“…God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.” (James 4:6)
Often, in the church and generally in life, we see the following: someone is putting all his efforts, one might say trying to jump out of his skin, in order to do good, to serve God and neighbour, but his efforts produce only temptations, confusion, and offences. I’m certain that I also in the past and in the present was and am, at times, a temptation for my neighbour.
The reason for this is in the passions within us, in pride, self-opinion, self-love, self-will, love of glory, vainglory, and others. The main reason for stumbling in all our good beginnings is our pride. It distances us from God, Whom we aspire to serve and deprives us of His grace. Without God’s grace our work, if it doesn’t become sin, loses it’s benefit and becomes a cause of temptations.
How often do we see people serving, singing, teaching, organizing, doing, and yet all of it takes place with a certain indescribable additive that evokes repulsion and disgust of those around? All of this is the action of pride, or another passion, covered by good intentions, yet clearly stripping the good work of God’s blessing and His grace.
Having poured out the grace of the Holy Spirit on the Holy Apostles, the Lord called all into unity. The grace of the Holy Spirit always unites the faithful and even those, who were never acquainted before, often accept each other as old friends when they are united by the grace of God.
That is why humility is always the foundation of success in all our works.
Something from the life of St. Symeon the Stylite could serve as a good example here. When he began his struggle, the desert fathers, who didn’t see such an ascesis before, gathered and discussed whether it was from God, or not. Then, they sent to St. Symeon brothers, who told him that the fathers do not bless him to live upon the pillar. As soon as he heard that, immediately, he began to climb down, but they stopped him saying that now they see – in his readiness to be obedient – that his way of struggle is from God. Thus, by his humility he acquired God’s grace and blessing for his struggle.
There is another very instructive story about the bad influence of passions on our works:
A disciple of some elder brought a basket of vegetables and said it was an offering of some man. The elder told his disciple that he will not eat of those vegetables because of the stench of stinginess coming from them. The disciple was surprised and told the elder that he himself didn’t smell anything. Then, the elder told him to take the vegetables to the cows, which will also refuse to eat them. The disciple obeyed and was very much surprised when the cows only mooed and turned their heads away from the basket with vegetables.
Alas, our passions – and our pride first and foremost – also invisibly defile our good works and make them a source of temptation and confusion for others. That is why let us strive with our whole heart, with our whole mind, and with all our strength, to found all our deeds in humility. Then, the grace of God will always abide with us and our neighbours will not be tempted. Then, God Himself will be our Helper and His angels will always help us as well.