Even though my coaches told me pride was a good thing, I considered it bad during Pride Week. For those on my high school varsity football team, Pride Week came after the week of Spring Break. Though the purpose was to build teamwork and unity before spring football started, it seemed the real purpose was actually to see how many players the coaches could make throw up. Pride Week was about sprinting. A lot.
Studying the bible helps to illustrate another definition of pride. This kind of pride is born out of sin, is a divider and breeds discontent. Pride is what Jesus took the Pharisees to task on when confronting them on most occasions, mainly due to their rivalry and conceit.
“Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” – Philippians 2:3 (ESV)
The sin of pride runs rampant in popular culture. Hearing somebody self-promote in an arrogant way doesn’t seem to raise many eyebrows these days. Stacked up against lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath and envy, pride can even be viewed as the least of these sins. But, the sin of pride is harmful and shouldn’t be treated as anything else.
Do Nothing Out of Rivalry
I remember one of my roommates in college saying “The first one to a million dollars wins.” It was ludicrous at the time since we drove cars that were either used or given to us from parents, survived on tortillas and cheese from Taco Cabana and lived in a house that should have been condemned (and soon was after we left it).
I was immature in my faith, gullible to finding my true value in other things than God, and eager to win approval. That challenge stuck in my head and I measured myself against it early into my career. If I wasn’t reaching the success I wanted, I became discouraged. Career success had become an idol and if others were reaching it faster than I was, I became less concerned about God’s direction in my life. Worse, I wasn’t even thinking how God was using success in the life of my friends to bless others.
Discontent and rivalry grew. Some of my friendships suffered as a result since I found it hard to celebrate their success while trying to figure out how to have my own. Years later, I assessed the damage. Rivalry bore no fruit.
Do Nothing Out of Conceit
Everything we can do, have done or will do is because God allows us to. Everything. The fact that we are breathing and glued to the earth by gravity has nothing to do with us. We have no reason to be conceited.
Conceit drowns out the opportunity for God to get the glory in your life. A good friend of mine recently ran a marathon. Though he trained diligently, he told me he felt terrible around the 6-mile mark. He finished the last 20.2 miles slower than he wanted to, but he finished. Instead of giving an account of how tough he was to grit his teeth and grind it out, he was the first to admit God gave him the strength during the race to keep pushing toward the finish line when his body felt like quitting. I like that story better. It reminds me how much we are dependent on God in the first place.
If God wants to use us to reflect His love to unbelievers and to encourage believers by reminding them of his qualities, why get in the way by trying to demonstrate how great we are?
Count Others More Significant Than Yourselves
I love how this verse gives us an application. As Christians, we know we are valued and we know we are significant. The fact that Jesus lived a sinless life, died on a cross and was raised again to give us new life gives us an inheritance with God for eternity. No achievement is greater.
When we count others more significant than ourselves, we are not taking the role of doormat. We are reminded of our value and significance and choose to love and serve others because the God of the universe has served us beyond anything we could ever do. Understood in this light, counting others more than significant than us becomes a celebration instead of work.
Pride Week Revisited
Looking back on the week I used to dread, it would have made more sense to call it Humility Week. There was no room for rivalry or conceit when flat on the ground or bent over praying not to have to run another sprint.
If we are to build community as Christians through teamwork and unity, maybe we should sprint to be the first to count others more significant than ourselves out of appreciation of the greatest physical pain ever endured on our behalf.