Summary: A sermon dealing with pride. Examples of pride, pitfalls of pride and how to overcome pride.
There is an old saying: ‘Second place is okay if you don’t mind being first in a long line of losers.’ Nobody wants to be in 2nd place, do they? We all want to be in first place. We all want to be the winner, no matter what it is we have won at.
In June 1974, Richard Nixon’s administration was crumbling due to the Watergate scandal. To divert everyone’s attention from that, he planned a trip to Russia and Italy.
His two top aides, Alexander Haig and Ron Ziegler were vying for the top slot in the administration. Both wanted that position more than anything else. It didn’t matter to them that they would be involved in the collapse of the administration, because all they were focused on was winning the top position.
The rivalry for that position got so intense that each of them had a team that actually measured, down to the inch, how far their beds were from President Nixon’s bed! All because of their desire to be #1.
Each sport has their form of playoffs to find the #1 team. Have you ever noticed that whenever the playoffs are finished, the winner walks off the field loudly proclaiming they are #1, but the losing team never brags about their being #2? They might be the second best team in the whole world, but they will never be satisfied to be anything but #1.
Having pride and a lust for power. It isn’t just a political thing; it isn’t even an athletic thing; it’s an ‘everybody’ thing. We all have it, even Christians. The deadly disease of ‘Who’s On First’ infects churches, too. What makes it even more appalling is that the head of the church, Jesus Christ, never showed this self-seeking arrogance.
He had no throne or crown and no band of servants and armed guards. He arrived in a borrowed manger and left in a borrowed tomb. He did not live His life trying to outdo others. He simply came to love and serve, not to compete. He was willing to let His Father be #1.
So, what is wrong with everyone today; that we have this craving to be #1? Are we so starved to be noticed, that we are obsessed with ‘who’s on first?’
Look at the difference between cats and dogs. The master reaches down to pet the dog and the dog things the master is a god. The master reaches down to pet the cat and the cat things it is a god. Even though Jesus Christ, in His glory and grace reached down to touch us, we have this need to think like the cat, don’t we? We always think everything is about us, when in reality; everything is really only about the Lord.
I want you to understand something very important. As Christians, we begin as humble and needy sinners, who have received the grace and mercy of God. Like the dog, our Master is everything to us and we are excited to worship Him.
But as time goes by, the world has an influence on us, and we soon begin to think like the cat. We start to see changes in ourselves and we are proud of those changes. We then begin thinking that we are special, and what follows is the pathetic viewpoint that we must be gods. We must understand that it isn’t about us – but about Jesus Christ. We aren’t gods. We are weak sinners who must rely on God.
This condition is common to all of us, and it has a telltale aroma; much like dirty socks. Other people, especially those outside the church, can readily smell it and see something is very wrong. They may not understand what is going on, but many will see that as a reason to turn their backs on God and the church. And we are seeing this in more and more churches all the time.
And it all stems from wanting to be #1. This stems from Satan telling the lie to Eve that they could be like God if they would but eat of the tree. Who wants to be #2, anyway? The disciples even struggled with this problem of pride and ambition.
MATTHEW 18:1 says,
‘At that time, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven?”
Since we all want to be the greatest, I thought we would take some time today to talk about what it really means to be great.
1. IT’S GREAT TO BE GREAT!
When we fall into the trap of having to compete to be #1, where will it stop? I am reminded of a story about a Rabbi and a minister talking one day, and the minister proudly declared that one of his ancestors signed the Declaration of Independence. Not to be outdone, the Rabbi shot back with, “Well, one of my ancestors signed the Ten Commandments.”