Vices To Avoid, Virtues to Adopt

In Nehemiah 9, there are two words that I’m curious about. They’re marked by a transition in the storyline, “But they…”, which signifies a turn.

The writer had just recapped all the things the Lord their God had done for them. It should have translated into a life of gratitude and humility. Instead, Nehemiah says they “became arrogant and stiff-necked”.

There is pride that is about a worthy pleasure or satisfaction of a hard days efforts. But this sort of pride being described is about arrogance. And arrogance is about about an exaggeration of someone’s importance or abilities. It reminds me of certain presidents we’ve had in our history, business leaders that have come and gone, and certainly spiritual leaders who struggle with this vice.

Arrogance…an exaggerated posture of our abilities and worth.


The other phrase is being stiff-necked. A commentary says,

“The imagery is that of an animal that struggles against having a yoke placed on its neck.”

Breneman, M. (1993). Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther (electronic ed., Vol. 10, p. 239).

This image and phrase is about being stubborn. To be stubborn is to be so fixed on one’s position, even in the face of truth or good reasoning.

Arrogance and stubbornness.
Exaggerated views of self and an inability to be be open to sound reason.

A posture of gratitude and humility however, acknowledges that we have reasoned enough to know that we are limited in our knowledge, don’t know everything, so we’re grateful to receive from others, especially from God.

To live by virtues of gratitude and humility is to own our deficiencies and our limited resources and reasoning. That’s why we can follow leaders who are transparent, vulnerability, and who own their limited resources and reasoning.

In the context of a God-humanity relationship though, the stakes seem higher. The Nehemiah 9 passage is labeled as a confession of sins storyline. It acknowledges that there is a God who has chosen a people, is from everlasting to everlasting, glorious, exalted above all, gives life to everything, and is faithful. This God also hears our cries and sees our suffering, and then delivers and makes it right.

The writer does another “But” to transition yet again. This time, the transition signals a turn to acknowledge who God is:

  • forgiving
  • gracious
  • compassionate
  • slow to anger
  • abounding in love
  • does not abandon us in (even when we abandon God)
  • Gives His good Spirit to instruct
  • Sustains them in the wilderness

Sounds like the kind of life I’m looking for. For my marriage, parenting, work, friends, and inner life. These are great virtues to live by which are shaped and formed in the context of a covenantal relationship and Lordship to Christ Jesus our Lord.

I keep turning to God because I met by his loving kindness, compassion, and sustaining power! God keeps abounding in love for me and the world! That’s enough for me to keep devoting my life to Jesus.

How to Form a Habit, A Scientific Approach

We become our habits, for better or worse.  Here’s a way to engage in habit formation, a virtue ethics of sorts.  [Christian Spirituality has much to offer to the formation of habits as well.  You can read any of Richard Foster or Dallas Willard’s works for more info.]

Source:  http://blog.sqwiggle.com/form-habit-scientific-approach/

A great daily routine is the holy grail of productivity. But the building blocks for that routine, habits, are tough to start, and even harder to change. Whether you want to meditate more, drink more water, or floss more than twice a month, these psychology-backed strategies can help you develop a new habit and keep it from fading.

Don’t Blame Others

This is a great passage of what salvation and life in the Kingdom of God looks like.  It’s a picture of someone trying to manage their life.  How to get along with God, self, and others.

These are good words to share with my son’s.  This is my prayer for them today; that they’d grow into these virtues by our example and God’s gracious gifts.

“Don’t blame others” – This is the one that stands out to me.  Relationships go bad really quick when we blame.  The root word for blame is blaspheme, which means to speak irreverently about God or others.  When we are wronged (real or perceived), to blame is to speak irreverently to the other; we show a lack of respect for who they are and thus devalue the other (and ourselves in the process).  Imagine that!  We devalue ourselves when we blame others.

From Psalm 15


 

1 God, who gets invited
    to dinner at your place?
How do we get on your guest list?

“Walk straight,
    act right,
        tell the truth.

3-4 “Don’t hurt your friend,
    don’t blame your neighbor;
        despise the despicable.

“Keep your word even when it costs you,
    make an honest living,
        never take a bribe.

“You’ll never get
blacklisted
if you live like this.”