“And the devil took Him [Jesus] up and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to Him, ‘To You I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If You, then, will worship me, it will all be Yours.’ And Jesus answered him, ‘It is written, “You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve.”‘” (Luke 4:5-8 ESV)
This devotion pairs with this weekend’s Lutheran Hour sermon, which can be found at lutheranhour.org.
Most of what I experienced as a cadet at the U.S. Air Force Academy was positive, with one notable exception. Near the end of the first year, all the new cadets face a final challenge: Hell Week. And if we made it through together, we’d each receive a badge—a small metal pendant to wear on our uniform to signify our accomplishment. At the beginning of that week, an older cadet pulled me aside. He said he had selected me for a special honor—a secret honor. If I wanted to prove myself superior to my classmates, I could have my badge early. But, during Hell Week, I’d have to wear it under my shirt, pinned to my chest—literally—with the two metal prongs on the back exposed and pounded into my flesh. He made it sound very prestigious, and regretfully, I agreed.
He takes me to a dimly lit room, tells me to take off my shirt, punches the un-sanitized pins into my chest, and gives me a piece of athletic tape to put over it. For what proved to be the worst two days of my life, I secretly wore that badge in my chest—like a festering, unforgiving, metal splinter from hell. On the third day, we’re in our room changing, and my roommate sees the grimy athletic tape on my chest and says, “What is that?” I explain the secret honor that I’d been chosen for, thinking he’d be impressed, and he says to me, “That’s dumb.” And just like that, his words shattered the harrowing house of mirrors I’d been living in. And the truth set me free.
When we first meet the devil in the Bible, he’s promising secret honors. The badge the devil promises, the little pendant he pounds into your flesh, is pride. Pride isn’t satisfied with being good. Pride wants to be God (see Isaiah 14:12-14). Pride wants to be superior, a self-satisfied, cheap, knock-off of God. And it shows in your petty criticism of other people, displayed like un-sanitized medals pinned in your chest. It infects you with self-justifying excuses, like a festering metal splinter from hell. But Jesus has come to pull it out, to shatter that house of mirrors and set you free.
I thank God for my roommate who spoke the truth and set me free. The relief I felt, having that pin pulled out, was indescribable. It’s like that with pride. The reason God is opposed to pride is not because He’s afraid someone might steal His glory. God doesn’t need to protect His prestige. And His voluntary, shameful death on the cross for us is proof of it. God is against pride because He wants to give you Himself. And pride is the one thing that will keep you from seeing how desperately you need Him.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, set me free and guard me from pride and from self-loathing. Amen.
This Daily Devotion was written by Rev. Dr. Michael Zeigler, Speaker of The Lutheran Hour.
Used by permission from International Lutheran Laymen’s League, all rights reserved
1. How is sinful pride different from godly satisfaction in a worthwhile accomplishment?
2. Scan the Gospel of Luke. Where do you see the loving humility of Jesus on display?
3. By grace, what is something practical you can do to guard both from pride and self-loathing?