Rev. William “Geoff” Smith Provides Us With Answers

Thomas Aquinas defines pride as an “inordinate desire for preeminence.” What this means is that an individual assesses themselves as beyond the need for improvement or desires to be more honored than appropriate for the good which they possess. Examples of this include a student wishing to be over-complimented for good grades, a teacher wishing to be honored as though he were a king or a despot, or somebody who thinks they have nothing to learn. The opposite of pride is humility, which is an appropriate level of self-esteem based on true knowledge of oneself and the world. Jesus makes clear that such humility is a pre-requisite for entry into his kingdom:

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:1-4)

What is curious about this passage is that children are known and were known for the propensity to ask lots of questions. For instance, Jesus, as a boy, was known for the quality of questions he asked the Pharisees. So when Jesus says to become like a child, he means, “You must start over as a new person to enter the kingdom of heaven, you must be born again and learn from me!” The disciple asked a question in the passage above, but not the sort asked by a child. Children ask to learn. The disciples asked to be affirmed. How do we know? Earlier in Matthew’s gospel, Jesus explains that whoever practices and teaches his commands will be great in the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:17-20). So the disciples want Jesus to keep score and prove which one is the best. Jesus re-frames the question entirely to indicate that they all must take a novice’s point of view to make spiritual progress. If we must humble ourselves, how do we do it? I have three tips from the Bible:
  1. First, remember that we are dust (Genesis 2:7). Anything could kill us. Any change in nature could affect us. Our hunger changes our attitude, our sleep changes our emotions, our exercises changes our thoughts, and our memories change our actions. We’re truly of the earth. To remember this helps us to see how much we need God.
  2. Second, we should remember that all our highest aspects come from God (also Genesis 2:7). Our consciousness, aspirations, capacity to choose right or wrong, and change our environment for better or worse come from God. To remember this shows us how much good, by God’s grace, and help the human being is capable of, while still reminding us of how much we need God’s help to not devolve into chaos and evil.
  3. Finally, we have the example of Christ, who humbled himself, taking the form of a man (Phil 2:5-11). Not only does Christ’s death atone for our sins, which we desperately need, but it also functions as the example of humility. Christ did not consider himself above service to others, even if they were sinful or undeserving.

The Seven Deadly Sins Series with Rev. William “Geoff” Smith

The Bible says that a man who controls his temper is better than a man who can overthrow a city. Jesus himself says that anger can start a process in which an individual and the communities of which he is a part can devolve into the fires of hell. Paul says that unchecked anger gives a foothold to Satan. If anger is so dangerous and so difficult to overcome, what can we do about this powerful passion that dwells within us?

The Bible and the Christian tradition through the ages offer several solutions. We’ll start with tradition and end with Scripture. Thomas Aquinas makes the point that

one must distinguish between just and unjust anger.

Just anger is anger which desires to correct sin (whether personal or in others). Unjust anger is anger which wishes to harm others or get even. Knowing these distinctions can be very helpful, as we can ask, if we’re angry, “Do I wish to harm another or to correct sin? If I wish to harm, I should shut my mouth and not act right now. If I wish to correct a sin, I should measure my words to do exactly that and nothing more.” Another strategy, which Jesus recommends, is to take extreme ownership over your community, team, or family and if you are about to worship then remember that if you have wronged another, go reconcile immediately.

In other words, the Christian is a part of a kingdom whose citizens all take 100% ownership of their actions and therefore try to right whatever wrongs they have done.

A final strategy is one offered by Paul the Apostle. In Philippians 4:8-9, he recommends thinking of the best in others so that we might experience the peace of God in the midst of interpersonal conflict.

Coming up this week at SoLaR Chapel…”Pride!”

New Life in Christ

The Bible is a Truth to be obeyed or given adherence to.  So, what happens when we don’t obey?  It usually doesn’t end well!  Obeying creates safety for us that God provides because of his great love for us.

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An Alternate Function for Technology

As “there are no small things”[1] we are told to “work heartily, as for the Lord” (Col. 3:23), something as simple as making your bed[2] can do wonders for your happiness and health, and carefulness is a virtue, according to Aristotle, then paying attention to details and concentrating on bettering seemingly unimportant small skills is important for the overall well-being, success, and fulfillment of a student.  Thus, the insistence when a teacher makes you put your heading in the correct corner with each piece of information, or makes you use graph paper for math, or makes you re-do an answer that she cannot read—are all examples of an effort to help a student realize the importance of being careful with details.

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The Games We Play

The sermon uses the metaphor of games for resource allocation and human cooperation to help understand the story of the creation of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in Genesis 2.  Students were challenged to ask themselves about the goals of the various games they play in life (family, school, religious, etc) and whether or not the strategies they employ will lead them to desirable outcomes.  The standard is God’s claim that the world is a better place with humanity than without it (Genesis 1:26-31). Are you handling your life in a way that allows you to assess it the way God originally assessed man’s presence in his creation?

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In Genesis, we see that man is made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). Part of what this means can be found in the way God creates. He first creates a formless mass of chaos (Genesis 1:2) and then progressively organizes the world after a fashion that makes it amenable to human beings and their experience of God’s presence. This is capitulated in the story of Eden (Genesis 2:7-15), where God creates a space for man to meet with God that is the ideal composition between chaos and order. If we see God’s creative work as a symbol of what it means to be a human being in God’s image, we can see that man is the being that negotiates between chaos and order on the earth. We do this by finding ways to cultivate nature in a way that brings something new out of it that was not there before without eliminating its potential entirely. A good example might be a garden in which there are no insects. Without bugs, the garden will produce no fruit. It is too orderly. But in a field without cultivation there may or may not be food fit for humans depending upon weather and animal activity. In connection with John 1:1-18 and Colossians 1:15-20, we can see that

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