Summary: If you want your sanity restored and to shine brightly in a dark world, don't be proud of your own achievements; instead, humble yourself before Almighty God. "Christ sends none away empty but those who are full of themselves" (Donald Gray Barnhouse)
Chan Gailey, who at various times coached for the Pittsburg Steelers, the Dallas Cowboys, and the Kansas City Chiefs told a story some time ago about the time he was head coach of Alabama’s Troy State and they were playing for the National Championship. The week before the big game, he was headed to the practice field when a secretary called him back to take a phone call.
Somewhat irritated, Gailey told her to take a message because he was on his way to practice.
She responded, “But it's Sports Illustrated.”
“I'll be right there,” he said.
As he made his way to the building, he began to think about the upcoming article. It would be great publicity for a small school like Troy State to be in Sports Illustrated. As he got closer, he realized that a three-page article would not be sufficient to tell the whole story. Coming even closer to his office, he started thinking that he might be on the cover. “Should I pose or go with an action shot,” he wondered. His head was spinning with all of the possibilities.
When he picked up the phone and said hello, the person asked, “Is this Chan Gailey?”
“Yes, it is,” he replied confidently.
“This is Sports Illustrated, and we're calling to let you know that your subscription is running out. Are you interested in renewing?”
Coach Gailey concluded the story by saying, “You are either humble or you will be humbled.” (Chan Gailey speaking at a dinner in Dalton, Georgia, 4-20-04; www.PreachingToday.com)
How very true that is! And that’s cause for great concern as I think about our own American culture these days. Just a couple of years ago, New York Times columnist David Brooks commented on our tendency to be overconfident. “We're an overconfident species,” he said, calling it a “magnification of the self,” which he says is especially rampant in the United States.
For example: Although American students do not perform well on global math tests, they are among the world leaders in having self-confidence about their math abilities. 94 percent of college professors believe they have above-average teaching skills. 70 percent of high school students surveyed claim they have above-average leadership skills, and only 2 percent are below average. The number of high school seniors who believed that they were “a very important person”: in the 1950s – 12 percent; today – 80 percent (or more).
“In short,” Brooks concludes, “there's abundant evidence to suggest that we have shifted a bit from a culture that emphasized self-effacement – I'm not better than anybody else, but nobody is better than me – to a culture that emphasizes self-expansion.” (David Brooks, “The Modesty Manifesto,” The New York Times, 3-21-11; www.PreachingToday.com)
What would God say to such a culture, and how can we avoid the humiliation that’s sure to come if we continue down the same path for very much longer?