Pride goes before destruction,
a haughty spirit before a fall.
(Proverbs 16:18, NIV)
Church ministers can make fools of themselves by pronouncing on subjects they know little about – complex economic matters being one. So I am slightly hesitant to comment on the Greek debt crisis, whose causes are certainly intricate and long-running.
But with the Bible in my hand it’s not difficult to see that a key problem in the present crisis has not been economic at all. It’s been human pride. This, above all, is what has made the negotiations incredibly difficult, and has pushed Greece towards national disaster.
Greece is in a hole that is too deep to climb out of by its own efforts. Through a combination of circumstances including poor government and sheer profligacy, it has acquired a debt it cannot repay.
In such circumstances, the sensible approach is to ask for help. But in so doing, one has to have the humility to admit failure and give assurances one will do things differently in future. Otherwise, the very people you are asking to help you have no certainty that the underlying problem has gone away (or that, if they are lending you money, they will get any of it back).
But the Greek government’s approach to its creditors has been to say boo. Although they are discovering, painfully, the bitter truth of the Proverbs’ observation that The borrower is servant to the lender (Prov 22:7), they have trumpeted their resentment at conditions imposed by their creditors, and even been downright rude.
The driver for this has not been rationality but pride. It is surely this attitude, more than anything, that has brought the negotiations to the edge of the cliff.
Not that the creditors are pride-free. Are they forgetting that some of them were beneficiaries, to a massive degree, of American aid in the post war Marshall Plan (as was the UK)? They would surely do well to reflect on this as they consider their own approach to the present situation.
This crisis has reminded us just what a powerful driver of human behaviour pride is. It is the great obstacle in the human heart to coming to know the rescue we all most deeply need: the forgiveness of our sins. For the good news of Christ is also profoundly humbling: it tells us we need a saviour. It takes a work of the Spirit of God to remove from us the pride which, if unchecked, can lead to disaster.