No one is more arrogant than Denee McClain when she is sitting behind her computer screen, mid-frustrated rant on whatever opinion is on her news feed today.
I mean, you should see me. Loud. Overconfident. Hilarious, at least to me. It’s so easy to be sure I know everything when no one is challenging me in person.
It’s so easy to be arrogant when the only voice speaking is my own.
Which is almost exactly where Gideon finds himself in Judges chapter 8. Funnily enough, it’s also almost exactly the opposite of the place God was urging him toward in Judges chapter 7.
What went wrong?
The swing of the pendulum
Then God stepped in and changed his life.
God strengthened Gideon’s faith. He became trusting, brave, strong and determined. Led by God, he and his army of 300 men defeated an army of 32,000.
Maybe it was on that battlefield, surveying the damage to the enemy and the spoils of war where something else began growing in Gideon’s heart. Pride. Self-assurance. Arrogance.
We know because suddenly it shows itself as Gideon is chasing down his prisoners of war: Zebah and Zalmunna, the kings of Midian.
As Gideon pursues them, he comes across familiar cities and towns – potential allies. Relieved to see them, first the town of Sukkoth, then the town of Peniel, he asks eagerly for some bread and water to keep his soldiers going until the last Midianite is killed.
But to his astonishment, they refuse. They look down their noses at him and his 300 men. They aren’t giving him anything until they’re sure he can actually deliver on his promise to kill the Midianites.
What would you do if you were Gideon? I would probably be really mad. I might ask a few times, get into an argument. Finally I would give up, toss a few angry words over my shoulder as I headed out.
Gideon did that and more: he promised to kill the ones who refused to help him.
“Just for that, when the Lord has given Zebah and Zalmunna into my hand, I will tear your flesh with desert thorns and briers.”Gideon, verse 7
Dang! I mean, I get it, but also not really! It sounds like an extreme reaction. It definitely doesn’t sound like the reaction of a man who just witnessed God working an insane miracle in his army.
But that’s how quickly and quietly pride can take root.
Gideon has become arrogant. His answer shows that he expected others to immediately bow to his plans. If they didn’t do what he thought they should, he decided they were so wicked, so off course, that they deserved to lose their lives.
It’s a lot like today’s arrogant Christians, judging others left and right for their life choices.
It’s a lot like the arrogant proclamations that so-and-so is going to hell because they wore jewelry or a miniskirt or because they’re LGBTQ+ or conservative or traditional.
It’s a lot like the arrogant assumptions that because I am a member of a church, I’m saved and on my way to heaven, no matter how little time I spend with God and no matter how many casual sins I happily indulge in.
Bottom line, we could all end up like Gideon one day. Some of us are already there.
So what’s the cure?
It’s above me now
Gideon almost had it.
He returns home victorious. Zebah and Zalmunna are dead, and so are several men from the towns of Sukkoth and Peniel.
Gideon’s countrymen are in awe. They beg him to rule over them. Gideon already has a reply ready.
“I will not rule over you, nor will my son rule over you. The Lord will rule over you.”Gideon, verse 23
And that is exactly what arrogant Christianity refuses to understand.
We can’t attack or judge other people for their beliefs or choices because we don’t rule over them, God does.
We can’t do or say whatever we want and assume we’re still faithful Christians because we don’t rule over ourselves, God rules over us.
It’s easy to be arrogant when we think we are in control.
It’s impossible to be arrogant when we finally acknowledge that Someone much wiser, more loving, more powerful and more capable than us has been in control all along.
So when we’re tempted to judge someone else or attack someone else or disobey or take control, let’s remind ourselves that God rules over all of us.
“I will pour out so many blessings that you won’t have room enough to receive them, when you allow Me to rule over you.”
The irony of Gideon’s whole trajectory is stunning. As soon as he tells Israel that God is their ultimate ruler, he turns around and creates what becomes an idol for the Israelites. A new ruler.
But despite their missteps, God still blesses the Israelites with forty years of peace and freedom from their enemies. Imagine what it would have been like had they not strayed away from Him?
God is the perfect Ruler.
He wants to do amazing things for us. He wants to make us happy. He wants to change our lives. And He is fully capable of doing all of that and more. We just won’t see it until we finally stop snatching control away from Him and trust Him. Until we trust Him to love us and to do what’s best for us.
This surrender doesn’t guarantee a perfect life. Sin still affects every single person on this planet, directly and indirectly.
But when we choose to walk through this messy life and broken world with one true Ruler, we will find joy. We will learn and grow. We will form the closest bond it is possible to have – the one between Creator and the created, between a Father and His children, between God and you, between God and me.
And that life is so much better than anything we could come up with on our own.
What do you think? Have you ever interacted with an arrogant Christian, or been one?