Pride & Theft

Just recently I was approached by the parent of a student in our youth ministry.  This parent was very complimentary and said some incredibly kind things about myself and our ministry.  In my attempt to be humble I responded by saying things like, “that is very nice of you to say that,” and, “well, we have some great young people…”

I walked away from the conversation secretly pleased with how humble I had been.  However, the next day while taking a run, I had some time to reflect on the situation.  I have concluded that my “humility” was deceptive pride. I had seemingly deflected all of the credit and praise that was being given.  I had carefully crafted my responses to appear as though I refused to take the credit, while in reality taking both the credit that was being offered as well as credit for being humble.

My error was two-fold.

1. Pride.  Pride is a serious offense.  So much so that the Bible says in James 4:6 that “God opposes the proud” or, “God resists the proud.”  The definition of “oppose” is “to actively resist or refuse to comply with, disapprove of and attempt to prevent, to compete with.”  When I am proud I put myself in a position where God “actively resists” me.  I can not think of a less desirable place to be than in direct opposition with the creator of the universe. But that is the direct result of pride in my life and repentance is necessary.

2. Theft. The second part of my error is that of thievery.  Even if my attempts to deflect praise had been sincere, they still would have been wrong because the praise belonged somewhere.  Romans 13:7 says, “Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.” (NKJV)  The compliments that were being given to me were genuine.  The student that was being discussed has undergone serious life change.  There is beautiful fruit growing in this student’s life and someone is responsible for that and is due the credit. Correctly identifying who the praise should be given to, then, is an important determination.  I underhandedly took the credit, though it did not belong to me.  That is theft.  However, simply refusing to accept it is inadequate as well. When I am given something that belongs to the Lord I must give it to “whom it is due.”

“Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.” 1 Timothy 1:17 (NIV)


My oldest daughter is in kindergarden at the local public elementary school.  She seems to be adjusting well to her new surroundings and her new role as a student.  Unlike when I was in kindergarden, she attends school for the full day.  Her day consists of things like art, music, computer class, “circle time,” recess, nap-time and of course, lunch.

One of the new and exciting things about school is getting to choose between eating the lunch prepared at the school cafeteria (aka “hot lunch”) or bring her own lunch from home (aka “cold lunch”).  She puts considerable thought into which lunch she will be enjoying the next day.  Her decision making process is not centered on what is being offered for lunch, but on who she would like to sit with during lunch.  The “hot-lunchers” and “cold-lunchers” are segregated from one another and sit at seperate tables.   For the last couple of weeks she has been on a hot lunch streak.  Day after day she has chosen to eat the lunch prepared by the school, even when it was something less than desirable, just so she could sit with her friends.

Yesterday that changed.  She is ready to switch back to being a cold-luncher.  Her decision is not based on food but on company.  A couple of the boys at the hot lunch table (referred to at our house as the  “bad boys”) began to pick on her.  When I heard of her reasons for making the lunch room change I felt anger beginning to stir in me. One of the bad boys began to kick her under the table.  Another bad boy took a banana and poked her in the face leaving wet “banana-smudge” on her cheek.  As I heard about what the other kids had done to her I became more and more furious.  While I was still listening to the details of the story I was envisioning showing up to her lunch table unannounced to intimidate the boys that were bothering her.

“They kicked you under the table?!?” I thought to myself.  I was already choosing the words for my threats.  I would give the “bad boys” the scare of a life time.

“Wiped banana on your face?!?” my inner dialogue continued. If my scare tactics and intimidation prove insufficient other action may be necessary.  Perhaps waiting for them after school….

“And you just had to sit there? Helpless? Defenseless?” I will hold teachers and school administrators responsible for this injustice!  Doesn’t anyone monitor these children as they try to eat their lunch in peace?!?!

I eventually managed to calm myself down.  Maybe fighting 5 year old boys isn’t the best way to resolve this problem.  My daughter’s solution of simply moving to the cold lunch table is probably a much better idea.  I am sure the lunch room is full of that kind of behavior on a daily basis.  A kick in the leg and a piece of fruit to the face.  I know that in the long run it is not that big of a deal but I hate the thought of it happening to my kid.

This morning I thought more about my outrage at how my daughter was treated.  As I thought about it I realized, again, how staggering God’s love for us is.  It hurt me to think of others hurting and humiliating my kid.  How much would I need to love someone to allow others to beat and brutally kill my little girl?  I can hardly stand the thought of it.

But there is something God loves so much that He was willing to pay that inconceivable price.  What could He possible love the that extent? You and me.

“But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. 6 All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all.” (Isaiah 53:5-6)