History is full of great quotes, with even greater stories to go along with them. One such quote I ran across this week was the story of Union General John Sedgwick. During the Battle of Spotsylvania (I know, that sounds made up, but it is a very real place). General Sedgwick was quoted as saying, “They couldn’t hit an elephant at this distance” in reference to confederate soldiers that were roughly 800 yards away.
This quote by itself is fairly lackluster, I understand that. However, what makes this noteworthy is the fact that it was almost immediately followed by General Sedgwick getting shot in the face by the aforementioned confederate soldiers.
Just as Sedgwick found out, arrogance can be dangerous. It is the fusion of pride and ignorance, and nothing good can come of it. Nations have fallen due to it, armies have been defeated because of it, and there are countless instances in the Bible that warn against it.
When King Nebuchadnezzer had his kingdom taken away from him, God sent Daniel to warn his successor of the impending loss: “When his heart was exalted and his spirit became arrogant, he was disposed from his royal throne, and his glory taken away from him” (Daniel 5:20).
If you look at all of these examples, one common factor that sticks out is getting too comfortable. We can easily get into the mindset that we have everything under control, when, in reality, we probably have nothing under control. It’s not so bad to have confidence in one’s ability. For instance, Lebron James can confidently say he is a better basketball player than 99.9% of the population of Earth (not a citable fact, just a solid guess). But if Lebron doesn’t realize that he’s only the second most important factor in that, none of it matters.
Sure, we can put in the work - and there is a strong biblical case that we ought to - but we have to come to a place where we realize that we are not number one. And no matter what we have, everything except our relationship with God can all be taken from us in an instant. To quote Heathcliff Huxstable, God “brought you into this world, and he can take you out.”
Sometimes it’s important to step back and remember that God deserves the glory and we deserve a pat on the back, not the other way around. And to think otherwise is, well… arrogance.