Friday, January 11, 2008

How Important is Self-Image?

The third chapter of Proverbs opens with a half-dozen commands dealing with what one PBC pastor called "skills":
  • remembering (3.1: "do not forget my teaching...")
  • faithfulness (3.3: "Let love and faithfulness never leave you")
  • trusting (3.5: "Trust in the Lord")
  • humility (3.7 "Do not be wise in your own eyes")
  • stewardship (3.9: "Honor the Lord with your wealth")
  • accepting reproof (3.11: "do not despise the Lord's discipline")
One of today's readings comes from this section:
Do not be wise in your own eyes;
fear the Lord and shun evil.
This will bring health to your body
and nourishment to your bones.
Proverbs 3:7-8
Like most of the other commands here, this one comes with a promise. The promise isn't absolute (it is possible to be humble, fear the Lord, shun evil, and yet die from cancer--even bone cancer), but they give a picture of the way things generally work.

What has my attention from today's passage, though, is the contrast between
  • the prohibition:
    • Do not be wise in your own eyes
  • and the precepts:
    • fear the Lord,
    • and shun evil.
The writer seems to be telling us that being wise in our own eyes is contrary to fearing the Lord.

And why is that? Because we're wrong so much of the time, and pride blinds us to our own folly. Unlike Einstein, many of us would rather think we're right than to find out where we're wrong.

So how are we doing? When you or I hear that we've been doing the wrong thing, do we stop doing it and change our course?

At the office, I've been working with some folks to change the way we develop software. Several weeks ago, we hired someone who started telling me he was concerned about the direction we're headed with these changes: basically, we're headed in the wrong direction. He didn't say it like that--he was tactful and professional--but that was the import of his remarks.

Did I tell him it was too late to change? At least this time I didn't--maybe because the Lord knew I'd be writing about this passage soon? It was a little hard to take, but I had to admit there was something to what he said. So I had to think about how to say, "I think I've been steering us in the wrong direction" -- essentially "I was wrong then, but I'm not wrong now."

Not the easiest thing, but probably better than the alternative.

And you know what? I don't know about nourishment in my bones, but having come clean, I feel better.

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