The desire for significance and recognition is natural. It begins early in life and good parents lovingly assure their children that they are valued and significant. But when this desire is wrongly nourished, parents run the risk of raising spiritual cannibals. Admittedly, cannibalism is a graphic image but it serves as a fitting picture of the “dog eat dog” or “people eat people” world. It conveys the tendency to use people (eat them) to nourish one’s ego. It is the destructive form of pride that ruins life.
We must teach our children that, “A lack of humility destroys a person’s spiritual life; it subverts his spiritual relationships, the deepest and most important relationships of his life. Pride cuts a person off from fellowship with others. It isolates him and, however little he may recognize the fact, degrades him.” Entering into fellowship with cannibals is risky; it could land you in their pot. (“Spiritual Emotions,” Robert C. Roberts). According to Scripture, even God “resists the proud” (James 4:6).
Jesus taught humility as a cherished value of His kingdom. He said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” not the proud in spirit. But people everywhere are maneuvering for recognition and honor–using and abusing others in their path to personal greatness. “God has created us for fellowship with one another, and we have chosen instead to forsake it for something unsatisfying and despicable. Despite our parents’ love, not one of us is humble, not one is innocent of the crime of spiritual cannibalism,” (Roberts).
When Jesus’ disciples were jockeying for positions of honor and arguing over greatness in the kingdom, they were guilty of spiritual cannibalism. Jesus continuously reminded them that His kingdom is about greatness based on humility, not comparative pride. Yet humility is not always well understood.
“The opposite of humility as a virtue is not self-confidence, initiative, assertiveness and self-esteem,” Roberts argues, “but instead pushiness, scorn of ‘inferiors,’ rejoicing in the downfall of others, envy, resentment and grudge-bearing, ruthless ambition, haughtiness, shame at failure or disadvantageous comparison. … Humility is a psychological principle of independence from others and a necessary ground of genuine fellowship with them, an emotional independence of one’s judgments concerning how one ranks vis-à-vis other human beings.”
The author continues, “It is thus a self-confidence, one that runs far deeper than the tenuous self-confidence of the person who believes in himself because others look up to him.”
The author notes, “Christianity is eminently well qualified to engender the evenhanded, deep self-confidence that I am calling ‘humility.’ For it challenges us to see every person as a brother or sister whom God so loved that he humbled himself to equality with the lowest human being, and to death on a cross, to reconcile with himself.”
Roberts writes, “The message is that God loves me for myself; not for anything I have achieved, not for my beauty or intelligence or righteousness or for any other qualification, but simply in the way that a good mother loves the fruit of her womb. If I can get that into my head, or better, into my heart, then I won’t be grasping desperately for self-esteem at the expense of others, and cutting myself off from my proper destiny, which is spiritual fellowship with them.”
Steven W. Cornell is senior pastor at Millersville Bible Church. He is also a correspondent for Lancaster Newspapers Inc. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.