When I say “pride and prejudice,” what comes to mind? For lovers of British literature, Jane Austin’s classic novel of the same name is likely the immediate association. For readers of the daily news, headlines that have to do with racism, bigotry, misogyny, and extremism may flash before their eyes.
But let’s bring this closer to home – because we can all fall into the dual sins of pride and prejudice.
Consider Miriam and Aaron. Miriam was Moses’ sister, a prophetess and an influential woman in the recently-freed Hebrew nation. Aaron had been named the high priest of the Lord God who brought Israel out of Egypt.
We’re talking about two people who loved the Lord, served the Lord, and were honored by the Lord with spiritual gifts, key roles, and important responsibilities. Yet in Numbers 12:1-2, it says that Miriam and Aaron “spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married (for he had married a Cushite woman); and they said, ‘Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken through us as well?’”
I hear prejudice in these biting words. Evidently, they resented Moses’ wife. The fact that her nationality as a Cushite is mentioned prominently sounds, to me, like this was in part racially-driven. Mind you, it was not prohibited for Moses – or any Hebrew – to marry a Cushite, as long as the person was not of the stock of Canaan and was a sincere proselyte. Could we read this as “We’re Israelites and she’s not, so she’s a lesser kind of human being than us?” Yes, that is very possible. And very ugly.
I also hear pride. They were basically complaining, “Why is it always Moses this and Moses that? Why is he always in the limelight? God has spoken through us, too – why can’t we get a little of that fame and attention?” Despite all God had given to Miriam and Aaron, they wanted something more. That is a very common attitude. And very ugly.
God was angered by Miriam’s and Aaron’s words and the grudge they revealed. He gave them a majorly stern talking to and caused Miriam – who was apparently the instigator – to become leprous for a week as a punishment.
If Miriam and Aaron with all their faith and love for the Lord could yield to the temptation to give in to these sins, I know that the danger is real for me, too. I don’t want to give God a reason to be angry with me. I don’t want to hurt someone through a superior attitude. I don’t want to grasp for fame or worldly applause. I don’t want to diminish a brother or sister with hurtful words. So today, I will search my heart for the dual sins of pride and prejudice. I encourage you to join me.
“Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall. No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” (I Corinthians 10:11-13)