n Proverbs 16:18, the writer states: "Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall." If Solomon did indeed pen those lines, they could be read as a confession as well as a warning.
When Solomon, the choice of his father, David, became the king of Israel, his earliest thoughts were humble. In his prayer, he admits to immaturity and requests from God "a discerning heart to govern your people and distinguish between right and wrong" (1 Kings 3:9). So he began. Solomon proved to be wise in discerning and solving problems, in handling politics and trade. He became rich and had a beautiful temple built for the Lord. His kingdom became famous and powerful.
Then he began to make choices without reference to God's will. He played favorites, taxing some of his people, but not others (his friends). He began to share pagan worship with some of his many foreign wives. The kingdom built by his father, David, was soon in chaos and a revolt caused a permanent split in what was once a peaceful kingdom. The Bible affirms that the major factor in this tragedy was Solomon's arrogance.
Pride is a subtle sin. It can creep up on a president, a pastor, a priest, a professor or a peasant. Paul warned the Corinthians, "If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall" (1 Cor.10:12). Power adds a blinding ingredient to pride.
When my wife and I were in France and Switzerland, we heard some illuminating comments by some of their people in response to some of our leaders saying that other countries hate us because of our freedom. These friends said, "It's not because of your freedom, we have freedom! Our dislike of the U.S. is because of your arrogance. You're always boasting about being the greatest country in the world."
Was it an arrogant display of our power that led to our pre-emptive strike on Iraq? Of course we were shocked and grieved by the terrible terrorist attack on 9\11. So were the Muslims, living in America, (mostly Sufis) who also condemned this atrocious attack.
But if our proud response of a pre-emptive strike of war was to bring democracy and peace to these countries, we have sadly failed, and this war has resulted in thousands more innocent casualties than happened on 9/11. After 10 years, this tragic war continues.
Is there no other way to respond to evil? Jesus had power, divine power, power to raise the dead. But we see no sword-swinging arrogance in him. He was more ready to kneel and wash the dirty feet of his disciples. He came to serve, not be served; to give life, not take life; to forgive, not condemn, to overcome evil with good, not with more evil.
Now that is radical! That takes real courage. It is not the popular variety of bravado displayed by physical strength and weapons of mass destruction. No, Jesus calls us to a loving service that considers the well-being and best interests of our neighbors, be they "Jew or Gentile", Muslim or Christian.
True greatness has to do with character and integrity, not with money and material power. The latter can lead to blind pride, while integrity and the willingness to serve, leads to gratitude, love and peace. God help us to avoid arrogance as a nation and as individuals, by making the humble choices that keep in mind the best interests of others as well as ourselves.
The Rev. Randy Klassen is a retired minister of the Evangelical Covenant Church. Pastors in the U-B circulation area who want to write a column should call Catherine Hicks at 509-526-8312 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.