Drawing Near

A Pastoral Perspective on Biblical, Theological, & Cultural Issues | The Personal Website of James B. Law, Ph.D.



August 2013



Cream Cheese Moments and Our Need for Humility

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imagesC. J. Mahaney has written a very helpful book entitled, Humility: True Greatness. In this work he tells the following story:

As I sat with my family at a local breakfast establishment, I noticed a finely dressed man at an adjacent table. His Armani suit and stiffly pressed shirt coordinated perfectly with a power tie. His wing-tip shoes sparkled from a recent shine, every hair was in place, including his perfectly groomed moustache. The man sat alone eating a bagel as he prepared for a meeting. As he reviewed the papers before him, he appeared nervous, glancing frequently at his Rolex watch. It was obvious he had an important meeting ahead.

The man stood up and I watched as he straightened his tie and prepared to leave.  Immediately I noticed a blob of cream cheese attached to his finely groomed moustache. He was about to go into the world, dressed in his finest, with cream cheese on his face. I thought of the business meeting he was about to attend. Who would tell him? Should I? What if no one did? (Attributed to Pastor James R. Needham in a 2004 illustration from www.preachingtoday.com)


This account causes us to wince for this guy, but his embarrassment provides a helpful illustration of how pride works in our lives.

In many ways we are blinded to the pernicious work of pride.  Pride is a stealth sin that flies under the radar and is all over us before we even realize it. Someone has said that pride sticks to the human heart like lard on a pig. Not only was pride the first sin in that Adam and Eve wanted to be like God, but it works its way into virtually every fabric of our lives, and if we do not deal with it ruthlessly it will do more than cause a little embarrassment.

Because of pride, marriages are shattered.

Because of pride, friendships are ended.

Because of pride, churches split.

Because of pride, nations are brought to their knees.

Because of pride, people perish in their sins.

God’s remedy for pride is humility, and Jesus leads the way in what that looks like.  In fact, Jesus defined greatness in terms of humility and service, not prestige and purse. Money and might never made Jesus’ list for lifetime goals.

As we overhear a conversation between Jesus and his disciples in Mark 10, Jesus said, “whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all.” (Mark 10:43-44)

This type of thinking is almost dismissed out-of-hand because it seems so unrealistic to us.  Those who are humble get run over in our world.  Those who serve others get trashed in the end. However, the biblical witness declares the opposite. To the humble God promises great things:

1.  His Favor and Attention:  “But to this one I will look, To him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.” ~Isaiah 66:2

2.  His Grace: “Therefore it says, ‘God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’” ~James 4:6

3.  His Blessing: “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time.” ~I Peter 5:6

Humility is honestly assessed by seeing our sin for what it is and acknowledging that before God.  Humility leads us to the finished work of Jesus Christ as our only hope to our tragic condition.  It is in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ that we come to know life and forgiveness. Coming to terms with this message is an indicator of humility in one’s life.

In the words of Carl Henry, “How can anyone be arrogant when he stands beside the cross?”

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