Explore: When pride turns to greed

• The Explore the Bible lesson for June 29 focuses on Ezekiel 28:1-5, 11-19.

One night, on a dark road heading back to college, I fell asleep while someone else took a turn at the wheel. I’d driven the road many times, but the driver had not. When I woke up, I didn’t recognize any landmarks. I asked my friend where we were, and she wasn’t sure. This was long before we carried GPS maps in our cell phones.

We stopped the car until we got our bearings. If we hadn’t, we would have kept driving into the darkness and ended up lost and a long way from home.

As followers of Jesus, our attitudes toward ourselves, others and God are some of the greatest indicators of the direction our lives are headed. If we don’t stop now and then to rethink them, we may find ourselves ending up in places in life nowhere near where we intended when we started our journeys with Jesus.

The danger of self-centeredness

These ancient Scriptures in Ezekiel, filled with mysterious words and metaphors, still bear clear witness about the dangers of allowing our lives to become self-centered. The Apostle Paul, in Philippians 2:5-11, called on followers of Jesus to let his mindset become theirs. We are called to think of our lives as instruments in the hands of God to empower and bless others, not as ends in themselves.

The King of Tyre was facing the anger of God, because he had allowed his successes to misdirect his thinking about himself. He looked around at all his accomplishments in life and concluded they were the result of his own power, wisdom and creativity, not the blessing of God. He also had become self-consumed instead of thinking of his blessings as instruments in the hands of God to bless others.

Sinful pride doesn’t always present itself clearly. It can begin as the simple and normal self-assessment that we are of great worth and value—which we are, by the blessing of God. Unchecked and unguided by the Holy Spirit, however, it can grow into evil self-centeredness and self-service. It can grow into the belief we are more valuable than others and others, are here to serve us and not the other way around.

The text in Philippians 2 can help us regain our bearings in our journey to serve Christ. It guides us to examine the ways in which we use our power. We all have some kind of power. We have physical power, spiritual power, financial power, social power and even sexual power. Jesus used his power to bless us. In what ways are we using our power to bless others?

Christ gave us his power on the cross

Christ gave us his power on the cross so we might experience the life God intended us to have. Paul makes it clear it was a choice of Jesus to do so. He could have forsaken his call in order to serve his own desire for self-preservation. Instead, he gave up his right to serve himself so we might have God’s life in us.

If Christ had allowed his pride of being the Son of God to guide his life, his pride would have turned to self-serving greed and thereby denied us any hope. Greed, whatever form it takes, is the ultimate expression of pride. It is where all pride ultimately leads.

In many ways, pride is a form of fear. It is the fear we must take care of ourselves alone, that if we don’t do things our way and for ourselves, we will miss out on the joy of living. True humility is the choice to surrender our fear to God and to humbly allow God to guide us in all of our choices.

Surrender our fears to God

Only by surrendering our fears to God will we be able to find our way again in this life full of dark roads and unfamiliar landmarks. Pride always will lead to a greed that finally consumes us and leaves us destitute. What a terrible epitaph to what could have been an otherwise successful life: “All who know you among the peoples are appalled at you; you have come to a dreadful end and shall be no more forever” (Ezekiel 28:19).

Jesus only knew the ultimate blessing of God by surrendering to his Father’s greater purposes. If it were true of Jesus, how can we expect it to be any less true of ourselves?

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