Over the past several weeks I have been preaching through the seven deadly sins. Using the classic list of seven deadly sins, we have examined modern day behaviors that are sinful. My congregation has really enjoyed the series, but they have mentioned that at various points in each of the sins, they have squirmed a little. We have come to realize that we suffer from all of the seven deadly sins in different ways. Every single one of us has some form of gluttony, sloth, envy, lust, pride, anger, and greed. A monastery I visit in Louisiana has the seven deadly sins (+one more) depicted as demons around the top of their abbey! When I asked the priest about this he said it was to remind all of them that even though they are in this holy place, there are still sins that they have to wrestle with. These monks who have spent their whole life in devotion to God still find themselves wrestling with sin!
Sermonizing- What’s the number 1 sin of Pastors? #7deadlysins
— stephen fife (@methodistmonk) April 16, 2014
When I asked over social media what was the number 1 sin that pastors were susceptible to, the answers were quick and striking!
People from all over the country responded. Pride was by far the unanimous pick. I think I tend to agree. We have a lot of pride. Like many of the seven deadly sins, pride can be a good thing. Pride can help be more confident in yourself. Pride can help you lead better. I am proud when my son hits the ball in tee ball. I am proud when my other son learned to potty on his own. I am proud when my baby girl took her first steps. It is a sense of accomplishment that through all that hard work your efforts are rewarded. When pride spirals out of control it can be a terrible thing. As Proverbs 16:18 says – “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” (NRSV)
Pride can stroke our egos and make us feel like we are always right. Pride can blind us to potential problems in our lives. Pride taken to the limit can make us feel like we have it all figured out. Pride keeps us from listening to each other because pride knows everything. Pride serves to isolate and divide.
- Whenever I say i wish those people would just hurry up and get on board with what I want I am guilty of pride.
- Whenever I let my ego or my position get in the way of me hearing what the other side has to say I am guilty of pride.
- Whenever I push MY way as God’s way I am very guilty of pride. (This one all pastors do or have done at some point in their ministry careers)
An attitude of humility.
The only attitude that combats pride is humility, and humility requires accountability to others. There are some times in ministry when I have just stopped what I was doing and go to the congregation. I would say, “I don’t know what to do next. Let’s figure it out together.” I think we have been given different gifts and sometimes I need more input about where we are headed. It is an attitude of great humility in asking for help. The earliest Christians relied upon one another for decisions. John Wesley formed class meetings to offer accountability and help for Christians in his day. They discussed their failures, their sins, and their faults in mutual accountability. I can’t imagine how humbling this was for all of them. All of them confessing together in a spirit of mercy. It seems like in today’s leadership culture we see attributes like humility, sacrifice, and accountability as quaint. We believe that we have it all figured out, so why do we need anyone else’s input?
A prayer of conscious.
Every single day I pray the same prayer. Sometimes multiple times in a day. Sometimes over a hundred times in a day. I pray, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me a sinner.” It is the Jesus prayer that has existed long before there was a Methodist Church. While I pray this prayer, I remember all the things in my life that I have messed up. I remember times when I have sinned. I remember when I haven’t been the best husband, dad, or pastor. I remember bad decisions I have made. I remember people that I have hurt. I remember everything. After all these things have come into my mind, I offer one more refrain, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me a sinner. Amen.” The prayer reminds me I am not perfect (or perfect in love…yet). The prayer reminds me I have a long way to go. The prayer returns me to a state of humility and lets me release my pride.
So I am wondering what would happen if we adopted an attitude of humility in the church today? What would our church look like if we practiced Wesley’s class meetings? How would our outlook change if we prayed with humility?