We become arrogant when we forget that God is our primary provider. Sometimes we give too much credit to our hard work and ingenuity. We easily forget the advantages of our upbringing, heritage, and education, and we view ourselves, even if unconsciously, as better than others, particularly the poor.
Some of us talk about people needing to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. Yet had we not had stable parents or gone to a good school or had positive role models, we might have grown up without bootstraps—or even boots. As has been said in other contexts, many rich people who were born on third base routinely congratulate themselves for hitting a triple.
Scripture says, “Value others above yourselves” (Philippians 2:3, NIV). Our example is Jesus, who humbly gave up the place in Heaven he fully deserved (Philippians 2:3-11). We must fight our misplaced pride, remembering that the air we breathe, the lungs with which we breathe it, and our ability to make money are from God’s generous hand (Deuteronomy 8:18).
Pride, by its very nature, is self-focused. If we live for the purpose of celebrating our own greatness, we’ll endure small, pitiful lives. But if we focus on God’s greatness and live to serve others, then we will, in the best sense, live large.
Ever since I was a child, I’ve loved stargazing. For many years, night after night, I went outside, needing something bigger than myself to be in awe of. While I gazed at the wonders of the universe, I was not thinking about myself (I could have stayed warm indoors and done that!). Similarly, as an adult, I love snorkeling. Sometimes for hours on end, I’m immersed in ocean waters, lost in the wonder and worship of God, and I’m therefore supremely happy. Giving is one of the ways we can take a step back and recognize there’s something much bigger than ourselves—and then to stand in awe as we realize God is at work and that He invites us to play a part in it!
What helps give you perspective? Any cross-cultural experience I have had has helped me get perspective. One of those lift defining moments was visit Queen Elizabeth hospital in Blantyer, Malawi nearly 20 years ago. We were giving bags of food to the patients in the men’s orthopedic ward and the women’s ward where the were fight for life and dealing with AIDS, TB or malaria as I recall. The women’s wards was designed for maybe 25-30 patients , but there were about 70 women there being treated on metal table for beds by a small handful of nurses. It was surreal. One woman on the floor. went into convulsions while we were there, three doctors came in to treat her, but it was too late she died right there in front of us. We had given some basic medicines to the hospital and Bibles for it’s library. It was such a big deal that westerners had come to this government hospital to give a few thing to them that we were on television and the report was broadcast across the country. I remember walking past the pharmacy in the hospital and every shelf was empty. Talk about getting a perspective on life.
By God’s grace, I live in one of most affluent parts of Southern California and had to get x-rays and MRI this past week. The medical resources available to me and the doctors who are treating me is about as opposite to what I saw in Malawi as there could possibly be. Experiences like that trip to Malawi have given me greater perspective on the blessings and stewardship entrusted to me.
I recently watch the 2006 movie “The Ultimate Gift” with Drew Fuller, Ali Hillis, Abigail Breslin and James Gardner. It was good example of the struggle of self verses selflessness. It was written and produced to give perspective to the audience on wealth, health and what’s really important in life.