The Folly of Self-Importance

Luke 11: 42-46
Rom 2: 1-11 / Psa 62

Woe to you Pharisees, because you love the most important seats in the synagogues and respectful greetings in the market-places.
(Luke 11:43)

No seat of honor in high places
Will ever put us in God’s graces.
Nor any good works guarantee
Man’s passage to eternity.

(Jesus said), “Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone. Woe to you Pharisees, because you love the most important seats in the synagogues and respectful greetings in the market-places. Woe to you, because you are like unmarked graves, which people walk over without knowing it.” One of the experts in the law answered him, “Teacher, when you say these things, you insult us also.” Jesus replied, “And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them” (Luke 11:42-46)

Reflection

How much do we value ourselves? Our self-importance is based on the degree of our desire for acknowledgment from others. This appraisal of one’s worth in the eyes of others is often mistakenly regarded as self-esteem, when it is in fact a simple case of self-adulation, and is often the manifestation of the sin of pride. Genuine self-esteem is based on the assurance that in spite of our sinful state, there is a God Who loves us, and on Whom we can depend in times of our need. We feel important not because we are important, but because God in His goodness has made us so. And a man of self-esteem is humbled by this realization.

The behavior of the Pharisees and scribes were repugnant to our Lord because of their self-importance. They believed that they were a cut above the rest just because they had made the meticulous observance of Judaic laws their lifelong obsession. Their external forms of worship were all intended for show, to cover up their passion for recognition and praise from the public. Thus, their unnatural desire for the respect and adulation of others had rendered them incapable of looking after the spiritual welfare of the people that they were supposed to look after. Like “unmarked graves, which people walk over without knowing it,” they had become insignificant in the eyes of God. Their pride had made them unimportant.

St. Paul advised, “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you” (Rom.12:3). None of us can claim to be more valuable than other people; we are all equal in the eyes of God, dependent on Him, and on each other for love, companionship, material assistance, knowledge and skills, and prayers. St. Paul continued, “For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us” (Rom.12:4-6).

In this sense, it is a blessing that we are members of Christ’s renewal community. We have witnessed our formation and growth brought about by our loving relationships with brothers and sisters who humbly share their talents and abilities in pursuit of our community’s mission. Here we see true servant leaders, who take responsible care of those entrusted to them without regard for rank or seniority. We are all bound by a common love for Jesus Christ, the only One we have made important in our life.

Lord Jesus, You have taught us the importance of forgetting self for the sake of others so that we may be pleasing to our Father in heaven. Thank You, Lord for this message. Amen.

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