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  • Writer's pictureMike Creavey

"Know Thyself"...

Jesus tells Satan in rebuke: "It is written,'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God'" (Matthew 4:4). He says this in full knowledge that he himself is God's Word, the heavenly Bread come down to earth. It is precisely this self-knowledge, knowledge that can only come from knowing the Father perfectly, that enables Jesus to do the Father's works.

Socrates taught the vital importance of self-knowledge as an indispensable foundation of a fully human life. For him, it involved a sincere renunciation of pride and arrogance, and the admission of human weakness. Legitimate self-knowledge was, for Socrates, always rooted in recognition that as finite beings we are part of something greater - something entirely other than ourselves, beyond our reach, from which we originate and to which we are subject.

The Christian virtue that blooms from this recognition and affirmation of the truth in all things, especially our limits, is humility. Perhaps the best teaching on the merits of humility is given by Jesus in the Gospel of Luke: "For every one who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted" (Luke 14:11).

Jesus' own humility was best evidenced by his unyielding devotion to the Father. As Saint John writes in his gospel (17:7-8), Jesus prays to his Father:

Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you; for I have given them the words which you gave me, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me.

The Lord claims no credit for himself, for his love for the Father from whom he comes shatters the devilish temptation of pride.

Pride floods the human mind and heart with darkness because it originates in a lie. That lie fundamentally says that a creature can generate its own light, and Our Lord thus warns us: "If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness indeed!" (Matthew 6:23). This darkness obscures our whole world, and before too long we begin to worship something other than God. This idol, be it success or pleasure or self, becomes the center of all reality for us. It declares itself ultimate, the king, the focal point toward which all other considerations become relative. One day we realize that this thing in which we have invested the greatest attention and devotion has not set us free at all. It has become a prison, for as George MacDonald so aptly recognized, "a man is in bondage to what ever he cannot part with that is less than himself."

This over-trodden path has seen countless sojourners walk upon it, insatiably determined to unseat the Lord from his rightful throne in their hearts. They say, "I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high... I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will make myself like the Most High" (see Isaiah 14:13-14). But to them God replies across the ages, "you are brought down to Sheol, to the depths of the Pit" (ibid. 14:15). These fail or even refuse to see the truth that both Jesus and Socrates saw so clearly.

To know oneself in the light of TRUTH is to honor God. It is God alone in whom all truth originates and with whom it resides forever, for He himself is Truth. Woe to the one who dares attempt to take truth's throne for himself! Judgment does not after all fall to mankind, but to the Judge of Judges, the King of Kings, the true Light of the World who is the only one who can show us who we really are and who we're meant to be.

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