Today’s Scriptures: From the Book of Common Prayer
Psalm 24, 29, 8, 84
How do we balance our spiritual pride and humility?
Next to the battle between good and evil, the battle between vanity and humility dominates pages of Biblical text. Sometime we are told to take pride. Other times we are told to remain humble. It is enough to make one throw his hands up in frustration. This week’s passages provide a collection of lessons on pride and vanity as we seek to navigate this world behaving well.
Each of the Psalms presents praise of God and his magnificence. Rewards come when we worship God in all his goodness. By taking this step we gain and we come into closer fellowship with him and maintain our proper status with him – being neither too vain nor too humble.
The wisdom book of Ecclesiastes focuses much of its text on vanity. The passage in chapter six presents some challenges to interpretation as much of what is presented as folly runs contrary to traditional Jewish tradition. When looked at the whole, though, the lessons provide insight into a great folly – false humility. The author presents people who have been blessed by God, but do not enjoy the blessing. While the author gives no reason for these people rejecting the blessing, his text makes it clear that rejecting the goodness God provides in our life is as bad as vainly gloating over the blessings or holding ourselves up as something we are not. Both extremes violate our right relationship with God.
How often do we decide what is holy and good based on our feelings rather than the desires of God? Peter’s encounter with the sheet of “unclean” foods coupled with the arrival of the Gentile centurion helped him realize the fullness of the New Covenant in Christ. The command from the voice that accompanied the sheet coming down from heaven stating, “What God has made clean, you must not call profane,” applies to both the food on the sheet and Gentiles. It also reminds us about our levels of vanity and humility. Peter responded according to the tradition in which he had been raised while he had not fully understood the completeness of the Christ’s lessons. The encounter with both “unclean” food and “unclean” people, all righteous in the eyes of God, helped him grow in God’s kingdom.
Finally the Gospel passage from Luke addresses both wealth and austerity. While some read it to promote communal living and sharing of all resources, as is with all lessons from Christ, the message goes much deeper. We are to do those things that draw us closer to Heaven and ever live in preparation for our eternity in Heaven, rather than concentrating on epicurean delights of the earthly life. The passage does not conflict with the Ecclesiastes. It does not tell us to reject the blessings of God, but cautions us against making earthly blessings from God the aim of our faith and works.
Living with the correct level of humility and vanity always seems to be a slippery slope for the believer. The passages today help give us insight – the right status for us is guided, honestly by maintaining the right relationship with God – as the Psalms guide us – to worship him in all his majesty.
Let us keep our hearts focused on you, Lord, to keep our relationship with you holy and vital.