Nowadays, when one mentally Googles what being blessed means, Jesus’ idea of bliss doesn’t even pull up in our psychological search engine. We think being blessed equals having a 9,000 square foot home with a yacht out back in the canal loaded down with Cristal and ten of Hef’s randy girlfriends.
Yes, blessing to postmoderns entails:
1. having a face and body like Brad Pitt (if you’re a man),
2. having the face, lips, breasts and legs of Angelina Jolie (if you’re a woman or, I guess, a transsexual),
3. having more sex,
4. having more money,
5. having more power,
6. having more __________ ,
7. being on TV,
8. having faster internet service,
9. having a RAZR, no, a BlackBerry,
10. and, of course, having longer and stronger erections.
Essentially, being blessed has been deduced, as Dennis Miller says, to having a life that resembles a lite beer commercial.
Christ’s idea of being fortunate doesn’t fly with the feckless and unfounded, and that indictment goes for most all of us—Republicans, Democrats, Christians and the Dixie Chunks.
As far as pursuits and passions go, we deem as important stuff that Christ deems as damnable. A substance-less society has sold us a plate of crap about what our priorities should be, and we not only wolfed down that meal and licked the plate—but we’ve bellied back up to the buffet line and are begging for seconds.
Take the deadly sin of pride, for instance. Pride, as Os Guinness states, “Historically [has been] seen as the first, worst, and most prevalent of the seven deadly sins. It is either the source or the chief component of all other sin. Pride is also the first of the sins of the spirit, which are ‘cold’ but highly respectable. Its source is neither the world nor the flesh, but the devil. This first vice is unique in that it is the one vice of which its perpetrator is frequently unaware.”
Heck, we live in a day where the deadly sin of pride has actually been twisted into a virtue. Today we hear that, “You should love yourself, pet yourself and stroke yourself because you, you are truly, truly special and can do no wrong, you little self-obsessed me-monkey, you. Now go back to staring into your belly button and don’t let anyone disturb you.” But before some one starts bursting a blood vein in his forehead and revs up to send me a nasty email, understand that I’m not talking about a healthy and sober self respect, but rather an arrogance that manifests in the following:
1. an inflated sense of self worth,
2. a peacock like pre-occupation with self esteem,
3. an extravagant sense of self love (We make Narcissus look like a flagellant monk.),
4. the thought that you are the most important person on the planet, a veritable walking personal pronoun,
5. the arrogant illusion of invulnerability,
6. the claim to the right to your views of things, regardless of reality.
7. being inconsiderate of the selfishness of others.
If the above describes you, well then, today we consider you well-modulated. We’ll even pay you hundreds of thousands of dollars to motivate us and to lead us to be a jerk just like you.
In contrast to the vice of pride, Christ tabled the virtue of poverty of spirit in the Sermon on the Mount. This is the antithesis of our postmodernism’s mantra of “I’m good enough, and smart enough and gosh darn it, people like me.” Christ says something more like, “Nah, I disagree. I say you’re fortunate when you feel that in and of yourself you’re destitute and bankrupt.”
I know this doesn’t square with our Oprah-addled, positive confessing culture; but God’s Son (for what that’s worth) states that one is in a good state when he is acutely aware of his lack and confesses his ignorance, and his inability, and he goes to his Creator to fetch his strength, goodness, wisdom, etc.
For clarification purposes, poverty of spirit has nothing to do with money—either abundance or lack thereof. I know plenty of people who are broke and full of themselves. In addition, it has nothing to do with being a backward-looking, passive, low-talking, “ah shucks” doormat for people or demons. Jesus had this poverty of spirit, and He sure as heck wasn’t some opinion-less, Hacky Sac that fools could kick around. Stated plainly, poverty of spirit is simply a realistic assessment of our selves plus a trust in God.
Here are some practical tips, stolen from Jeremy Taylor, on how we, with God’s assistance, can slay the deadly sin of pride:
1. Don’t think you’re better than anyone else just because you’re outwardly prosperous. Outward prosperity doesn’t mean that God’s cool with you.
2. Humility doesn’t consist of railing against yourself, or shopping at Kmart or being mousy and submissive; but rather, having a hearty and real assessment of what an idiot you can be in your heart of hearts.
3. When you do get props for doing something good, be indifferent about it and toss the accolades to God. Remember, He’s the giver of gifts, He’s the Blessor of the action, and you’re the dispensable tool He picked to get the job done. Don’t forget that.
4. Let other people praise you and not yourself, okay?
5. Love it when others are applauded and prospered in your presence. Entertain their good and glory with delight. Don’t disparage them or rain on their parade or make an objection. Don’t pitch a fit at another’s profit. His or her advancement doesn’t lessen your worth, Dinky. Get a grip. The adulation pie is big. Keep working hard, and you’ll get a slice someday.
6. Don’t compare yourself with others unless it is to advance them and to keep your ego at bay.
7. If you have screwed up, own it.
8. Thank God for every weakness and imperfection you have and accept them as gifts from God that keep you from being some duped and overly preened diva.
9. Don’t slam anybody else unless God, the universe and common sense is screaming they need the hammer. Be slow to roast people in public. Remember, if God removes His grace from you, you’re done.
10. When you do get a rave review, don’t camp too long in warm and fuzzy zone, patting yourself on the back. History shows that people get creamed shortly after they get the big head. Failure follows success if you don’t watch the sin of pride. King David committed adultery with Bathsheba and had her husband iced when he was at the top of his game, not when he was a dependent, punk kid taking on Goliath.
11. And lastly, never forget, as Montaigne once said, that “on the highest throne in the world man still sits on his arse.”
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