Homily: The Danger of Hubris

I was looking over the readings last Monday and I saw of course the list of vices we see in today’s gospel. If you look carefully most of this should not surprise you. If I were to ask you to give me a list of vices maybe not all of these would appear but most of these would and I think the same can be said if I went to Harvard Square and asked a group of random people to give me a list of vices.

Just look at the list: evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, 22 adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance who would not put these on a list of vices? However, there is one other there the minute I saw it, I said that this word needs to be further understood. The last word in this list of vices is folly which means a foolish error. In other versions it is foolishness. Is foolishness really a sin? If so how do we define it? To some, if I tell a joke at any time that is being foolish, to others if I do something leisurely that is foolish. I enjoy pinball machines. Obviously, I cannot play them much today, but am I being foolish when I play a pinball machine?

Hear this homily as it was preached

The answer is no. This is not what the word means.

The Bible describes the fool as one who says there is no God. Someone who says there is no God will act in a way that is also condemned by the Old Testament prophets—he or she will act wise in their own estimation.

This is a source of great evil in the Old Testament.

The reason why it is problematic is the person who acts wise in their own estimation, who says there is no God and acts thusly is the person who falls prey to the first temptation they take upon the role of the god. They will tell themselves we are wise enough in our own way to decide on our own what is right and what is wrong—what is good and what is evil. We are just like gods and as gods, we understand the truth in its fullness. We are wise in our own estimation to make the right decisions all the time.

So why would that attitude be listed as a vice? It is because the attitude is a cause of great evil. It causes great destruction.

The greatest sin is pride and pride is based on the idea that I am smart enough so I do not have to listen to you or anyone else.

Humility is based on the idea that I may even be smart but I am wise to listen to others too. In the words of Socrates, the wise person knows that he does not know. He or she is humble enough to know how to learn greater things.

Why is it considered a vice? When people act with this pride it becomes hubris and hubris destroys everything.

For example: Have you see Afghanistan lately?

If you look carefully at this scenario you will see the problem is a form of hubris that actually goes back many years.

We as Americans consider ourselves the world’s police force. Why? I do not know. What has happened in Afghanistan begins when the US starts what is called nation-building. It is an attitude that if people are trained to think the way we think they will learn to see what we do and they will take the proper steps to embrace and promote our values. Our values are based on hard work brings forth financial benefits. Are those in Afghanistan of the same mindset? No, they are not looking for a financial reward but a spiritual one. That is beyond the understanding of many leaders in the United States.

First off we are a secular society at least at a governmental level. Afghanistan may be many things, but it is not a secular society and if people do not understand this then the values will clash. If your values clash you cannot get people to defend your mission and your mission will collapse.

You and I understand the good will on the part of the Americans and the response to the threat by Al Qaeda but many in Afghanistan never did. If they could not understand it they could not defend it and so the mission collapsed once we turned it over to the people we counted on to defend it. Today’s situation is caused by a blindness to hubris.

The US Embassy in Kabul maintained a face of promoting secular values and to some in that country such values posed a threat to their way of life, the people could not defend them with their lives and the collapse happened.

What makes it worse is this collapse has destroyed our standing with even some of our allies.

The Mainland Chinese warned Taiwan to watch Afghanistan to see their future if they maintain ties with the United States.

An Australian pundit on SkyNews Australia mocked the medals of one of our generals as being similar to participation trophies.

The list goes on, why did this happen? It happened because for many years many in this country embraced folly in hubris and became wise in their own estimation. You can see such an attitude causes great evil.

Presently, because Isis and the Taliban are enemies the United States is working against Isis but with the Taliban according to RT.

I have preached over the past a while now is not the time for us to pick sides. We are not here to choose which party we will support or which side we will embrace or even which side is at fault. Now is the time to choose holiness for in doing so we will be the light that shines to others to see their way out of this disaster caused by hubris and find peace in the humility of seeking wisdom from Christ, not from ourselves. It is what our country needs most.

The list of vices makes a fascinating statement, it reminds us that those vices are bad: unchastity, theft, murder, 22 adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance but just as bad is the vice of folly, foolishness which is also known as hubris.

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