Updated: Feb 2, 2018
Let me share a story with you.
There was once a man named Jack who built a big, beautiful white house. He used the best materials, the best tools and gave careful attention to every part of the house. All who saw the house were amazed at its beauty. Each day from the moment he woke to the moment he laid himself to sleep he kept the house clean as could be. You see he lived in a place where it was often windy and rainy. It was a lot of hard, exhausting work to keep the house white as could be, but to him it was worth it to keep it up.
The first few months went by fairly easily. But months soon turned to years and years to decades, and the man began to feel the weight of keeping the house up more and more. He noticed that if he ever let his guard down people pointed out the flaws. However, when it was white as could be people praised the house. As time went on, he became more irritable and defensive to people’s comments. Those who appreciated the house were his friends, and those who said anything negative became enemies.
One day a man named John moved to the neighborhood, and built a house for himself. John’s house was bigger and whiter than Jack’s. People began to turn their praise to John’s house, and Jack began to feel left out and forgotten. Jack decided to take a risk and leave his house unattended to go see John’s house. As he moved through the crowd of people, he began to whisper to everyone all that was wrong with John’s house. As people’s eyes were opened to see the flaws they began to say bad things about John’s house.
While Jack was away, the four white columns in front of his house snapped and the whole front part of his house collapsed. When Jack returned to see the destruction he was mortified. He felt his life was over. Some people laughed. Some were in shock. Some questioned whether he laid a good foundation. Some questioned the quality of his materials. Others questioned Jack’s ability to build a house. Jack wanted to crawl into a hole a die. Everything he had worked so hard for was crashing down, and what made it even worse was that his house was crashing down, too.
I assume this is a pretty simple story to follow. Jack represents all of us. The white house he built represents anything we have devoted a lot of time and energy to build. That could be a career, a family, a name for our selves, a business, an organization, etc. Our “houses” that we have built are actually neutral and/or good things. They are things we need give proper attention to on a daily basis. As you saw with Jack, keeping these things up can be very exhausting. And most would consider the time and effort we have put into caring for these things as worth it. However, this is not the point of the story. You see Jack made it seem like the house was what he was really proud of, but the house simply stood as a monument to his greatness. That house showed the world how amazing he was. The real reason he built the house was for the praise he received from it. He was exhausted from cleaning it everyday to be sure, but he was more exhausted from keeping up his “awesome” image. A speck of dirt on the house was equivalent to a speck of dirt on his image. He sought the praise of men. Those who made negative comments (and may have even meant well) were eventually written off or dealt with very defensively.
Eventually the day came when the house began to crumble. In the story, it appears that Jack is distraught over his house coming down, but as the last line indicates he is really distraught that his image is coming down. His house coming down is just icing on the cake and reflective of what’s happening to his pride. Like the columns that crumbled under the weight of the house, so too Jack eventually crumbled under the heavy weight of keeping up his image or pride. It is exhausting work to present our selves daily to people as we really want to be seen and known. It is a heavy burden that every human carries, and it is a weight that eventually crushes us.
Are you tired? Are you tired of being tired? Do you find yourself more defensive of yourself than you’ve ever been? Do people’s comments affect how you live and think and feel each day? Do others that appear to have a better or more enjoyable or more satisfying life make you angry? Do they make you want to throw a pity party? Do they make you jealous? Do you find yourself working harder than ever to make yourself look good by bringing them down to others?
The heaviest burden we will ever carry as humans is our pride. Our image means everything to us. It is why we lie and cheat. It’s why we get envious and slanderous. It’s why we steal and murder and hate. The first of the ten commandments says, “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3). All of us have broken that commandment because we all have put our selves before God. We were created in God’s image, yet we have chosen to exalt our image. We want people to like what we like, think like we think, behave like we behave, etc. And it is absolutely EXHAUSTING! We are worn out from all the work, and yet we keep at it because we know if we let our guard down we will be found out for who we really are.
Good news!!! Listen to what Jesus says in Matthew 11:28-30:
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me,
for I am gentle and lowly in heart,
and you will find rest for your souls.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
Jesus invites all of us who are worn our from keeping our false images to come to him and find rest for our weary souls. He offers to lift that burden off our shoulders, and give us true rest. This is not often taught in the context of our pride, but check out what Jesus says. He says, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart…” The word gentle there can also be translated as meek. Meekness basically means great power under control. Jesus being lowly in heart shows humbleness. So when Jesus invites all who “labor and are heavy laden” to receive rest, He is referring to the labor and heaviness we feel from being the opposite of meek and lowly in heart. Meaning that our labor and heaviness is from carrying the burden of lording it over others and exalting ourselves. So Jesus says come and receive His rest. These things do not burden him. He is all-powerful. He is the only one worthy of being exalted. He is not swayed by human opinion. He does not fear attacks from peoples and nations. If your soul is need of this rest, then Jesus says “Come.” Come everyday to Him. Find rest in Him, and find rest in knowing that your value is not determined by people but by God Himself. He is not fooled. He knows exactly who you are and all that’s wrong with you. And yet He has given us his Son, Jesus, as a satisfactory payment for our rebellion and pride. If you are in Christ Jesus, then you are His. And as the song goes that we sing often at Redeemer, “I am all that He says I am.” Rest in Jesus, today!
(Note: much of what I wrote today was inspired by A.W. Tozer’s book “The Pursuit of God” which you can get for free here: Pursuit of God.)