment from those whom they are leading. He also warned that there is the temptation to lead only to gain money or power. All of these reasons for pastoring are more than sinful, they are shameful.
Sometimes people will ask me the motivation for certain false teachers. How is it that they can callously fleece the most helpless and needy people in the name of God? While I can’t know anyone’s heart motives, I do know that it is a fact of human nature that people change. Perhaps, these false teachers began well, but they took their eyes off of Christ and began to place them on other things-their problems made them bitter and hard, their needs made them seek money, their lust for power made them seek more influence and to make a name for themselves. I simply can’t tell what specifically drives a person to such a wicked state.
What I do know is that your heart as well as mine can also change. We too can slide toward pride. Peter warned that we are to all clothe ourselves with humility (v. 5) because the Lord opposes those who are proud, but gives grace to the humble.
When we fight with one another because of our pride, we open up the church (and our families) to the attacks of the evil one. He is watching, looking for opposition and in-fighting so that he can swoop in and bring his destruction (v. 8). Resist him by humbling yourself. Don’t let pride precede your destruction.