Sunday, August 26, 2012

I for Idolatry

by C.J. Chase

For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. (Romans 12:3 KJV)
On Thursday here at Inkwell, Niki wrote about our human propensity to take offence. She shared ways to recognize our triggers and manage our reactions. As it turns out, I’d been pondering pride, being offended, and our relationship with God for the past few weeks, so I decided to use her post as a jumping off point for this devotional.

One of the difficulties with the English language is that the same word can mean several different things. Webster’s gives us several nuances to the word pride. While “reasonable or justifiable self-respect” is a good thing, “inordinate self-esteem” or “conceit” damages our relationship with God and others.

Let’s start at the very beginning of the Bible, right after God finished creation and everything was good. Eve was picking a few fresh peaches for dinner (hey, that’s what I’d have been eating if I was in the Garden of Eden) when along came Satan whispering words of temptation: “You can be like gods.”

Thinking to become like God—now that’s conceit! The pride in Eve’s heart, this desire to be a god, led her to disobey God’s direct command.

God gave Moses a mere ten commandments on Mount Sinai. Just ten basic rules for living. Did you ever notice what the first one is? “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:3) Coincidence that the first sin involved wanting to be a god and the first commandment is to recognize the supremacy of the one and only God? I think not. My recent “ah ha!” moment came this summer when I realized that pride—or as Paul says, thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought to—is a form of idolatry.

Nicolas Poussin's The Adoration of the Golden Calf
Idolatry? I’d always thought that involved golden calves or temples to Athena or even the accumulation of money. Hey, there’s something to be said for becoming my own “god”—it’s the easiest form of idolatry out there. No images to carve or buildings to construct or long hours to work. All I have to do is reserve to myself the worship that belongs to God.

So what does this have to do with taking offense? Pride is at the root of our inclination to take offence. He dis’d (disrespected) me. She hurt my feelings. He made me look foolish in front of others. Me. Me. Me. We want to think highly of ourselves, and we want everyone else to think so too. Hey, if there's one thing better than being my own god, it's getting others to worship me too.
Being offended brings us so many perceived "benefits" that's it's no wonder we are often loathe to give it up. Just think of all the other sins we can rationalize when we feel we've been wronged--manipulation, humiliation, vindication... Justifying our behavior goes right along with the whole god-complex gig.

Unfortunately, this resentment destroys lives and souls. Consider the Pharisees, the perpetually offended religious leaders of Jesus' day. They allowed their resentments—their pride—to warp their relationship with the God they claimed to serve.

This week, let us instead look to the example of Jesus:

Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus, who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God 
as something to be used for His own advantage. Instead He emptied Himself 
by assuming the form of a slave, 
taking on the likeness of men. 
And when He had come as a man
in His external form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient
to the point of death—
even to death on a cross. (Philippians 2:5-8)

After leaving the corporate world to stay home with her children, C.J. Chase quickly learned she did not possess the housekeeping gene. She decided writing might provide the perfect excuse for letting the dust bunnies accumulate under the furniture. Her procrastination, er, hard work paid off in 2010 when she won the Golden Heart for Best Inspirational Manuscript and sold the novel to Love Inspired Historicals. Her next book, The Reluctant Earl, will be available in February of 2013. You can visit C.J.'s cyber-home (where the floors are always clean) at


  1. Interesting concept, CJ, and though I need to spend more time meditating on this, I totally agree. I hope you had a blessed Sunday!

  2. I'm struck by the thought of how limiting the English language is and how it defines things in such a limited way.
    As they say, the Eskimos have many many words for snow and being a northerner, I can understand that. But looking at words like pride is a great example.

    Love might just be the most messed up single word ever! No wonder we have such trouble understanding God when we can't understand the breadth of that one word either.

  3. Suzie, I've been meditating on this a while. Um, for my characters. Yeah, that must be it.

  4. Deb, I wonder if some of that is the way words change over the years. I was thinking that "conceit" might be a better word for the negative definition of pride -- and then I remembered that conceit meant something different in Shakespeare's time.

    But no wonder we take offense when the same word can mean something positive or something negative.

  5. C.J., you are absolutely right. Pride IS the root of taking offense. And then the offendee becomes the offender by justifying all those other misbehaviors! No wonder the Bible says "judge not, for you who judge do the same things"!


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