What is Pride?
In the previous article I introduced the subject of pride and humility by drawing our attention to Peter’s exhortation in 1 Peter 5:5-7. Continue reading . . .
In the previous article I introduced the subject of pride and humility by drawing our attention to Peter’s exhortation in 1 Peter 5:5-7. Here it is again.
“Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:5-7).
I’d like to start by drawing our attention to 7 characteristics of pride or of the proud heart.
As you will see, everything having to do with pride is focused on our centered around the self. Me. You. Us. The proud person, in a nutshell, is self-satisfied, self-sufficient, self-congratulatory, self-referential, self-reliant, self-defensive, and self-righteous. Pride is all about self!
(1) The proud person is self-satisfied. “But I am the LORD your God from the land of Egypt; you know no God but me, and besides me there is no savior. It was I who knew you in the wilderness, in the land of drought; but when they had grazed, they became full, they were filled, and their heart was lifted up; therefore they forgot me” ((Hosea 13:4-6). Smug and content with what they think they’ve accomplished for themselves, proud people soon forget God, or simply ignore him. They are convinced they don’t need him. Oh, they’d never let anyone hear them say that, but that’s what they believe within.
(2) The proud person is self-sufficient.
This second feature builds upon the first. Why shouldn’t I be self-satisfied, says the proud heart. After all, I’ve done it all on my own. I depended on no one but myself and look at what I’ve achieve.
"Take care lest you forget the LORD your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today, lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied, then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, . . . Beware lest you say in your heart, 'My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth’” (Deut. 8:11-17).
(3) The proud person is self-congratulatory. Pride takes credit for what only God can do.
“’Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?’ While the words were still in the king's mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, ‘O King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: The kingdom has departed from you, and you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. And you shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will’” (Daniel 4:30-32).
“On an appointed day Herod put on his royal robes, took his seat upon the throne, and delivered an oration to them. And the people were shouting, ‘The voice of a god, and not of a man!’ Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last” (Acts 12:21-23).
(4) The proud person is self-referential. That is to say, the proud person loves being praised, loves it when the attention is pointed in his/her direction, loves to be the topic of everyone’s conversation.
Be very careful and cautious around people who make much of their humility! Such folk loudly proclaim their lowliness and then expect others to praise them for it! They are quick to make known their failures and their humility but react with strong protest if someone in private should suggest that their claims to humility are feigned and superficial.
(5) The proud person is self-reliant. Pride cannot trust God. Trust feels too weak. It feels too dependent. It redirects too much attention away from oneself and to the strength and wisdom of another. Trusting God is the heartbeat of humility, the opposite of pride.
(6) The proud person is self-defensive, especially when it is suggested he might be proud! When persecuted or crossed or slandered or attacked, the proud person is angrily defensive of his actions and largely oblivious to all personal failures.
(7) The proud person is self-righteous. Self-righteousness reveals itself in any number of ways.
First of all, the self-righteous person is a theological know-it-all who can’t be taught.
“Thus says the LORD: Even so will I spoil the pride of Judah and the great pride of Jerusalem. This evil people, who refuse to hear my words, who stubbornly follow their own heart and have gone after other gods to serve them and worship them, shall be like this loincloth, which is good for nothing” (Jer. 13:9-10).
What constituted the “great pride” of Jerusalem? What made them an “evil” people? They “refused to hear” God’s words! They were beyond instruction from anyone but themselves.
Self-righteousness also shows itself in a quickness to judge and to speak cynically of the sins and shortcomings of others, often with levity or flippancy. The humble Christian will either be silent about the sins of others or speak of them with grief, pity, and a “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”
The self-righteous or prideful person is obsessed with comparisons, always measuring himself/herself against others.
"Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.' But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, a sinner!' I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:10-14).
The Pharisee found his identity in relation to someone he thought of as less than himself. The tax-collector, as an expression of genuine humility, could only see himself in comparison with God and thus cried out: “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!”
Self-righteous pride leads to separatism. It’s not insignificant that the Pharisee was standing off “by himself.” The tax-collector was beneath my dignity and unworthy of his time or attention.
Our next task will be to define and describe humility.
[As you consider this subject I highly recommend a sermon from John Piper, entitled, “Are You Humble Enough to be Care-Free?” (www.desiringgod.org, November 20, 1994), from which I've learned much.]