Best of Daily Reflections: How the Mighty Fall
Through your shrewd trading you multiplied your riches. But then you became proud of your riches.
About a decade ago, Jim Collins published one of the most influential business books in recent memory, Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap...and Others Don’t. Then, in 2009, Collins published a sequel of sorts, How the Mighty Fall: And Why Some Companies Never Give In. An interviewer once asked Collins to summarize the findings of this second book. Why did once-great companies fall? Collins answered, "What happened in all the great companies that fell is they made a shift from a humble drive to an arrogance, the belief they somehow magically deserved all that success—'We're just really better than everybody else, and we always will be.' "
These companies might have avoided such deadly hubris if they had only studied the history of ancient Tyre. The book of Ezekiel devotes three chapters to this city, once known for its maritime dominance and vast riches. Yet, the very success of Tyre led to its downfall. As the Lord said: "Through your shrewd trading you multiplied your riches. But then you became proud of your riches" (28:5). I love the way Eugene Peterson puts it in The Message: "You used your head well, worked good deals, made a lot of money. But the money has gone to your head, swelled your head—what a big head!" Indeed! Sound familiar?
The example of Tyre can serve as a valuable warning to those of us who are leaders of companies, churches, volunteer organizations, schools, cities, and families. Though we strive for our institutions to be successful, there is danger in accomplishing our goals, the danger of undue pride, even arrogance. We can begin to think of ourselves as better than we are, as privileged, as invulnerable. We can stop learning because we think we have all the answers. We can plug our ears to criticism. We can get so impressed with ourselves that we fail to come humbly before God, seeking his wisdom and glory.
What happened to Tyre, and what happened to the mighty companies described by Collins, can also happen in our personal lives. Yes, we can think of CEOs, politicians, and athletes whose arrogance has ruined their lives. But even if we're playing for smaller stakes, we too can walk the path of Tyre. We too can take such pride in our success that we set ourselves up for a fall.
The case of Tyre reminds us that all of our success comes ultimately from God, the giver of all good gifts. Though we might rightly enjoy his gifts, we must receive them humbly. Moreover, we must remember that we are stewards of these gifts, not owners. They are given to us, not only for our delight, but also so that we might use them well for God's purposes in the world.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: When are you tempted to think too highly of yourself and your accomplishments? What helps you to see yourself rightly, to be humble?
PRAYER: O Lord, the example of Tyre reminds me that I am not invulnerable to the snares of pride and arrogance. You know how easy it is for me to own my successes as if they are truly mine, and to think of myself too highly. Forgive me, Lord, for my "Tyre-like" attitudes. Help me to humble myself before you and to serve others in the mode of Jesus.
I pray for the organizations of which I am a member—my family, my workplace, my church, my community—that we will receive your good gifts with humility, not with pride. May we devote all that we are to your purposes and your glory, delighting to be your servants. Amen.