Untying Sandals: A Question of Pride

Hello all! How are you all doing? I know that this time of the year tends to be a bit less crazy (at least for me), more normal routines, no major holidays and such. It’s been pretty quiet this past month, but quiet can be such a blessing. 

Lately, as part of my New Testament literature class, I’ve been getting into–well, the NT books. I was reading through the Gospel of John  and came upon a section of Scripture that really stood out to me. In fact, it’s caught my eye every time I’d read it.

Sandals

“He is the one who comes after me, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.” (John 1:27). 

Wow. When I reached this part of the text, it just stopped me. Maybe it doesn’t seem like a big deal, but hearing these words just called for a pause. Something about John’s acknowledgement 

That’s basically the equivalent of untying somones’ sneakers! Such a miniscule task, that would probably be considered something a servant might do. Yet, John confessed–no, declared that he was unqualified to do a task as insignificant as untying a sandal.

John the Baptist: poster child for Christ

If you recall, John the Baptist was no ordinary man (Luke 1:15). He was born of parents who were considered past the point of childbirth (Luke 1:5-7), the Holy Spirit came upon him before he was born (Luke 1:15), and he acted “in the spirit and power of Elijah” (Luke 1:17). Not to mention, he had quite an interesting diet (Matt. 3:4). 

John the Baptist was one special person. Not only was his birth significant,  but he accomplished some serious work for the Lord. Specifically, he prepared the people for the coming of the Messiah, calling them to repentance and baptizing them (Matt. 3:1-3). John was a faithful follower of God, effective, and by all accounts, a great man. Yet, even he proclaimed his inadequacies.

Not Even Close

As far as I know, none of us have had our births announced by an angel, been  filled with the Holy Spirit before birth, or acted “in the power and spirit of Elijah”.

Could we really compare ourselves to John the Baptist?

Now, I’m not trying to be a downer by comparing  (not that we should be comparing) ourselves to John the Baptist. But, if there was a poster child for “best servant of Christ”, he’d probably be it. So, if this “poster child” couldn’t even reach that certain level of worthiness to help Jesus with his sandals, what does that say?

Know or Acknowledge?

As Christians, we are taught to be humble, by Jeus as well as others (Mark 9:35, Eph. 4:2, Prov. 29:23). It’s something we should strive for and it can certainly be difficult to achieve (personally speaking). 

Being humble and having a healthy acknowledgement of where we are in respect to the greatness and supremacy of Jesus is not new. It’s something that Christians have known for a long time. But what I want to ask is not whether we know this, but if we acknowledge it–in our hearts.

I believe that we all know that we are unworthy of Jesus and do not deserve His grace, but have we really acknowledged inside of us? Deep down, could we truthfully say what John the Baptist said? 

Those sort of questions struck me when I came upon that verse, and what I sadly realized, was that I didn’t feel that way. In my own sin, I didn’t really acknowledge in my heart that I was unworthy, even to service Jesus in that matter. 

To deny John’s statement for ourselves is to be prideful and Scripture has some serious words about pride. 

“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you” (James 4:20).

“Before destruction a man’s heart is haughty, but humility comes before honor” (Proverbs 18:12). 

“Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the Lord; be assured, he will not go unpunished” (Proverbs 16:5). 

“Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18). 

As we can see, harboring this kind of pride is a dangerous place to be. However, there is not only danger in this, but sin. For by our denial, we refuse to acknowledge Jesus’ sovereignty and greatness. 

Conclusion

Knowing and acknowledging are not synonymous. We may understand how unworthy we are, but do we accept this with humility, or out of pride do we deny it?  

Denial is not only prideful, but an act of rebellion in our refusal to acknowledge the supremacy of Jesus Christ. True humility then, is more than a cursory “yea, I know I’m not great”, but a thoughtful and truthful acknowledgement of where we are  in the light of who Jesus is. 

Some Questions:

  • What do you believe? Do you think this is significant?
  • If so, why, or why not?
  • Could you sincerely say what John said? 
  • If this is an issue, what will you do about it?

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