“Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.”Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, “What? Are we blind too?”Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.”
Any sober reading of the four gospels reveals that two categories of people found themselves on the receiving end of Christ’s most withering criticism; the religious and the wealthy. And what did these folks have in common? Pride.
Martin Luther once said, “The law is for the proud…”. He knew what he was talking about. And the prayer of the proud (if they get around to praying at all) is that of the man in the New Testament; “I thank you, God, that I am not like other men…”.
The Greek word which we translate to mean ‘pride’ can also mean haughtiness and arrogance. The prideful believe that by denigrating others they elevate themselves. When in fact, it is humility that best suits a human being and reflects the best aspects of character.
So you can see how the word is an apt description of many who invest their lives in material wealth or attempt to live according to religious principles. The proud are so self-obsessed they simply do not see things as they are. This is the awareness that lies behind the Lord’s words in today’s text from John 9. To be spiritually blinded by pride is to be out of touch with reality, no matter of knowledgeable or intelligent we may be. And His words are as timely as ever, for we live in an age infected by pride and its toxic consequences.
In the same comment Martin Luther also said, “…the Gospel is for the brokenhearted.” As the religiously proud man stood on that ancient street corner, exalting himself to the heavens, a despised tax collector was also praying nearby. The man was so in touch with himself before God he couldn’t bring himself to even look toward heaven. He prayed to this effect, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” After Jesus told this story he said,
“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Authentic life in a sinful world is rooted in the awareness of our need. The proud, and we ALL find ourselves owning the word in one way or another, refuse humility and in so doing subvert life and distort its purpose. But God is not mocked. The artificial life produced by pride will always collapse into meaninglessness.
It is of the essence of the Incarnation that Jesus humbled Himself. His very life was a judgment upon our pride and willfulness; pride and willfulness he endured even to death on the Cross. When we see ourselves in the light Christ’s humble love, it just might bring us to sobriety and enable us to utter those words which are the key to freedom and authentic life,
“God, be merciful to me, a sinner.”
“May the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”