Whoever is proud is on a “collision course” with God. Both James and Peter quote from Proverbs 3:34 and record that ‘God opposes the proud but shows favour to the humble’ (James 4:6b and 1 Pet. 5:5b). God is not just indifferent to the proud, He actually actively opposes them. This should cause us to have some sober reflection as regards to how heinous pride is. Having grasped this essential concern about pride, we then need to establish what exactly pride is.
Pride is considering ourselves to be better than others. This attitude is seen in its most grotesque form when we consider ourselves to be better than God. The way pride shows itself can be varied, but at its heart is an inflated estimation of one’s self. Generally, pride is displayed when we have a wrong attitude as regards our knowledge or abilities. So someone can have ability in cookery and thereby produce beautiful meals. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. However, things do go wrong when that person considers themselves to be of a higher order to all others because of their abilities and as a result scoffs at the limited culinary abilities of others.
When the matter of pride is raised, Christians very often fool themselves into believing that pride is only displayed by non-Christians. Alas, this is not so. Christians can so very easily be guilty of pride. Let us look at three areas where pride so easily emerges in a church.
Gifting: When we are able to do something our default position is to think: ‘I must be so clever to be able to do this’. This can be in the realm of both the practical and the spiritual. So whether it be erecting shelves, preaching in church or seeing someone come to Christ through our witness, we can start to think that ‘I must be ever so smart to be able to do these things’. Of course, we would not blurt it out like that, but in secret, that is what we think. This is pride and God hates it. In this context, we need to heed Paul’s observation to the Corinthians: For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not? (1 Cor. 4:7). Anything we are able to do is only through God giving us the ability to do it.
Knowledge: To study scripture is absolutely vital for Christians. And every Christian should be studying so as to be growing in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. However, as we grow in knowledge (and every Christian should be growing in knowledge) there is the danger that we can become proud. One way that this develops is when we believe the right doctrine, but have the wrong attitude in holding that doctrine. In 1 Corinthians 8, we see something of this. Some had the right understanding of the issue of eating food offered to idols. There was nothing wrong with this. In fact this was the “strong” position to take. However, they did not treat those who saw the matter differently with due respect. Paul goes so far as to say that such weaker brothers could be destroyed by the way the stronger brothers operated (see 1 Cor. 8:11) and that was totally wrong.
We must take a view on many matters as we study scripture and properly establish our convictions. However, we should never hold our views in an arrogant manner. We need to remember that if we have come to understand anything of God and His Word; it is only because God has revealed such. Paul says to Timothy: Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this (2 Tim. 2:7) If we understand anything let us thank God and not be arrogant in our own knowledge.
Authority: The proud man generally loves to be in authority, but hates being under authority. They want to do their own thing and not be subject to others. One implication of this is that such people are not teachable. They have the attitude that they know what they are doing and no-one else can assist them in knowing what is right and proper. Any thought of submitting to one another is very much off their agenda (see Eph 5:21). And the thought that they should have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account (Heb. 13:17a) is not something they consider to be for them. After all they will do their own things and do not want to submit to anyone.
As Christians then, we should consider pride to be a monster that we hate and resist. We should instead be cultivating a spirit of humility. In Isaiah 66:2b we read These are the ones I look on with favour: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word. This is what the LORD is looking for. He is looking for humility.
Finally, we soberingly conclude that pride always leads to disaster. The first disaster in the universe came through pride. This was when Satan decided that he knew better than God and led an angelic rebellion against the eternal LORD God. (see Is. 14:12-15). Moreover, Proverbs 16:18 tells us that pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. Let us be hard on pride then. Let us engage in mortal combat with it. If we fail to beat pride our lives will be ruined.
And in waging this war, remember that we are those who belong to a Saviour who was gentle and humble in heart (Matt. 11:29b). At the heart of his mission a humbling of Himself (see Phil. 2:8b). Oh LORD give us the grace of humility like yours and that will all be to your glory.
Taken from the Feltham Evangelical Church newsletter of March 2015