Pride in Humiliation

“Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

A beautiful verse, a beautiful thought and a comfort to all those who know they are nothing without Him.

While studying the epistle of James a few months ago, I stumbled upon an equally challenging and beautiful verse, “Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position, but the rich should take pride in their humiliation since they will pass away like a wildflower. For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant. Its blossom falls, and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business.”

The verse is early on in the book; and as I meditated on it for the first few days, I was comforted by its first phrase. Being a person who lives off a much smaller income than most of the people with whom I associate, I found it very comforting that James said those in humble circumstances should take pride in their high position.

It feels very good to think of my high position: Daughter of God. Sister of Christ. Princess in the Kingdom of Heaven.

But even though I live a much more “humble” (financial not condition of the heart!) lifestyle than most of my friends, it took me only about a week to realize James wasn’t talking about me in the first phrase of the sentence. I lost the connection and affinity I felt for those people and the glow in my heart that I should “take pride” in my high position. I realized I was firmly and solidly in the category of “but the rich”. Looking to the right and looking to the left to decide how wealthy I am when I live in one of the richest countries in the world is not a good idea. I was falling into the comparison trap.

I am not in humble circumstances. My apartment is a testament to my great wealth. The food I eat speaks of an abundance. It is true that it is much less than what many of what my friends have or what some of them would consider enough, but it is far more than I actually need. Someday it will all fade away like the quickly dying blossom of a flower.

It reminds me of two other Scriptures that have had an influence in my life. The first I discovered when I studied Habakkuk last fall. (Habakkuk is a beautiful book if you are looking for something to study.) When complaining to God about the evil idolators who are oppressing them, Habakkuk says, “Therefore he sacrifices to his net and burns incense to his dragnet, for by his net he lives in luxury and enjoys the choicest food.”

That is one verse that scared the jeepers out of me. At the time I often longed for food I could not afford. In fact I could directly relate to the author tying living in luxury and eating choice food together. I also could understand his observation that they worshiped what provided them with choice food. It’s tough to not always get what you want. It took me several years before I was selfless enough to love ice cream trucks even though I was not able to afford buying ice cream from an ice cream truck! Ice cream is my favorite food. Before I learned to die to myself, ice cream trucks reminded me of what I did not have. When I had died, I was able to rejoice at what I did have and the happiness afforded to others by them.

Because of what I felt God calling me to in my heart, the verse seemed to offer a clear choice. I could either live humbly before Him while content with far from choice food, or I could pursue my idol which would provide me with luxury and the choicest of food. Sometimes I still long for that one food I just can’t afford. This verse sobers me every time I think of it. Its warning scares the jeepers out of me.

The other verse is in 1 Corinthians where Paul instructs believers who buy things to live as if they were not theirs to enjoy and those who use the things of the world to live as if not enthralled by them.

I am rich. It will fade away. I ought to give. I ought to always remember that the luxury I am surrounded with is not mine to keep. If I am not careful, it will more likely be a trap to me than a blessing. I ought to live as if what I own is not mine to enjoy, which as far as I can tell must mean that I must share freely. I once heard someone share their view that any object one was not willing to lend to a friend and risk having broken was an idol. I don’t know that I agree with that, but it sure made me think!

One way or the other, I think God wants me to give it all away. I must take pride in my humiliation – in the fact that it will all fade away and someday I will have none of it. If it is not good for service in His kingdom, it is good for nothing.

When I got saved, my first pastor loved acronyms. Oddly enough, I only remember one of them, which didn’t actually spell anything.

OHHO – open hands, held out.

Easy come, easy go. All for Him. All the time.

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