This Letter is about Christian virtue, specifically, the virtue of humility. It seems the patient, the young man in the story, is in a dance with humility as he continues to get his spiritual legs under him.
There are a bunch of moving parts in this Letter. Let's see if we can pull it all together.
For the Christian to have a humble heart is pretty standard, Christianity 101 stuff. The Bible talks about our being humble a whole lot, so it must be a pretty big deal to God.
"Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child—this one is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven". Matthew 18:4 (HCSB)
"Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted". Matthew 23:12 (HCSB)
Arguably, I think most of us get that we're to be humble. Truly humble - honorable, compassionate, respectful, temperate, gracious. Nothin' wrong with any of that, right?
But, Screwtape is suggesting here that humility gets to be a problem (in a good way, for the demons) when we become proud of it. "Proud of our humility". Wait a minute. What?
Pride. It's clear from the scriptures that pride - self pride - is not Godly. It's destructive. It causes us to fall. It's a disgrace.
"Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall". Proverbs 16:18 (NIV)
"When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom". Proverbs 11:2 (NIV)
So, how could it happen? How could good humility go bad? Well, according to Screwtape, humility becomes pride when.....
Our focus leans inward and away from God
We become impressed with our ability to be humble
Let that sink in a minute.
Now, Part 2:
I'll kick it off with a question:
Since we're supposed to be humble and pride-less, then that means we are to think very little of ourselves, right?
Answer: Not exactly.
First of all, to think too little of ourselves would be an opinion. And frankly, we are not entitled to an opinion on our worth. Only God is qualified for that.
Secondly, a low self-worth can morph into self-contempt and, as Screwtape says, "self-contempt can be made the starting-point for contempt of other selves". Who knew that hating yourself hurts other people?
Bottom line: Because God loves us so incredibly, unbelievably much - even Screwtape acknowledges this - we are Significant. Prized. A hot property, A big deal. We should think highly of ourselves, because we are cherished by the Most High.
I'm not a bigger deal than you. You're not a bigger deal than me. Our MSRP's are exactly the same.
Pretty much everybody is familiar with the scripture:
“....Love your neighbor as yourself.[a] There is no other command greater than these.” Mark 12:31 (HCSB)
Absolutely. And, thanks to this new insight from Screwtape, I would also suggest we love ourselves (the same) as our neighbor.
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