Presumptuous Sins (4)
PRESUMPTUOUSNESS is the father of stereotyping, of generalisation, of bias, and ultimately, of prejudice. All these are characteristics of ‘simplistic thinking’ – that ‘labour saving device’ that enables the intellectually lazy to avoid hard thinking, to jump to an a priori conclusion. Thus, Dr. Wayne W. Dyer (1992) in his book Your Erroneous Zones opined that prejudice (which means to pre-judge) is based less on hate or even dislike for certain people, ideas, or activities than on the fact that it is easier and safer to stay with the known. Any way considered, these are forms of ‘disordered thinking’, in the words of psychiatrist, spiritual counsellor, and author M. Scott Peck (1993). Prejudice, I dare to say, is the mother of intolerance, hatred, cruelty, and all that the Spirit of animosity brings forth.
In the face of temptation to pre-judge, to be presumptuous, to act in prejudice, how should the Christian respond? First, the self-remedy for presumptuousness is to constantly interrogate both the motive and the fairness of our thought, word, and action. And one simple technique is to subject it to what I shall term ‘the Golden Rule test’. In other words, would it be okay if one was the same way? Second, we must remain open to new information in order to know more, understand better, judge more wisely, and adjust our thinking to accommodate superior ideas. It is said that a people ‘are destroyed for lack of knowledge’ (Hos. 4:6). What knowledge? A broad interpretation of knowledge will include the wisdom to resist hasty judgment, and avoid a holier-than-thou arrogance that is a product of ‘closure’. From closure of the mind a man may indeed ‘perish’. On the other hand, the more we know, the broader our knowledge, the more understanding and wiser we become. And the wiser we become, the more humble and the more tolerant we become. These in turn keep us from ‘presumptuous sins’.
I offer three other recommendations against ‘presumptuous sins’. The first is the quotations on the first page of this paper. The second is from the Master himself, Jesus the Christ, who taught against the sin of presumptuousness to the Jews of his day thus: ‘There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the Kingdom of God, and yourselves thrust out. They will come from the east and the west, from the north and the south, and sit down in the kingdom of God. In truth, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last’ (Luke 13:28-30 – NKJV). Nevertheless, we, non-Jews that are derogatively called ‘gentiles’ had better be on guard against presumptuousness too. The Bible assures that the same measuring rod shall be applied to Jews and gentiles: ‘so it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come forth, separate the wicked form among the just, and cast them into the furnace of fire’ (Mat. 13:49-50). The third recommendation is that love is the antidote to presumptuous sins. This is most succinctly put by Jesus in the two commandments of love upon which ‘hang all the Law and the Prophets’ (Mat. 22:37-40). The apostle Paul expatiates on this in Romans13:10 and Gal. 6:22-23.
Presumptuous sins block the chance for collaborative efforts and the benefits that it can yield. Ethel Wilcox is quoted in Anthony P. Castle: 1983:292 to say that ‘God wants spiritual fruit, not religious nuts’. I agree fully. We shall be judged not so much by what group we belonged to, nor by how large was our banner of proclamation of faith, but by what each one did to serve man and thereby serve God. This is my understanding of Mat. 25:31-46. To achieve this, however, no one can go it alone; for no one is meant to do all things alone. Paul stated in Romans 12:3-6; 1 Cor. 12:4-30 that we are equipped with different capabilities but are given to one another. This is for the teamwork purpose, to achieve greater efficiency and effectiveness. In the words of English author, George Eliot, ‘what do we live for, if it is not to make life; less difficult for each other?’ This is a reason, or should I say the reason God did not creatAdam alone (Gen. 2:18).
In the realm of personal success whatever form it comes, I would also say that, no man should do well only for himself; it is contrary to God’s intention. He gives us each other neither with the higher purpose that no one, absolutely no one, is left alone nor behind. No one will be lonely or left behind if we eschew presumptuous sins. However, humans that we are and burdened as we are with flaws and foibles, who indeed can understand his errors or be blameless of presumptuous sins? In that case, we can only pray God to cleanse us from secret faults, that He keeps us away from presumptuous sins so that they not have dominion over us; that we may be blameless and be innocent of great transgression. Amen.
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