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Welcome to Doctor's Life Support, daily Bible readings for busy doctors...

18th September 2014: Dragons (8) -- Hubris

'... I bid every one among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think. Romans 12:3

A dragon which likes to lurk beside the medical way goes by the name of Hubris. This is a Greek word signifying arrogant pride, something that even the Greeks took a dim view of -- in contrast to their attitude that pride was a virtue and humility was to be despised. Hubris (or hybris), it seems, was going too far. According to some versions of the myths surrounding the cult of Asklepios, the Greek god of healing, he started off as a physician in the Thessalian town of Tricca, who became so good at his job that he got tickets on himself and started raising the dead. This upset the gods, and Zeus with the aid of a well-aimed thunderbolt brought a sudden end to the young upstart's promising medical career. By way of compensation Zeus then placed him among the stars, and he came to be venerated as the god of healing. The Romans took him over under the name of Aesculapius.

This is just myth, of course. but like all myth it holds a kernel of truth -- a truth which Paul's words state plainly and simply. In particular, the offence of Asklepios warns us of the dragon Hubris setting up ambush along the medical way. It is tragically easy for the doctor's skill and power to go to his head. The old jibe about 'playing God' is often untrue and unfair, but it can be valid. It is worth thinking about -- honestly. No matter what the Greeks thought, for the Christian pride in any degree (and hubris is in high degree) is just not on. Pride has been described as the ultimate sin, which lies at the heart of all mankind's rebellion and disorder since our first parents wanted to be 'as gods'. It is not to be confused with a proper delight in doing one's work well. The Lord Jesus delighted in his work of doing the Father's will. But in medicine to cross over the line into self-congratulation is to court disaster. The Christian virtue is not the pride that the Greeks esteemed, but humility, that sublimely paradoxical attribute of God himself. So beware the lurking Hubris! And beware the well-aimed thunderbolt! There is no guaranteed compensatory place among the stars.

qLet holy charity mine outward vesture be,

and lowliness become mine inner clothing;

True lowliness of heart,

Which takes the humbler part,

And o'er its own shortcomings weeps with loathing.

Bianco da Siena

(Translated by R F Littledale)

Further reading: Rom 12. Phil 2:1-11.