Another hiding place for pride is gratitude. Yes, you heard me correctly. A year ago I came across the following quote from C.S. Lewis that I have not been able to shake:
Now what I want you to get clear is that pride is essentially competitive--is competitive by its very nature...Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. We say people are proud of being rich, or clever, or good- looking but they are not. They are proud of being richer, or cleverer, or better looking than others. This prideful gratitude is quite obvious in the prayer of the Pharisee that Jesus mockingly includes in one of his parables: "God, I thank you that I am not like other people--robbers, evildoers, adulterers--or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get" . This man is using a prayer to recite his assets in deliberate comparison to those he considers less.
Do we ever do this? Whenever we thank God for food because some people don't have food, we're getting dangerously close. When we express gratitude for a warm and cozy bed while calling to mind that others do not have this luxury, is it not pride? When we thank God that our church is in a good financial situation while other churches are closing down due to insolvency, is it not pride?
I remember years ago reading an editorial from an agency that shares information in the West about the persecuted church. The writer was bemoaning the fact that most people's first reaction to hearing his presentations about Christian persecution was to be grateful that they are not being persecuted! They were missing the point of compassion, action and prayer for the brothers and sisters who are suffering.
I'd be the first to admit that cultivating a life of gratitude is helped by perspective that people in other places or times in history have lived through horrific things. Yet, what we have is not because we are somehow better. Humble gratitude defies pride and seeks for ways to share one's bounty with others, not loudly or by seeking fanfare.
Prayers of thanksgiving should be a daily occurrence in the life of a believer, but these words should not involve comparison to what others have or don't have. Some words of thanks I'm starting with today:
- for a car to get to an appointment
- for the design of our bodies that allows us to walk, write, smile and speak and the opportunity to using our walking, writing, smiles and speech to pass on a blessing
- for the process of dry grains of rice turning into a tasty food with just water, salt, and about 20 minutes of heat
- for the example of Daniel in the Scriptures who testified: "This secret has not been revealed to me because I have more wisdom than anyone living but for our sakes who make known the interpretation to the king and that you may know the thoughts of your heart" .
Mindfulness of the needy will show up in another part of our prayer, or else it's incomplete:
- please enable those who don't have suitable transportation to get to places they need to go, and open my heart to being willing to help in practical ways
- please strengthen my mother-in-law for whom walking and writing are increasingly difficult
- please bless the rice farmers around the world with a good harvest and that they too may be nourished by the food they produce.
 C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (San Francisco: Harper, 2001), p. 122, as quoted in Timothy Keller's book Every Good Endeavor.
 Luke 18:11-12 (NIV)
 Daniel 2:30 (NIV)