Confidence or Arrogance

The field commander said to them, “Tell Hezekiah:
“‘This is what the great king, the king of Assyria, says: On what are you basing this confidence of yours? You say you have the counsel and the might for war—but you speak only empty words. On whom are you depending, that you rebel against me?

  • 2 Kings 18:19-20

When all our enemies heard about this, all the surrounding nations were afraid and lost their self-confidence, because they realized that this work had been done with the help of our God.

  • Nehemiah 6:16

“Arise and attack a nation at ease,
    which lives in confidence,”
declares the Lord,
“a nation that has neither gates nor bars;
    its people live far from danger.

  • Jeremiah 49:31

Such confidence we have through Christ before God. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God.

  • 2 Corinthians 3:4-5

As I wrote recently, we can be proud of getting that potty training thing down when we are a toddler, but when does confidence become arrogance?  The simple answer is from 2 Corinthians 3:5 when we realize that any confidence that we have in ourselves is only confidence of Christ within us.  We find it easy to consider that when we are trying to break a bad habit, or we make a blunder that shows our sinful nature.  But we need to realize that our strength is God within us when we just completed a major project on time and under budget.  Or whatever good thing that we feel proud of.  Arrogance emerges when we forget the source of our strength.

But what made me think of this subject?  I went to see the surgeon recently about my left hand, wrist, arm.  From the x-rays a year ago, he said that my ulna and radius were rubbing against each other.  He gave my meniscus a shot of cortisone.  I asked about my tennis elbow tendon (extensor carpi radialis brevis).  He refused to consider it, even though I had some tennis elbow pain and pain in the shoulder.  In this year’s visit, he took new x-rays.  Now he is 100% convinced that I have carpal tunnel, although I had no carpal tunnel symptoms a year ago.  He was not one with which you could argue.  He knew what he was doing.

But all of that discussion about placing a plate between the two arm bones so that they do not rub is now mysteriously gone.  Yes, God could have performed a miracle, but does the dear doctor get tunnel vision instead of looking at everything?

Doctors, especially surgeons, have to be right the first time.  The patient’s life, in many cases is in their hands.  My wife worked surgery.  She worked with many surgeons who threw temper tantrums in the operating theater.  On one case, my wife had to clear her throat and remind the doctor that the patient was under a local (local anesthetic, so he was awake and heard every word).  The mood then quickly shifted to something professional.  And that was what my wife complained about the most.  These tyrants could behave.  They knew how, but their self-confidence had shifted far beyond arrogance, often into thinking they were a god.

In one case, my wife turned in her two-week notice.  I had gotten a job in Washington state, and we would be leaving the area where we had lived for four years.  One of the surgeons approached her, knowing that she was a Christian.  He told her that he had been elected as an elder in a local church.  He wondered what changes he might have to make.  Since she had already issued her two-week notice, she was bold.  She said that in the church, in his home, and at work, he had to be the same.  If his work attitude was the same at church and at home, he was not fit to be an elder in a church.  He must act like a Christian.  Treat others with dignity instead of treating them like dirt.  When something goes wrong, probably because he screwed up, he should not start cussing, using God’s name in vain and throwing scalpels at the far wall in a toddler’s tantrum.  If he was elder material, he should have never had those tantrums.

The other nurses expected him to fire her on the spot, but he had asked her opinion and he knew she gave an honest, unvarnished answer.  He hung his head and walked away.  We were gone before he was to be ordained and installed, so we have no idea what the doctor decided to do.

The sad truth is that she worked with many such doctors.  At what point does confidence morph into arrogance and whatever is beyond that?

And I have been a member of many churches that elected elders and deacons based on the amount of money in their bank account, whether they were outgoing and knowing how to work a room, or had letters, like PhD or MD, after their name. It never worked out well, but that guy in the corner of the fellowship hall who reads his Bible, prays, and ignores the people bragging about how wonderful they are … That guy may be totally ignored, but he, or she in some denominations, is probably better qualified. They may not take the job of a leader, thinking themselves unworthy, but they may just be the right mindset for church leadership – someone who turns to God with every decision that has to be made. Is that person confident that God can give them the strength necessary?

But when it comes to confidence, the references in the NIV, 37 of them, refer to confidence in someone else’s abilities and often in God Himself, for the most part.  But the one that ties everything together is the 2 Corinthians 3 quote above.  We can have confidence in ourselves, but only in Jesus who is within us.

For without Jesus, we have no reason to boast.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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