Let Go of Ego
Listen to God’s call from James 4:7-12 to “let go of ego,” to root out the sinful attitude of pride in your life, in your relationship with God for your relationships with others. September 30, 2018.
Growing up as a kid in the ‘80s, there was a commercial that would pop on during my cartoon viewing that was for a brand of frozen waffles called Eggo Waffles. They’re still around and you can find them in your local grocery store. Maybe some of you even enjoyed a nice breakfast of Eggo waffles this morning. Some of you might remember this too, the commercials for Eggo Waffles always revolved around their catchy slogan, “L’eggo my Eggo!” Here’s how it would go. One sibling would be toasting up an Eggo waffle and another sibling would try to take it for their own leaving the first sibling to yell out, “L’eggo my Eggo!” That’s my waffle, get your own!
This light-hearted slogan reminded me of the more serious issue that the Lord addresses in our lives today. Take away a “g” from “Eggo” and you get the point of today’s lesson from the New Testament book of James. L’eggo of ego. You see, our egos, our sense of worth and value, can often get in the way of, in fact, destroy, a real and life-saving relationship with the Lord and loving and important relationships with others. So today, listen to God’s call to let go of ego, to root out the sinful attitude of pride in your life, in your relationship with God for your relationships with others.
A prominent minister in the Church of England, John Stott, made this astute observation. “Pride is your greatest enemy, humility is your greatest friend.” That statement about summarizes the point of today’s lesson. But how do we get to that truth? Think about pride. In fact, make a list in your mind of sins, of weaknesses of your human nature. Maybe you’re thinking of sins like greed, anger, lust, drunkenness, hatred, cheating, and probably more. Does pride make that list? Where on the list do you put pride? I would suggest, like Stott, that pride is the worst. Pride is the root of so many other sins. Sinful pride causes you to think that you need, that you deserve more…greed; that you can treat people poorly because you’re better; that you’re right and everyone else is wrong…arrogance and anger.
Pride is what caused Satan to rebel against God and be cast out of heaven. The devil infected Adam and Eve with that same pride which played a part in moving them to disobey God by eating of the forbidden fruit. They could be like God exalting themselves to his level. Ego.
Do you know King Uzziah? He was one of the kings of Judah during the Old Testament times. You can read about him in 2 Chronicles 26. Uzziah became king when he was only 16 years old. The Bible says this about him, “He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father Amaziah had done. He sought God during the days of Zechariah, who instructed him in the fear of God. As long as he sought the Lord, God gave him success.”. Uzziah was faithful to the Lord and he was blessed. He was successful in war, building up a great army. He built a strong economy in Judah. He became famous and powerful. But. “But after Uzziah became powerful, his pride led to his downfall. He was unfaithful to the Lord his God.” Uzziah’s pride got in the way of his relationship with God. He thought he was above God and his will. Uzziah arrogantly entered into the temple and unlawfully burned incense and when he was called out by the priests, 80 of them, he condescendingly raged against them. And God struck Uzziah with leprosy. Uzziah let himself get in the way of God. Proverbs 16:18 states this truth, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” Isn’t that true?
What’s this look like in your relationship with the Lord? Do you ever have thoughts like I don’t like God’s ways, I’m going to live my own way? That’s arrogance. Do you ever feel like you’re a good enough person; you’re on a good, clean living streak and you don’t need God or to spend time with him in prayer or worship? That’s sinful pride. Do you reject God thinking that you make yourself and your life what it is and that anything after this life is all dependent on what you do, not God? God ought to smack you right up the side of the head and knock that prideful ego right out of you.
Let me back up a verse in James. “6 God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (NIV84). It continues; therefore. “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” Those verses contain ten imperatives, ten commandments you might say, ten things you should do, and each and every one of them are staunchly the opposite of a big ego. Submit to God, willingly placing yourself under him by acknowledging that he is God and you’re not. Resist the temptations of Satan as he tries to inflate your ego. Get rid of the conceited joy and laughing that you have in your arrogance. Instead be filled with grief, mourning, wailing, and gloom. God isn’t saying that you cannot have joy in life and that it should just be a miserable existence. But he’s painting the picture of real, heartfelt repentance. Recognize that your sin offends the Holy Lord and condemns you to a life of eternal death in hell. Adam and Eve pridefully refused to own their sin. They selfishly passed the blame to others. It’s humbling to admit you’re wrong, to acknowledge your sin. But that’s exactly what you need to do. Let go of your ego.
Now if this seems ridiculously hard to do, it is. You can’t, until you see the saving grace of God. When Adam and Eve let sinful pride destroy their perfect relationship with God, God did not abandon them, but gave his heart to them. He promised to humble himself by sending his Son to rescue them from their sin and to destroy the work of Satan. That promise of a Savior, fulfilled in Jesus Christ, is still the same solution to your problem of ego. Through the blood of Jesus you are washed clean, your heart is made pure. Because of Jesus, you can humbly submit to God’s will and come near to him in faith. For the sake of Jesus, the Lord exalts you, lifting you up with his forgiving grace, welcoming you back into his arms like a loving father welcoming back a long lost and rebellious child who thought they knew better. In Jesus, there is free and full forgiveness. That is humbling. Let go of ego.
Eggo Waffles in recent years resurrected the “L’eggo my Eggo!” slogan. But this past summer they actually tweaked it. Listen to this. “For 50 years, people have kept their precious Eggo® Waffles to themselves, and now it's time for a change. With a boost in flavor to the already fluffy waffle, these Eggo® Thick & Fluffy Waffles are too good not to share. Discovering Thick & Fluffy Waffles marks the perfect opportunity to "L'Eggo Your Eggo" and share with your loved ones, your neighbors, your classmates, the world.” So no longer is their slogan to keep the Eggo all to yourself, but share the delicious waffles with others.
They might be on to something! When you let go your ego, you can begin to share and show love to others. Godly humility is made evident in the way that you treat others. That’s where James naturally takes us as the reading continues. He could have picked any number of sins to address, but he focuses in on the way we speak to and about one another. Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law and judges it.
Think about how a big ego treats others and affects your relationships. Sinful pride says I’m better than you and I’m going to treat you like you’re lesser. Isn’t that the reason for so much quarreling in the family, the strife with your spouse? Isn’t pride perhaps the reason that you treat people who are different from you whether culturally or economically like they’re not as good as you. You judge others. You think that you’re morally better. You unjustly criticize people. You’re quick to speak and not to listen.
Listen to how Jesus encourages you to let go of ego in your relationship with others. “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Matthew 7:1-2). Jesus warns you to not let your sinful pride wrongfully judge others. He gives this picture. You see a speck of something in your friend’s eye that you just want to pick out and it’s super concerning to you, but meanwhile you have this big ol’ ten-foot 2x4 sticking out of your own eye. You get this! You sometimes get so caught up in judging others, that you don’t let go of your ego and humbly address your own life. And this destroys relationships. Get rid of the 2x4 in your life, get rid of your own sin. Humble yourself. Let go of ego.
When you humble yourself before the Lord, admitting your sin and basking in his forgiveness, there’s no room for pride or arrogance in your relationships with others. You need not judge, but leave the judging of hearts, lives, and attitudes to the Judge, the Lord Jesus.
A child had blown up one of those inflatable pool toys that are just huge. The problem – he blew it up inside the house and it was too big to fit through the doorway to get outside to the pool. And the child was upset and throwing a fit. The solution was to let some of the air out so that it could be taken outside.
That’s often your problem and mine. The head gets too big. It swells us up with self-righteous pride. We think that we are greater and better and more important than others and we act that way. But because of our egos we can’t enter into a right relationship with the Lord or others. Humble yourself. Let out the pride. Let go of ego. Find true joy, worth, and glory in Jesus, your Savior. Amen.
Preached at Grace Lutheran Church, Milwaukee, WI (www.gracedowntown.org) on September 30, 2018