I’m not perfect. Don’t we love to pithily drop that aphorism? What we really mean is, I’m pretty darn close. In this book, Farley calls us out. He even calls out those prideful people who struggle with low self esteem. He quotes Edward Welch, “Low self esteem usually means that I think too highly of myself. I’m too self-involved, I feel I deserve better than what I have” (47-48). Some of us are masters at hiding our pride—even from ourselves. We can even make it look meek.
Farley brings the shame back to pride. You might pick this book up like I did, wanting to be further inspired in your quest to be humble. And as you begin to read, Farley makes a great case for humility. We simply cannot live the Christian life without it. “Just as unbelief is the source of pride, faith is the beginning and source of humility” (28). “It is the necessary fertilizer that nourishes love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (31). But as much as we concur with these sentiments, our pride works overtime to sabotage God’s humbling of our hearts. Farley calls pride unreality on steroids.
As he broke down some of the symptoms of a prideful heart, like critical speech, spiritual elitism, grumbling, and avoiding confrontation, I started to see a picture of myself. I wasn’t so inspired. And that made me wonder why people talk about eating a piece of humble pie. Pie is yummy and delicious. I prefer to say that I had egg on my face. Farley continues to gracefully throw eggs at any reader who will listen.
Our generation has done well preaching the love of God. The problem Farley points out is that we’ve stopped preaching and talking about the wrath of God. He points out the necessity of explaining the bad news so that we can even see the good news. Without the bad news of God’s wrath over our sin, we keep feeding our fantasy life steroids. Sure, we recognize that we are not perfect. But in our imagination, we aren’t too shabby. We think we are pretty good. As my siblings and I say, we’ve got a case of the “pretty derns:” We think we’re pretty dern moral, pretty dern giving, pretty dern smart, pretty dern compassionate…And many churches encourage this message. We don’t see sermon titles on the church sign that read, “The Difficulty of Escaping the Damnation of Hell,” or, “God Makes Men Sensible of their Misery before He Reveals His Mercy and Love.” And yet, our country’s greatest revival came from sermons such as these. The sinner needs to be humbled by the law before they can see their need for grace. “Humility is a by-product of seeing God in his glory” (150).
One part of the book I particularly appreciated and learned from was the connection between our pride and the fear of man. Churches follow all kinds of wordly trends to feign attractiveness to the unbeliever. Pastors are tempted to cater their message for a larger appeal. Farley encourages us to be faithful to the message, not the crowd. This applies to our conversation life as well. We treasure the praise of our peers over sharing both the bad news and the good news. According to Farley, fear of man stems from unbelief and a failure of love. We overcome this by a proper fear of God, and love for God and man. Humility.
He closes with a chapter on the power of a humble believer. After serving up a convicting gut check on intellectual pride, spiritual pride, selfish ambition, and pride in your giftedness, Farley offers up the most powerful part of his book: hope for proud Christians. This is where he really brings our pride issues to the cross, to the One who was humbled in our place. He explains how Jesus atoned for our pride, that his life and death motivates us to pursue humility, how in love he helps us to grow in humility, and that this good news should completely astound us! That’s gospel-powered humility.