Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah

August 13, 2020
“Don’t get cocky” — good advise from the very beginning

There is a great scene in the first Star Wars movie where Empire Tie Fighters are attacking the Millennium Falcon. Luke and Han man the laser cannons to try to protect her. First, Han scores a direct hit and cheers. Seconds later, Luke blows an enemy ship away. He shouts triumphantly, “I got him, I got him.”  Han, (as only Han can do) yells back, “Great kid. Don’t get cocky.”  

Long ago in a galaxy far, far away, “don’t get cocky” was good advice. It was good advice in biblical times, and it is good advice for us today. Our human tendency to get cocky shows up very early in the Bible. Very soon after the first man and woman are created, cockiness enters the picture.  

God had provided for every human need. He placed Adam and Even in the beautiful Garden of Eden. God gave them meaningful work to do — tending the Garden.  God gave them food to eat. Then, God laid out the ground rules for healthy, happy human living. Actually, there was just one rule. The humans were free to eat of any tree in the Garden except for the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  

While this might look like an arbitrary rule about what humans could and could not eat, it was much more than that. It was really a way to check to see if the humans were willing to let God be God. If our first ancestors had been willing to live recognizing God as Creator and themselves as creatures, things might have turned out differently. But, they got cocky.  

With a little prompting from the serpent, they began to think that they might like to try their hands at determining what was good and what was evil. How hard could it be? So, rather than trusting God who had provided so abundantly for them, the first humans arrogantly decided to go their own way. And we have been struggling with the problem of cockiness ever since.

From the very beginning, the people of the world as well as the people of God have wrestled with the desire to think more highly of ourselves than we should. Over and over throughout the Bible, things go very badly when people arrogantly decide to go their own way.  

Not surprisingly, holy Scripture gives us an alternate approach to life. In the days of the prophet Micah, the people are anxious to know what they could do to make up for all their past transgressions — including arrogance. They wonder if God would be satisfied with the sacrifice of thousands of animals, thousands of rivers of olive oil, or even the sacrifice of their own children.  

But the prophet tells them, “It’s not about sacrifice. It’s something much simpler.” Micah 6:8 says, “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” It turns out that justice and mercy are only possible when we don’t think too highly of ourselves and our own desires. Walking humbly with God is the prerequisite to justice and mercy. It is the antidote to the problems caused by arrogance and cockiness.  

Jesus recognized this and it is the way he lived his whole life. It’s the way Jesus described himself, and it’s the way we’re called to live as his followers. “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” 

If there is one thing year 2020 has demonstrated to us, it is that we need some serious rest for our souls. The biblical advice to try humility instead of cockiness is a good place to start. And perhaps the first place to try humility is on social media. To say people are cocky on Facebook and Twitter is a gross understatement. Very often they can be downright vicious and cruel to those who don’t share their views on a given subject.  

Whatever happened to our ability to disagree without being disagreeable? Whatever happened to the idea that having a discussion with someone is an opportunity to learn something? Someone wise once said you are not in an authentic conversation unless you’re at least open to the possibility of changing your mind by what you hear. And it starts with humility.  

Can I suggest that we try to inject a little humility into our political discussions? The harshness of our political discourse shows how bitterly divided our country is today. Some civility and humility in the way we treat one another would go a long way towards bringing us together.  

But the real key to unity is found in 2 Chronicles 7:14. “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked way, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and heal their land.” We will never find peace by arrogantly trying to beat others into thinking the way we think.  

Shalom — real peace is only possible when the people of God humbly turn back to God. God promises to heal our land when we do so. Then we will know what it is to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God.

Rick Ehrheart is pastor of Mountain of Faith Lutheran Church in Tooele.

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