Can you imagine a more humble beginning for the long-awaited Jewish Messiah than this…a very young, pregnant, unmarried mother and her fiance have to travel by foot and donkey to another villiage, miles away from their families. Upon arriving in that villiage, they could not find a suitable place to stay. They have no choice but to bed-down in a stable made for animals…a cold, dark, smelly stable.
I recently asked, “Why did Jesus have to be born into such humble circumstances? Why was this God’s will for him?” In the past I chalked it off to Jesus’ kingship needing to be different than the kingship he was expected to have. The Jews had long anticipated a Messiah to rival the kingship of David with his military accomplishments and his material successes. I think this was part of the answer to my question. Another thought was that Jesus had to come into the world subtlely because there were forces at work to prevent his saving influence. Also a part of the answer to my question.
But on this particular day I received a different answer to that question. One that has, frankly, changed my life! On this particular day the answer I was given was this…”Jesus had to be so humble because Satan is so prideful”. Wow!! Did that hit you the way that it hit me?? It makes so much sense that I can’t believe I didn’t see it before! Yet, it was a profoundly different concept than I had ever thought before.
I have known for a long time that we shouldn’t be prideful, yet I would say things like “you should be proud of yourself for that” or “you take such pride in your landscaping”. This new insight informed me that pride in anything is more in Satan’s realm than in Jesus’ realm.
Let me explain. Jesus is quoted as saying (Luke 10:18 NIV) “Yes” he told them, “I saw Satan fall from heaven like lightning.”
Do you know how Satan fell from heaven? In Ezekiel 28 (NIV) the prophet Ezekiel is given a prophecy about the king of Tyre who was prideful, believed he was a god and demanded that he be treated as such. Then around verse 11 the prophecy switches topic to Satan, even though he is not specifically named. It says “You were anointed as a guardian cherub…You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness was found in you…Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor. So I threw you to the earth; I made a spectacle of you before kings.”
Satan was initially named Lucifer and was God’s right-hand angel. Can you imagine being so well thought of by God that you were appointed to be His highest angel? Well, as with any great success, there is a very real danger of pride creeping in, and such was the case for Lucifer. He was no longer content being the highest of the angels…he wanted to be God. This pride was unacceptable to God and Lucifer and his followers (about one third of the angels) fell from heaven to earth. Satan has been in competition with God ever since by trying to convince all of humanity that God is not good; God is not powerful; God is not loving.
Jesus came to reverse this tragedy. He came in all humility to convince all of humanity that God is all-good, all-powerful and all-loving. In fact, the disciple named John (who was one of Jesus’ closest friends) tells us in 1 John 4:8 “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” John may have known as well as any human the love of God brought to earth in the heart of Jesus.
So how has this new understanding changed my life?
First, it has helped me to have a means to work on my own character and spiritual growth. Whenever I feel proud about an accomplishment or a material possession I am quickly reminded that this is not Christ-like. I can then turn it into praise and thanksgiving for “every good and perfect gift comes from the Father of the heavenly lights…” (James 1:7 NIV). Everything we are and everything we have is from God’s great mercy toward us. When we allow ourselves to feel proud about something that God has actually given us as a gift, we open ourselves up to the deception of Satan.
Secondarily, it has given me a means to discern the heart and character of others. It is so difficult in this world to discern truly good people from people who simply say or do good things. Would you agree? Satan can apparently be “nice”. He was able to deceive Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and he truly did tempt Jesus in the wilderness. Good actions, kind words, even complimentary words can unfortunately be used to deceive and manipulate. Every good salesperson knows how to make us feel like we are getting the ‘deal of a lifetime’ or that they only want what is best for their customer. Occasionally that could be true, but mostly it is not. So here is what I have started to pay more attention to…is the person prideful or humble?
I have become convinced that pride comes from the likes of Satan in order to lead us away from God. Pride convinces us we really don’t need God. “I’m doing just fine on my own, thank you very much!” Pride makes us afraid that if we truly follow Jesus we will have to give up some things that we have based our self worth upon (a job, a social life, a bank account, a fancy house or car, fine clothing, etc.). A charismatic person can use pride to woo us into a relationship that distracts us from God and His will for us, and these relationships often become very destructive. Remember, pride was the sole reason Lucifer was cast out of the presence of God!! Pride even convinces us that we are ‘good’ people on our own, so good that we probably don’t really need a savior anyway.
Well, I could probably go on and on, but you’ve got things to do and places to be this day after Christmas! I do hope you will contemplate and pray about this concept that I have learned and shared. “Jesus had to be so humble because Satan is so prideful.” Use it to grown in your own spiritual maturity and use it to inform your relationships and decisions. I pray that it changes your life, too!