Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Happy Though Modest

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

Matthew 5.5

Pride vs. Arrogance

A magnet on our refrigerator brags, “I’m in good company!” It’s encompassed by a dazzling roster of GLBT figures—Socrates, Michelangelo, Gertrude Stein, Renee Richards, Ellen DeGeneres, et al. Scanning the names, it’s easy to take pride in our community’s accomplishments and contributions to the world. It reinforces our importance and reminds us that we can never let prejudice and hatred to block our potential.

At the same time, we should remain aware an exceedingly short distance divides pride from arrogance. Our achievements, collectively or individually, may be notable. But they by no means entitle us to special status and undue rewards. Equality is what we’re after: the same acceptance and recognition afforded to the straight majority—no more and, most importantly, no less. If we take Jesus’s teaching to heart, modesty is the best policy for earthly success.

The Long Haul

Modest believers, He said, are happy because they’ll inherit the earth in the end. Short-term popularity doesn’t interest them. Instant gratification doesn’t tempt them. They’re unfazed by fleeting praise. Even should such things come their way, they check their egos and avoid getting sidetracked by good fortune. Likewise, if their efforts go unnoticed, they don’t give up. They’re in it for the long haul—and they’ve got a sure-fire strategy to get them there.

It turns out Jesus divulged His plan for modest success minutes after promising it. In Matthew 6, He told His followers to refrain from showing off and stop worrying about earthly things when we should focus on pleasing God:

Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6.33)

The Ultimate Windfall

We gain nothing (and risk everything) when we strive to impress others, including us. If we fail, we set ourselves up for unhappy disappointment. It’s worse yet if we do, because we’re drawn into a vortex of always trying to top our latest hit. Relentless pressure makes us miserable and saps energy we should devote to seeking godliness.

Modesty puts us at the right angle to look beyond temporary success and see the ultimate windfall. When God’s pleasure with us matters most, everything else looks minor by comparison. We’re happy whether we win or lose now, knowing that, if we stay modest, we’ll win everything in the end.

We'll inherit more than a free trip back to Kansas if we can be happy though modest.

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