Character Wins. Always.
If you’re looking for insight on character, the book of Proverbs will not disappoint. Here’s what we find in Proverbs 11, verses 2, 3 and 6.
Pride leads to disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.
Honesty guides good people; dishonesty destroys treacherous people.
The godliness of good people rescues them; the ambition of treacherous people traps them.
It’s a perfectly succinct assessment of character, broken down in pairs.
Humility leads to spiritual wisdom.
Honesty leads to spiritual clarity.
Godliness leads to spiritual safety.
These aren’t easy attributes to land. They run counter to our culture, our nature, maybe even our biology. Yes, our default mode is:
A pride that results in disgrace,
A deceit that results in destruction,
An ambition that results in a trap.
I’ve followed arrogance down the road to embarrassment, tasted the fallout from lying to myself and God and have been ensnared and entrapped by self-serving aspirations. Self-promotion and self-protection played leading roles in those chapters of my life. If I drill down another layer, I find fear is the foundation of a character-deficient life.
We like to think if we don’t let others know of our implicit excellence, our achievements, our brilliance and our worth, we’ll get rolled over, left behind. But it’s not true. The scriptures say, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6). God sees the humble and gives them grace to thrive, whether anybody notices them or not.
Make no mistake, God doesn’t frown on pride. He actively opposes it.
And yes, historic Protestant American Christianity has a rich tradition of being proactive, self-sufficient and industrious. These aren’t bad. But when they are perpetually infused with selfish motives, they don’t produce character that mirrors the heart of Jesus.
Again, James writes, “For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind” (James 3:15-16).
Check this again: Jealousy isn’t immature, it’s evil.
Selfish ambition isn’t ill-mannered, it’s demonic. Full stop.
We don’t, and can’t, get to lives marked by humility, honesty and Christ-likeness by wishing it into existence or trying harder. But we create space for those attributes to grow when we till the soil of our hearts with confession, quiet, prayer and asking God to infuse us with a love we don’t have on our own.
Character isn’t as sexy as it used to be. Flash, skill, competence, productivity, efficiency and victory keep clamoring for the spotlight. But character wins in the end. People won’t remember you for your sales records, athletic accomplishments or net worth in your eulogy. They’ll celebrate your character.