The Danger of Pride – Part 2

Today, in Africa, it does not feel comfortable to not address a man of God without preceding his name with a title. You hear, “Apostle so-and-so” or “Prophet” or “Bishop” or “Pastor so-and-so”. Some preachers are simply known by the title “Bishop” and half their congregations do not even know their names. Preachers love addressing each other by these titles. It is like there is an obligation – an obligation to satisfy each other’s egos! Calling a man by his title is not a problem with God, of course; but the fact that men love this glory thing  is a big problem with God. In other places preachers actually demand it.

But there is another danger here: the Church is being taught to covet these things. In other words, the sin of covetousness is being taught and perpetuated by church leaders. No wonder, therefore, that everyone wants the big posts. The result is that wars and factionalism have become common in church today.

We Christians, above everyone else, should be keenly aware that the glory belongs to God alone.

In several places in the scriptures we see the apostles – Peter, John, Paul – rushing to correct people’s wrong perspectives of them as great men – or even as gods. They told them, “We are ordinary men just like you. All we have done has been by the power of God, by whose mercy and grace we live and have done all that you see.”

The Apostle Paul says of himself, “I am nothing”.

You don’t hear that kind of language very much in the pulpits today. On the contrary I see many men and women who are perfect examples of pride and arrogance.

Regrettably, just as with Herod, God sometimes moves. In our town there was this very gifted preacher, a young man. He had the gifts of the Spirit and he had charisma, and when some missionaries came from abroad and saw him, they took him under their care. They took him to a Bible school in their country, where he stayed for a number of years.

When he came back, he was no longer the humble man we knew before. He was now a ‘great man of God’ and he made it clear, without speaking so much as a word, that he was a cut above us. He had money and a big car. He lived in the biggest mansion in town. I once asked him whether his house was not too big for him and he said no.

With his charismatic bearing – and the gifts of God still upon him, since God’s gifts are without repentance – he became the most popular preacher in town. He started his own ministry and he preached all over the country and even abroad. Soon you could not address him without appending the title “Bishop” to his name.

After some years he fell into sin. He fell into adultery. Somehow, unfortunately, he contracted the AIDS virus.

The rest, as they say, is history. Before we even knew what had happened, he had vanished from the ‘radar’. He disappeared from town and his whereabouts remained a mystery… until we got wind that he was in his rural village where he was dying. Soon enough he died, and a handful of preachers went to bury him.

It is no secret that preachers today love the glory. But such examples as of this young preacher – and the dissimilar examples of the apostles’ lives – should teach us that the glory belongs to God alone. We are nothing.

The Danger of Pride – Part 1

And Herod was highly displeased with them of Tyre and Sidon: but they came with one accord to him, and, having made Blastus the king’s chamberlain their friend, desired peace; because their country was nourished by the king’s country.

And upon a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat upon his throne, and made an oration unto them.

And the people gave a shout, saying, It is the voice of a god, and not of a man.

And immediately the angel of the Lord smote him, because he gave not God the glory: and he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost. Acts 12:20-23

Many years ago I used to work in a big farmers’ organisation. The chairman of that organisation was a very powerful man. He spent most of his time far away in Dar es Salaam, simply enjoying the good life, which included visits with our country’s president. Whenever he was around the company’s offices in our town, which was very rare, everything would revolve around him. In the first place, he always arrived by plane, sometimes charted. I was in charge of vehicles at the company and it was my responsibility to make sure that every vehicle was at the airport at the moment of his arrival. He would then be brought to the offices in a long motorcade.

But he had a strange peculiarity. He would get out of his car in the middle of town and walk to the offices on foot. That way, a big procession of his workers and other town folk would escort him, the top managers packed close to him and answering to his every breath.

I would sit in my office and watch the procession approaching. I did not have the heart to engage in such sycophancy. In fact, he and I hardly knew each other personally.

But ours was an organisation that was ruining farmers. The top management and everyone else used the farmers to enrich themselves while the farmers rotted in poverty. (One and a half years later I resigned in disgust).

One day, we heard that the chairman had fallen ill. But it was no ordinary disease. It was what the locals call a ‘bush boil’. It is a boil that simply pulverizes the entire pelvic area and it is known to be unhealable. The locals call it a ‘curse’.  They dread it more than any other disease. Our chairman was taken to an expensive hospital, but no hospital could treat that boil. After some time they brought him back home.

He died a few weeks later, in a witch doctor’s hut, his last resort.

 

It is apparent that Herod was a great orator. When he visited the people of Tyre and Sidon, he gave such a rousing speech that the people were overwhelmed by his oratorical powers. They shouted in unison: “It is the voice of a god, and not of a man.” Other factors were in play, of course.

God is so patient that up till then, Herod was without fault in God’s eyes. But then the Bible says that he “gave not God the glory”. In other words, he accepted the glory for himself.

An angel of the Lord smote him immediately and he died – “eaten of worms”. He died a violent, horrible death.

Herod could simply have said, “No, guys, I am not a god” and the angel of death would have passed over him.

But he did not; on the contrary, in his heart he accepted the glory as his due.

In this period of grace that we are living in, it is the easiest thing for Christians to not realize that they are taking up the glory for themselves, instead of giving it to God. When the church is not walking in the revelation of the Cross of Christ, the flesh becomes alive and no one is even aware of it!

Many men of God have been blessed with many extraordinary gifts by God. Some are formidable orators, like Herod was. Others have powerful gifts of the Spirit working in them. Others have been blessed materially. By giving them all these things, God meant for them to glorify Him. But, sadly, many take up the glory for themselves.