September 18

The Christian’s Problem with Pride

“When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom…Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. It is better to be of a lowly spirit with the poor than to divide the spoil with the proud…When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom…One’s pride will bring him low, but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor.” (Proverbs 11:2; 16:18-19; 18:12; 29:23)

“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 14:11)

Those of us with bad knees or over the age of 70 have seen more than one warning about the dangers of falling. The heavier we are, the greater the risk of hurting ourselves when we do fall. Children and young adults can fall, break bones, and recover quickly. However, the older we get, the harder and longer our recovery; some never heal completely. It is vitally important that the vulnerable among us watch where we are going, with our eyes on steps and uneven surfaces. Only the stubborn or proud among us would argue with this warning; they proceed as if they are impervious to falling, or any other physical dangers. I know people who should be using canes or who should stop driving but refuse, denying any danger due to visual, auditory, or physical limitations. Pride is dangerous physically, as well as spiritually.

The spiritual dangers of pride include foolishness, disgrace, destruction, falls, humiliation, and dishonor. Two of the verse above state that humility is wise, and therefore imply that pride is foolish (11:2; 18:12). Since humility includes submission to God’s plans and providence, foolish pride is exactly the opposite—refusing to accept or cooperate with the changes, circumstances, or events in our lives according to Lord’s plans. John Gill’s description of the prideful person illustrates the problem stated in Proverbs 16:18: “A man that carries his head high; looks upwards, and not to his goings, sees not at what he may stumble, and so falls: moreover, the bigger a person or thing is, the greater is the fall; and very often when a man has got to the height of his riches and honor, and is swelling with pride and vanity on account of it, he is on the precipice of ruin, and his fall is immediate.” *

But pride isn’t always obvious or about success; pride is an inherent aspect of our sin nature and will be part of us for as long as we live here. So we ought to take the advice of Proverbs 16:18 and keep our heads down and spirits contrite (low) to see where we are going and not fall. Intentionally humbling ourselves, by remembering that we are naturally prideful,  is so much better than being embarrassed, negatively humiliated, and ashamed when our pride carries us away with its false superiority and coldness toward God. It started in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve were convinced they could be equal to God and live. Haman (Esther 9) and Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 4) are usually offered as examples of men with excessive pride. But sometimes pride inhabits the good intentions of Christians who are zealous, like Peter’s misdirected enthusiasm when he opposed Jesus (Matthew 16:23; John 13:8). Many of our good ideas for helping people are full of pride unless we wait for the Lord to open doors, bring people, and provide resources to confirm his purpose. I’ve had my share of embarrassments after good plans went very wrong, and am glad to put these behind me.

How many good ideas have you had in the last week? Did you act on them? Should you? Have you considered that your pride may be invested in doing a good thing that hasn’t been requested and may not be welcomed? Are you willing to admit that some of your good intentions may actually make someone’s life harder, not easier, so you can have a sense of accomplishment or self-importance?

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