Of all the subjects I have written about in this column, this month’s subject is perhaps the most thought – provoking and sobering. For some time, I have desired to write about the attribute of Christ-like humility. But I, at least, do not feel equipped to write about such an attribute since those who possess it to a depth much greater than I do, and who would hesitate to acknowledge that they even have it, could pen more graceful words about it than I could. I’ll therefore content myself to consider another attribute we find discussed frequently in Scripture, though it never has the Lord’s approval. Even an archangel, who at one point acquired this attribute, managed to lose forever his heavenly estate shortly thereafter. The attribute I am referring to is pride.
What is pride?
Webster’s defines pride as “conceit” or “inordinate self-esteem.” As I see it, pride is the attitude or state of mind whereby people consider themselves to be by nature of greater importance or worth than those around them. Arrogant behavior then follows.
In Ez. 28:12, we read of a certain person who had a position of title and honor. Later, he became proud of his position and then was expelled from God’s presence. While this passage applied on one level to earthly political power, many evangelical scholars conclude that it is none other than Lucifer, later known as “Satan,” who was actually described here.
What does pride
look like in action?
First, pride can produce in us the desire to rebel against authority. The workplace, for example, can become fertile ground for conceit and overconfidence. We can come to believe that we not only know how to perform our tasks better than how our superiors direct us to, but also that it is our right to knowingly disregard their instructions as we see fit.
Pride can also manifest itself in church settings, though often in disguise. Budding and talented leaders can become conceited if they are not careful to remain humble. The apostle Paul warned against elevating people into leadership positions too quickly lest they become conceited (1 Tim. 3:6). Pride can also well up in people when they come to believe that they have gained enough “experience” to carry out their ministerial responsibilities without any further need for the intercessory prayer of the saints. In contrast, Jesus constantly sought His Father’s will and guidance (Mk. 1:35, Lk. 3:21-22). Paul exhorted others to pray for him (Eph. 6:19-20, Col. 4:2-4). Lastly, those who are intellectually gifted may become conceited when they choose to engage in theological or other disputes to prove they are intelligent and well-studied.
Second, we can become proud in our own private lives. Such mundane things as our driving habits or our attitudes towards others can provide the temptation to become conceited. One insidious and deceptive form of personal pride is the masquerade of false humility. This happens when a person receives a compliment but pretends as though no such compliment is needed. The person then secretly soaks up that praise, rather than simply saying “thank you” and thanking God for His grace towards them.
We can also act pridefully by rejecting those who we feel have rejected us. Now, there is a difference between genuine pride and the pain of experiencing rejection itself. Pain is real. But our response to pain makes all the difference. Do we truly continue to love someone who has rejected us, or do we begin to treat that person with personal contempt thereafter?
Finally, we can grow prideful towards God. For example, we may come to think that we needn’t forgive people any longer for particular offenses they have committed against us. Or we may believe we deserve something that God has not seen fit to bless us with, or that He should answer our prayers the way we want and when we want.
Now, it is not wrong for us to use those gifts, talents, abilities and blessings God has given us to be used for His glory. This is true if for no other reason than the fact that the Bible encourages us to use the spiritual gifts God has given us (see Rom. 12:3)
What do we do
with our pride?
If you have sensed God revealing areas of pride in your heart, thank Him for doing so, and for not leaving you ignorant of it! Then, own and confess those areas of sin God has shown you. Finally, turn away (repent) from that sin and walk in victory over it, trusting that God will give you the power to do so (see Rom. 8:9-11).
What happens when
God heals us of pride?
First, we experience God’s grace, which is given to the humble, not to the proud (James 4:6). Second, we gain the joy of loving others. Genuine love is based on humility, not pride. Third, we take our focus off ourselves and grow in our relationship with God. Fourth, we experience the adventure of seeing God’s power and glory displayed in, through and around us. Fifth, we grow in the peace of mind that comes when we no longer feel the need to impress others or worry about what others think about us apart from our personal righteousness before God.
I hope and pray that as you consider the devastating consequences of pride in our hearts, you will also remember the great and marvelous grace of God. The Bible teaches that where sin abounds, God’s grace abounds all the more (Rom. 5:12ff.). Rather than ignore whatever pride you may see in your heart, realize that God loves you and has a greater plan and purpose than to leave you as you are.
Allen can be reached at [email protected].