In many of the choruses I sing as I worship God, I say that He is my refuge, my strong tower, the one whom I trust. But it doesn’t take too many Bible verses to challenge those words. Here are a few from Proverbs that remind me of what I can easily rely on or put my confidence in, instead of God . . .
“A rich man’s wealth is his strong city, and like a high wall in his imagination.
Before destruction a man’s heart is haughty, but humility comes before honor.
If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.
A man’s spirit will endure sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear?
An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.” (Proverbs 18:11–15)
Wealth? This is usually money, but it can be anything that money will buy. Stuff can become a stronghold, a protection in my mind. It happens easily to those who are well off, but well off is a relative term. Compared to the homeless, or those living in poverty, or those without a job, I am wealthy. I have to watch that what I have does not become a high wall in my imagination. Jesus didn’t rely on the power of money. In fact, the Bible says, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” (2 Corinthians 8:9)
Pride? In what? My accomplishments? God has blessed me, but with more blessing comes greater accountability. He expects me to be wise with what He has given me and what He has done in my life. But really, do I have anything that is worthy of pride? In thinking of Jesus in those terms, He is God but He willingly laid aside “equality with God as something to be grasped and became nothing, taking the form of a servant” (Philippians 2:6). Alongside Jesus, I’ve absolutely nothing to be proud of, and even if I did, look what I do with it compared to what He did with it!
Answers? I’m not the smartest person in the world, but I can do most Sudoku puzzles and am getting good marks in my studies. People look to me for answers and most of the time, I love it when they pop out of my mind, when I know them. Jesus didn’t deal with questions like that. Being able to answer them was not as important to Him as being able to understand the true needs of those who asked the questions. He was no show-off.
Endurance? The proverb mentions sickness and a crushed spirit. I’ve had both. Sometimes I bear it with grace. Sometimes I’m a whining, feel-sorry-for-myself pain in the neck, thinking only of me. The Bible does not say Jesus was ever sick, but it does say how He handled being crushed . . . “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.” (Isaiah 53:7) I’ve a long way to go when it comes to that kind of unselfish thinking and behavior.
Seeking knowledge? People are giving me accolades for working on a master’s degree. They would not do it if they realized how lazy I am and how hard I am pushing myself to get through it — one day’s reading, one day’s video lectures, one day’s assignments at a time. Yesterday was brutal. I had to drag myself to my desk. Seeking knowledge? Not my motivation, at least not yesterday. I just want to meet the deadlines for the week and not be marked down for being late . . . with no other excuse than I just didn’t feel like doing it. So much for intelligence and wisdom.
But Jesus is not like that. Even as a child, His family found Him in the temple asking questions. He, the Creator of the universe, laid all that information aside, even the omniscience of knowing the number of all the hairs on every head, that He might become one of us, learning like we do, learning by what He suffered (Hebrews 5:8).
Jesus isn’t interested in riches. He is wise, humble, thoughtful, persevering, and knows everything. Yet He didn’t capitalize on any of that. Instead, He made up His mind to give His life so us sinners could be rich, wise, humble thoughtful and persevering. This life seems far too short to learn all I need to know to be like Jesus, never mind put it into practice.