“For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Pride is one of those things that I struggle with. I’m sure many of us do. Is it okay for us to be proud of doing a good day’s work or completing a project successfully? We’re often asked about pride in job interviews: what is the accomplishment that you are most proud of? Is it okay to answer questions like that as a Christian? I was really proud when my novels were published; surely this is only natural isn’t it? Does that make me a bad Christian?
Jesus talks about people ‘exalting’ themselves in our verses today. He says that ‘all who exalt themselves will be humbled’. This is quite tricky language, but a quick search on Google suggests that exalt means, ‘to hold (someone or something) in very high regard; think or speak very highly of’. The warning that Jesus gives, then, is perhaps to those who hold themselves in high regard, who try to lord it over others, perhaps by virtue of their position or perceived position. Jesus warns people who take this attitude: they will be humbled. How will they be humbled? In the context of this passage, those who ‘exalt themselves’ will find it very difficult indeed to ‘eat at the feast in the kingdom of God’. If we want to join God at this feast, we must take the opposite attitude: we must seek to lead humble lives. If we do, then we will be exalted by God himself, who will call us to be with him.
I’m not sure that this passage suggests that there is anything inherently wrong about being proud of our achievements, but it does make clear that it is wrong to think too highly of ourselves, and to try to elevate ourselves above others. After all, if we consider Jesus as our ultimate role model, he led a humble life and ultimately was humiliated in death. If we seek to follow his example, we should endeavour to be humble too. Then, just as Jesus was exalted by God to his right hand in heaven, we too will find ourselves exalted to heaven. What an exciting prospect that is!