Friday, December 17, 2010

Day 4 of Contentment: Conceit- The Messiah Complex

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit…

One of my favorite stories is cited by John Ortberg in his book “The Life You’ve Always Wanted”.  In this book he exposes the story of three chronic psychiatric patients at a hospital in Ypsilanti, Michigan
Each one of these men had the steadfast belief that they were truly the reincarnation of Jesus Christ.  They all maintained the fact that this world revolved around them.  

Ortberg discusses the research and treatment that went into these men, with a so called “Messiah Complex” .  In an attempt to bring them back to reality, Dr. Rokeach confined them all within the limits of the same walls and watched them as they ate together, slept together, and communed together.  These findings were recorded in his book “The Three Christs of Ypsilanti”.

Crazy, isn’t it?  To think that humans could live with such a delusion.  To think that people could actually believe that the world revolves around them.  To think that there could be someone who actually carries selfishness and conceit everywhere they go.  To think that the bitter root of pride could find its way into their hearts and slowly begin to seep into their lives.  

Well…when you put it that way, it doesn’t sound so crazy after all, does it?  I think that’s one of the reasons I love this story, and the commentary by John Ortberg.  It is an incredible reminder that we are all victims at some level of The Messiah Complex.  

God knows this about His people…and this issue is addressed time and time again in Scriptures.  We are challenged as children of God to run from pride and conceit, to consider others better than ourselves, and to put others first in our lives.  Paul reiterates in Chapter 2 of Philippians by calling us to do NOTHING out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.  Nothing…

And this is why I believe that the fourth step to contentment is truly that: striving to live a life free of conceit.  A life where, as Ortberg puts it, we learn to be “appropriately small”:

“The bitter irony is, the very delusion they clung to so tenaciously is what cut them off from life.  To stop being the messiah sounded terrifying, but it would have been their salvation if they had only tried.  If Leon, Joseph, and Clyde could have stopped competing to see who gets to be the messiah, they could have become Leon, and Joseph, and Clyde…

Your world could grow infinitely bigger if you were only willing to become ‘appropriately small’”.  

The danger of pride is that it inhibits our ability to love, to serve, and to give.  It sets us up as “greater than” and eventually sets us apart from both God and man.  We find ourselves alone…isolated…and inaccessible to those around us.  And at the end of that lonely road we find that we are starved of contentment.  

"God's great, holy joke about the Messiah complex is this: Every human being who has ever lived has suffered from it- except one.  And He was the Messiah"

May God save us from the prison of conceit.  May He open our eyes to the pride in our hearts and teach us to live a life of humility.  May He show us Himself in such a powerful way that we cannot be confused as to who the true Messiah really is.  

Lord, save us from ourselves. 


  1. "The danger of pride is that it inhibits our ability to love, to serve, and to give."

    So true... Lord, save us from ourselves indeed.

  2. Thank you Alida...and thank you for reading...!!! May God truly save us from our pride.....


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