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January 23, 2014

Does Proverbs 16:5 reach to self-esteem?

NORMAN — ‘The Lord detests all the proud of heart. Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished.’ (Proverbs 16:5) Does this reach to self-confidence or even the warm feeling from having done a good deed?

Rabbi Dr. Mark H. Levin, Congregation Beth Torah, Kansas City, Mo.: What’s the problem with haughtiness? It leads to self-serving, prideful actions. It’s the outcome of deeds motivated by pride that God abhors, not the emotion itself. This chapter in Proverbs testifies that the world serves God’s purposes. A prideful person serves his/her own ambitions, and therefore will eventually transgress against God.

Nothing is terribly wrong with warm feelings of reward in having achieved God’s purposes, as long as we remember that we are God’s instruments and serve God with our actions. The problem occurs when we believe we have single-handedly achieved the results rather than in partnership with God.

God gives us the skills and intelligence we need to succeed, as well as the motives to achieve the highest for God’s purposes. Therefore we can never assume sole credit for accomplishments. All we have and do testifies to God’s help.

Do not fall into that terrible modern trap: believing that moral satisfaction from unselfish, kindly deeds is somehow equivalent to sensual satisfaction from self-serving deeds. Both are satisfying and necessary; they are not morally equivalent.

Mature, giving adults are rewarded by God with purpose and meaning in their lives for altruistic sacrifice. It does feel good, but it is not the same as having a great meal or going out for entertainment. Altruism serves God’s ultimate purpose of uniting humanity. The satisfaction is God’s reward.

The Rev. Betty Hanna-Witherspoon, Ebenezer A.M.E. Church, Kansas City: African Methodists believe all scripture must be read in context and each verse must be seen as the unfolding of the good news that is to come in Jesus Christ.

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