A Sweet Ouch
From A Guide to Christian Living (pages pp.28-31), a devotional extracted from the third book of John Calvin’s Institutes of Christian Religion:
When Scripture commands us in our dealings with men to prefer them in honor to ourselves, and to strive loyally to advance their welfare (Rom. 12:; Phil 2:3), it lays down requirements which no human heart can possibly fulfill, unless first freed from its natural inclination. For we are so blinded and engrossed by self-love that we all believe we are entitled to rise higher than everyone else and to despise them in comparison. If we receive some valuable gift from God we immediately use it as an excuse to exult. Not only do we swell with pride, we almost burst with it! We make sure we hide from others the vices that beset us, and we pass them off as minor and trifling. Sometimes, indeed, we admire them as virtues! As for our own gifts, we hold them in such high regard that they are a source of wonder to us. If, however, the same, or even better, gifts are found in other people, so that they put us in the shade, we either ignore or else belittle them as much as we can. On the other hand, if our neighbors have a fault or two, we are not content merely to judge them severely, we odiously exaggerate them.
…There is no one who in his heart of hearts does not imagine he deserves to outrank everyone else. Thus each person, in his own way, fondly nurses an entire kingdom in his heart!
…This is bound to be the case until the mortal plague of self-love and self-promotion is plucked out from deep within the heart. Now that is precisely what Scripture does. If we heed its teaching, we are reminded that none of the favors which God bestows is our personal possession; all are his free and generous gift.Anyone who makes them an occasion for pride is thus patently ungrateful.