The Path of HumilityMatthew 20:25-28Theme: Servanthood.This week’s lessons remind us that following Christ requires that we learn to be humble.
LessonHumility also removes the burden of pretense. The second burden of pride Tozer writes about is the burden of pretense – of pretending to be something we are not and of hiding what we truly are. The man who is moderately successful in business tries to look wildly successful. He is ashamed to be thought of as only a moderate achiever. A person of limited education pretends to be more highly educated than he is and fears to meet a thoroughly educated man. Even if he is well educated, he fears to meet a person who is better educated or to be in a position where the unfavorable comparison shows. A cultured person fears to be with those who are even more cultured. Tozer says, “Let no one smile this off. These burdens are real, and little by little they kill the victims of this evil and unnatural way of life.”1
The reason for pretense is that we fear to be seen as we really are. We pretend because we do not want another person to think us ill-informed, gauche, unsophisticated, or other such things. But the real problem is that we are sinners, and our real fear (although we do not often admit it, even to ourselves) is that someone will find out that our lives are corrupt and our hearts desperately wicked, as the prophet Jeremiah writes (Jer. 17:9).
Jesus delivers us from pretense when we follow him. He does it by bringing us before himself, and thus face-to-face with God before whom “all hearts are opened, all desires known.” If our basic problem is sin and the desire to hide our sin from others, then the cure is to have sin dealt with by Christ and know that we are accepted by God on the basis of his atoning work, regardless of what we are or have done. Another way of saying the same thing is that the cure for our fear is knowing that we are known already – deeply and exhaustively by God himself and that he has loved us and receives us as we are anyway. Humility begins by knowing that I am accepted by God, sinner that I am. Therefore, since I can stand before God without the need to pretend, I can also stand before others. If I am accepted by God, I do not need to worry about what others may think of my performance.
Pride also brings the burden of artificiality. Artificiality is a problem closely linked to pretense, as Tozer indicates. But it is a step beyond it – a step in the wrong direction. It involves a fear of relaxing and an enforced affectation. It is what we mean when we say that a person seems always to be “playing a role.” It can be amusing at times; but it wears thin, and we come away feeling that we really do not know the person. “I wish he would just relax and be himself,” we say.
Artificiality falls away at the cross of Christ. The cross is so real, so brutally authentic, that standing before it is like standing before a bright light that probes into every recess of our being. Before the cross we have the experience of the children in the Chronicles of Narnia whenever they were with Aslan. Before him any dishonest word, any self-serving statement tended to dry up–not so much because they feared he would punish them for deceit but because evil simply could not stand before one who was both all-powerful and completely good. The one who is following Jesus will have precisely this experience. If we walk with Christ, we will grow in humility. If we are not walking in humility, if pride, pretense, and artificiality are not falling away in our lives, we are not living for Christ. If we are as proud as we were before our alleged “conversion,” we are not his.
1 A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God (Harrisburg, Pa.: Christian Publications, 1948), p. 114.
What is the burden of pretense defined by A. W. Tozer?
What are the fears that underlie our pretense?
How does Jesus deliver us from pretense?
In what way is artificiality going a step beyond pretense?
PrayerTo deepen your grasp of how thoroughly you are known by God, pray through Psalm 139 verse by verse.
ReflectionGenuine openness is a mark of discipleship.