The neighborhood park had lost its charm. No one cared for swimming. Someone had mislaid the title deeds to the Monopoly game. Three thin little voices whined, "There isn't anything fun to do!"
With a trio of restless nieces on loan from my wife's family in South Bend, finding suitable, fun time activities to occupy the long hot days of summer became an almost never ending pursuit. As any weary parent may well imagine, news of an outdoor picnic for kids hosted by a neighborhood church was as welcome as a cool, refreshing breeze. Besides the usual hot dog and cheeseburger fare, outdoor games and sports were on the agenda and any kid under eighteen was cordially invited. Price of admission was a single food item with the sponsoring church generously supplying all the rest--except for the lovely weather, of course! God graciously provided that.
My first scheduled stop was a nearby supermarket; I needed goodies for the girls' admission to the picnic. As it is not humanly possible for an overly sedate middle-aged man to efficiently shop when shadowed by a pack of bouncing off the wall kids, I did the marketing alone. The shopping trip was a real no-brainer: One cherry pie, a box of assorted cookies, and a bag of corn curls. One item for each girl. Simple enough.
Now we were off to the picnic. I buckled the girls into their seats, distributed the booty, and put the car in gear, but before we had even left the drive way, a small fight erupted. Sarah turned to Stephanie and said, "My cherry pie is better than your box of cookies!"
"I like my cookies best!"
"Those cookies look stale!"
"At least I'm not taking corn curls to the picnic! Poor Erica got stuck with the corn curls!"
"Yeah, who in their right mind eats corn curls?"
"What's wrong with corn curls?"
"Corn curls turn your fingers orange! Who wants orange fingers?"
"Uncle Mike, Stephanie is making fun of my corn curls!"
"My cherry pie looks yummy! I'm bringing the best treat to the picnic!"
"I'll trade my bag of corn curls for your cookies!"
"I've heard enough, girls! Let's hush up!"
"Corn curls make me barf!"
"Uncle Mike, they're making fun of my corn curls! Why didn't you give me the pie? Or the cookies? Why did I get stuck with the corn curls?"
"Please stop fighting, girls!"
"Erica is the corn curl queen!"
"My pie is better than your stale cookies!"
"Says who? My cookies are the best treat!"
"Uncle Mike, Erica stuck her tongue out at me!"
"I'm bringing the best treat to the picnic!"
"No, I'm bringing the best treat to the picnic!"
Peace was restored only after I threatened to hog-tie the next girl who dared to open her mouth. And while I cannot be certain, I thought I heard one of them whisper, "Better watch out! Uncle Mike is in a crabby mood today!"
After my bickering passengers scrambled out of the car, however, I had the quiet opportunity for reflecting on the irony of this little vignette. As arguments go, most are pretty silly, but this one really took the cake. Or pie. Here we had three little girls contending that each was bringing the best treat when, in fact, none of them had lifted so much as a pinkie in bringing their offerings to the picnic. I had driven to the supermarket. I had raced about the store buying treats. I had forked over the cash for these goodies. And it was I who had distributed the pie and cookies to the girls; Sarah, Stephanie, and Erica had done nothing more than hold out their hands to receive!
Does your evangelical nose detect a whiff of false pride in all this?
Scripture leaves no doubt how deadly false pride truly is and Scripture also demonstrates quite clearly how God deals with the arrogance of man. King Nebuchadnezzar, mighty ruler over the vast Babylonian empire, was puffed up with pride as he gazed over the magnificent city of Babylon--one of the true wonders of the ancient world. "...Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honor of my majesty (Daniel 4: 30)?" Now this boasting was certainly foolish, for Daniel had already warned Nebuchadnezzar that God would discipline him for being haughty and proud. And God's punishment certainly fit the crime. Nebuchadnezzar lost his sanity, grew beast-like in appearance, and ate grass with the animals for seven long years! Here we have the world's most powerful ruler reduced to fodder feeding frenzies on all fours!
God sees nothing excusable in pride. Pride is not a polite little sin but a wretched, vile, vulgar and detestable stench which rises to the very throne room of God. The first recorded episode of pride is found in Isaiah 14: 12-15: Lucifer, one of God's created angels, boasts, "...I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God...I will be like the most High." Here begins the mutiny in Heaven; Lucifer, guilty of high treason fueled by pride, seeks to exalt himself above the very One who created him. The fall of man follows the fall of Lucifer when Eve eats the forbidden fruit upon the prompting of the serpent's false promise of godhood (Genesis 3: 1-7).
But back to Babylon; Nebuchadnezzar learned his lesson and after God restored him to his senses, he proclaimed, "Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and his ways judgment: and those that walk in pride he is able to abase (Daniel 4: 37)." Abase, indeed! Seven years of grazing on the Capital Mall might do some of our politicians in Washington a bit of good, too!
C. S. Lewis explained that humility is not a pretty girl thinking herself ugly or a clever man believing himself to be stupid, but genuine humility is understanding that God alone is the source of our good gifts. All we have comes from above. It is He who created us and there is not a self-made man among us. To boast of a good voice or a pretty face or a keen mind or a swollen bank book amounts to nothing more than foolish pride and one may as well strut about like a silly and vain peacock.
In the end, the humble man will feast sumptuously at the King's Table while the proud man roams the meadow chewing his cud. And it is very difficult looking grand and dignified with a mouth full of green grass.
Dr. Michael Blunk is a staff writer for an apologetics ministry and serves full time as a chaplain with Wayside Christian Mission. You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org