Day 25: The Pinnacle of Pride...Is an Abyss (Acts 12:20-23)
Today’s Passage: Acts 12:20-23
Most of us, I expect, would agree that pride is a bad thing. However, we know that confidence is necessary. Without some degree of confidence we would not even get out of bed.
Who we place our confidence in, and the degree to which we do so, is the question.
If I place confidence in myself, and only myself, then I am on the downward spiraling path of pride.
Can I share with you? I struggle with pride. Perhaps you do, too.
Few of us set out to be prideful, yet we often drift into its grip.
I find I can easily drift into it. I know that I should, and I often do, start out with my confidence in God. But as things begin to go well, I drift. I start not only acting in my own strength, I start acting as if I believe I am doing it all. One of my tell-tale signs that I have drifted far is…anger. When I catch myself getting angry, and ask “Why?” I often find that I am angry because people are not doing what I expect them to be doing—and my expectation is because I am so full of myself, that I believe I am singularly “right”. If only people would do what I,the all-knowing one, know to be right, everything would be fine.
And hey, there may be times I am right, and even angry. But here is the deal- does my anger lead me to pause and ask what is going on in the life of the other person? Or, does my anger lead me to pause and ask what is going on in me, even leading me to realize I have the need to repent? Or, does my anger lead me to sin? Jesus does not say do not be angry. He says, “do not sin in your anger.”
Today we read about Herod. This is the grandson of the Herod that beheaded John the Baptist. The apple has not fallen far from the tree. Commentators note he is a powerful person in the Roman world, second only to Caesar. A fella pretty full of himself; a fella pretty angry. In the first part of this chapter we read how he “laid violent hands” on the church, had James killed and Peter imprisoned.
In this snippet we see he gets angry with others. In contrast to James, Peter, and other followers of Jesus, the people of Tyre and Sidon seek to appease Herod, treating him as a god. (As and aside, you may remember Tyre and Sidon. They have a long history in the Bible narrative. Jesus even healed a demon-possessed girl there in Mark 7. This link has all sorts of information about Tyre if you are so inclined.)
Herod’s reaction? Receive their worship. Herod has reached the pinnacle of his pride. He perceives himself a god. In doing so, the depth of his depravity is revealed.
Now the text sort of sounds like God “zapped him”. God does. Historians have chronicled Herod’s sudden death immediately following this episode in Herod’s life. God will not be mocked, and at some point, He moves His hand.
The movement of God’s hand is not only about Herod’s blasphemy: it is about the repositioning of the kingdom movement. In the next reflection, we will spend more time looking at the bigger picture of this event.
For now, I am wondering how you view yourself in regards to pride. Consider these questions. Where are you with this issue of pride? Do you think your pride can get to the point where you are pretty full-of-yourself? Might your pride get to the point where you, a person who is following Jesus, can actually be opposing God?
I imagine most of us would not think we were actively opposing God. But if I think about it, when my behavior is one of pride, I can’t imagine the kingdom really moving forward through me, and if that is the case, then I am not about God’s business.