Editorial: November 2010
Richard Newton said, "The beginning of pride was in heaven. The continuance of pride is on earth. The end of pride is in hell. This history shows how unprofitable it is."
Pride is possibly the most common sin of all. It is the root sin, the means that Satan used successfully in tempting man to rebel against his maker. It remains a characteristic feature of the fallen human nature and one of the hardest evils to overcome (Pro.16:18). "Most of the trouble in the world is caused by people wanting to be important."
The essence of pride is self-centredness. The pleasure of the proud person is not simply to have something, but to have more of it than anyone else; not simply to be something, but to be better than anyone else. Pride causes a person to rebel against God because God is above him, and to despise his fellow human beings because he considers them below him. C. S. Lewis remarked, "A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you can't see something that is above you." "Pride is the ground in which all the other sins grow, and the parent from which all the other sins come."
To feel pleasure at being praised is not pride, provided the pleasure comes from having pleased someone else (Matt.25:21). But if the pleasure is that of delighting in oneself, or holding a high opinion of oneself, that is pride. Similarly, to feel pleasure in some other person or thing is not pride in the sinful sense, provided it is only unselfish admiration. But if the pleasure is a feeling of conceit, the pride is sinful (Isa.25:11;Dan.4:30). "It is our own ego that makes the ego of others intolerable to us."
Pride is a sin that is particularly hateful to God (Pro.8:13;16:5). Those who are proud bring against themselves God's opposition, and guarantee for themselves a humiliating punishment. The Jewish law Talmud states, "If ever a man becomes proud, let him remember that a mosquito preceded him in the divine order of creation." "Pride is spiritual cancer; it eats the very possibility of love or contentment or commonsense." "Those who walk in pride, God is able to put down" (Dan.4:37).
One result of pride and self-sufficiency is that people boast of their achievements, instead of giving honour to God. Such boasting is hateful to God and will bring humiliating judgement. Most of the things that Paul boasted of were things that the normally boastful person would be ashamed to speak about, namely his personal humiliation (2Cor.11:23-30). Paul repudiates all boasting in one's righteousness, wisdom or status before God. He says, "Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord" (1Cor.1:31). He may boast of individual churches (2Cor.1:14;7:4,14) and even of God's work in his life (2Cor.1:12) because to do so is to give praise to God for what He has done. The world, with all its craven motives, was banished, crucified to him, utterly separated from his thought and way of life. He did not care for comfort or reputation.
Anything in our lives that dulls our love for spiritual things, or that makes it easy for us to sin, is worldly and must be put away. John mentions three specific problems: the desires of the flesh, the desires of the eyes, and the pride of life. The idea is pretentious ostentation, which results from not seeing the real emptiness of the things of the world. 'Pride of life' is ostentatious pride in the possession of worldly goods. Is this not what the people of the world live for? But living for the world means losing everything in time, because the world is passing away. Lot suffered such loss. But if we live for God, we will abide forever. "Absalom was vain about his hair, therefore was he hanged by his hair," says Talmud.
The proud people boast of their plans and anticipated success. This carnal boasting and self-confidence are dangerous. We know nothing about tomorrow, only God knows. The person who boasts about tomorrow is claiming to be God! Life itself is uncertain-a cloud that quietly comes and goes (Job.7:7; Psa.102:3). We do not know when life will end, then how can we be so confident? Every believer should keep before his/her eyes an awareness of the brevity of life. "So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom" (Psa.90:12). Boasting about an unknown future is sin. Take care to make our lives count. Nothing is more insane than human pride.
The great sin of the Pharisees was hypocrisy, based on pride. Their religion was external, not internal; it was to impress people, not to please God. They loved titles and public recognition and exalted themselves at the expense of others. They wore boxes containing the Scriptures and made the hems of their garments wide to advertise their religious zeal. They had a 'form of godliness,' but no power (1Tim.3:5). We have one Father, one Master, one Leader. For men to take the place of the Father, the Son or the Spirit is to disobey the Word of God and lead people astray. Anarchy and chaos come from a mind that removes God from its knowledge.
It was Charles Colson who said, "It is ludicrous for any Christian to believe that he or she is the worthy object of public worship; it would be like the donkey carrying Jesus into Jerusalem believing the crowds were cheering and laying down their garments for him."
The Pharisee (Jn.18:9-17) talked to himself and about himself, but the publican prayed to God and was heard. The Pharisee could see the sins of others, but not his own; the publican concentrated on his own needs and admitted them openly. The Pharisee was praying to himself, or for himself, rather than by himself. The problem was not with his action, but with his self-righteous attitude. The Pharisee was boasting; the publican was praying. The Pharisee went home a worse man than when he had come, but the publican went home forgiven. "Self-complacency and spiritual pride are always the beginning of degeneration. When I begin to be satisfied with where I am spiritually, I begin to degenerate."
The Psalmist shows his impatience and despair about proud people (Psa.10:2); the persecution of the poor by the proud, wicked leaders had reached an unbearable limit. His plea is that the wicked may reap what they have sown.
Many, like the Pharisees of Christ's day, would travel land and sea to win one convert (Matt.23:15), not to help the convert, but to add more glory to their own names. Instead of acknowledging dependence upon God, they boast in their arrogance. But Paul was not of this type: he gloried in the cross and willingly took all of the shame and persecution that was attached to it. Paul could glory in the cross because he knew the Person of the cross, the purpose of the cross and the power of the cross. Unwillingness to confess Christ throws doubt on the genuineness of faith.
Christians who live for the world and the flesh become proud, and the devil takes advantage of this situation, for pride is one of his chief tools. God wants to give us more grace, more than anything Satan can give. God cannot help the Christian who is proud, who refuses to repent of sin and humble himself. Grace is for the lowly, not the lofty. "A smart alec knows everything, except how to keep others from thinking him a fool." A spirit of humility should govern believers, not the self-seeking ambition of the Pharisees, which usurped for itself authority that belongs to God.
One of the problems in the body of Christ is that the people always look up to a person for guidance. People believe in him because they would have seen God using that person. At some point of time, arrogance takes over and the person goes about doing what he wishes-commanding and intimidating others. The anointed should therefore be particularly careful.
Billy Graham said, "Arrogance has its own built-in misery. The arrogant person may offend others, but he hurts himself more." "Where men are the most sure and arrogant, they are usually the most mistaken." Power becomes the ultimate in their lives; this trait can be self-destructive. Powerful men want a kick. They hate monotony; they have to keep doing something. These are go-getter men, who don't stop to think about danger. Powerful men need to validate their sense of power and feel in control. They are executing power at work. They want to feel that elated sense of power with subordinates.
Power can be corrosive. Powerful men think that they are invincible. They feel that they can get away. They want to feel in control. The arrogance lies in deliberately claiming to be more than what you are, the proud master of life and of time. All such boasting is evil because God is the Lord of creation, of nature and of history and time.
God hates seven things: the first is pride (Pro.6:16-19). Proud and powerful people may think they can disregard others' displeasure, but they cannot disregard God's opposition. Peter reminds us not to trust in ourselves, but in the One who will exalt us in 'due time' (1Pet.5:6).
King Uzziah became a 'giant' through the Lord's blessing. But once he attained success, he grew careless and stumbled badly. His heart was lifted up to his destruction (2Chro. 26:15,16).
The proud words of King Nebuchadnezzar "were still on his lips" when the punishment came to him from heaven (Dan.4:31-32). "All those who walk in pride He is able to humble" (Dan.4:37).
Balaam knew clearly that he was in the wrong path. He was told by God that he should not respond to the call of Balak to curse Israel. He was also rebuked by a donkey on his way. Still he continued greedily in the path to err in arrogance, to prophesy against the children of Israel. Only those who are obedient to be led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God.
In the parable of the two lost sons (Lk.15), the barrier between the elder brother and the father was not created by his sins, but the pride in his moral record. It was his righteousness that kept him from sharing in the feast.
The saints in Thessalonica were waiting for the trumpet to blow to call them home (1Thess.4:16); they were 'trumpeting the Gospel' loud and clear to all their lost friends. Too often, we are, like the Pharisees, blowing our own trumpets!
Jeremiah 9:23-24 epitomises the Biblical perspective on boasting: "Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts, boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord who exercises loving kindness, justice and righteousness on earth." This passage repudiates boasting oriented to man as misplaced praise and enjoins boasting in God, which is appropriately directed to the One worthy of praise. For man to boast in himself is to claim the praise and glory that belongs to God; it is arrogance.
Who is reigning in your heart? Is it 'I' and the self, or is it the Lord Jesus Christ? You are walking in the way of arrogance, if you are trying to be the captain of your own soul.