Hubris is never a good thing. Defined as exaggerated pride or self-confidence, it shuts a human being off from God as well as other people. Hubris is like sailing around the world in a $600 million yacht, not caring one whit that people are dying in Ukraine from war. Hubris is failure to feel any compassion about the sickness and starvation in the world or any compulsion to contribute to solving the problem.
In Lent we travel to the wilderness with Jesus where there is no hubris, except in the demeanor of the Tempter. The wilderness, if experienced, strips away every cause of human pride. There are no yachts in the wilderness. No mansions. No sumptuous foods. No way for human accomplishment. Wild beasts are the only companion.
In the wilderness we are helpless and hungry. In our loneliness, there is no one to impress. In our poverty, there is no admiration. Only Jesus would say this is a good thing. Coming out of the wilderness, Jesus preached his defining sermon in which he said, “O the blessedness of those who mourn because of their poverty of character, who give up human power, who hunger for the real food, and who learn mercy.” Matthew 5:3-10.
There are a couple of people in the Bible who experienced, in real time, the consequences of hubris. One was Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar, who stood on his rooftop and said, “Look what I’ve accomplished.” To which God replied, “You’re going to eat grass like an ox until you learn that God alone is sovereign, not you.” Daniel 4:32.
Interesting that Nebuchadnezzar was driven to the wilderness to learn humility while grazing in a pasture.
The other person was King Herod in Acts 12 who made the hubristic mistake of acknowledging and approving the praise of people that his was the “voice of a god.” Luke says that an angel of the Lord immediately struck him, and he died.” Acts 12:20-23.
Hubris is hard to identify in oneself. Our minds market it as deserved, earned, logical, and natural. It gets expressed as sarcasm, greed, angry hostility, and self-righteousness. Often, others are a better judge of our hubris because of their clearer viewpoint.
Father, you have called us to be hungry and merciful, however these are hard for us to understand when our lives are privileged. Privilege often dulls our senses and makes our heart insensitive. So we ask that you help us, in the wilderness, to see our true selves and to not glory in our achievements. In Jesus’ name. Amen.