A Conversation About Pride
Pride has been man’s enemy since the Garden of Eden. It was pride that responded to the temptation of the serpent.
Pride is what replaces reverence for God with the worship of self. At the core of sin is pride. It entices us to promote ourselves and be right in our own eyes. It is the fuel that ignites and maintains strife and contentions. It is the converse of a heart at peace.
Furthermore, God strongly opposes the pride of man. Solomon wrote, “Every one that is proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD.” (Prov 16:5). Isaiah spoke of God’s vengeance being “against the proud and lofty, and upon every one that is lifted up.” (Isa 2:12).
Both James and the Apostle Peter stated that “God resisteth the proud.” (Jas 4:6, 1 Pet 5:5). The concept of God resisting the proud compels us to think about pride in our lives. The very word, “resisteth” is a Greek military term, dealing with opposition in battle. No man would ever want to have God against us!
In fact, the beauty of our Lord’s life was that he was the perfect example of one who eschewed pride. It had no place in his life. Despite his wisdom and mastery of Scripture being far beyond his contemporaries, he never gloated about this. He was filled with the Spirit, without measure, yet he never used these gifts to promote himself.
I’ve often wondered just how difficult it would be to possess the Holy Spirit gifts. There would be such a strong temptation to demonstrate to others the gift that had been bestowed, whether it was edifying or not. We know that in some ecclesias in the First century, it became a source of pride and caused divisions and confusion. But our Lord never succumbed to such pride. He was instead the perfect reflection of his Father.
For the greatest example we have of one who deserves all praise and glory is our Heavenly Father. Yet, it is He who inhabits eternity, and dwells in a “holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit.” (Isa 57:15).
Scriptures teach us that real strength, real peace, can only be realized by a contrite and humble heart. As Peter wrote, “humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time. Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” (1 Pet 5:6-7).
But what does this really entail? Having a firm grasp on this question is critical for believers.
In Due Time
The first point is that being exalted is something God does for us. We do not do this for ourselves. Any effort we might take to draw attention to ourselves, and get accolades from others, violates this vital principle.
only our Lord’s acceptance of us matters
The Lord Jesus, as our Judge, will decide if we are to be exalted. Not us. Not any of those who we may have impressed or dazzled, for only our Lord truly knows our hearts. This principle defuses any need for us to exalt ourselves or our position, for only our Lord’s acceptance of us matters.
Connected to this is “that he may exalt you in due time.” Due time! The exaltation of the contrite may not happen at all during their mortal lives. If it does occur during their life, it may be after a very long and arduous journey where they felt rejected and abused. The exaltation of our Lord only occurred when he was exalted by his Father. (Phil 2:9).
Are we truly willing to wait for God’s time?
Though King David received incredible honor in his life, he spent much of it as a fugitive, living from one cave or wilderness to the next. Joseph rose to second in command to Pharaoh, but only after betrayals by his brethren and a prolonged time in prison. We are told,
Are we truly willing to wait for God’s time? Will we bear through the trials of our lives with such humility that we will trust the LORD to deliver us when He is ready? Again, this is the example of our Lord Jesus,
He endured such temptation and suffering because he knew that the only one he could ultimately trust was his Father. He knew that his Father would exalt him “in due time.”
Cast Your Burdens on the Lord
But this brings us to the true apex of the lesson from the Apostle Peter. The way we can patiently bear through our trials and know that God is entirely in charge and will exalt us in due time, is for us to fully accept His care. Casting all our cares—not some of them—on Him, fully embracing that we are under the Great Shepherd’s care in all aspects of life.
This is where there is a collision between pride and faith. Egotism leads us to think we can handle life’s challenges on our own, or that there are categories where we do not need our Lord. We think we know what is best and the right path forward. Being recognized and exalted by others feeds the great need of the flesh to be honored, maybe even feared. But faith takes us down a very different roadway. It offers us the most powerful release we can achieve. Jesus said,
The peace of Jesus, as we saw in 1 Peter 2, was that he fully trusted in his Father. While men were reviling him, mishandling him, he knew his Father was in control. That’s the peace we are offered. Trust in God, for “he careth for you.”
Now, how do we apply this principle? Are there lessons for how pride can affect us? Is there a spiritual lesson for us to embrace if we want peace?
How we behave is a direct reflection of whether pride is the underlying motivation. James wrote, “For where there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind.” (Jas 3:16 NLT). James does us a real favor here, for he has provided a diagnostic for ourselves and interactions between brothers and sisters.
We are not called on to judge the motivation of hearts, but we can judge behavior. Combining various translations for this verse, we have apt descriptors for what to look for. The list includes “confusion and every evil work” (KJV), “disorder and every vile practice” (ESV), “disharmony” (JBP), “insurrection” (YLT). When we see these adjectives appearing in our behavior, or in the conduct of well-intentioned brothers or sisters, it is time to stop in our tracks. These are the products of pride and not of the Spirit of Christ.
During these battles, it is difficult to see within ourselves that our motivation has ceased to be about preserving truth or glorifying God. We are exceedingly skilled at deceiving ourselves about our motivation, but such behaviors only grow on the tree of pride.
The Need to be Right
I remember long ago engaging in a heated discussion with a brother during an Arranging Brethren’s meeting. The issue isn’t important now, but it had become personal and flared in this particular meeting. I felt determined to “win” the argument. While I was in the middle of this, I noted that only this brother and I were participating. All other heads were looking down. It was all about us – literally.
A noble brother in the meeting interjected that we both needed to stop, and that our behavior was not in the Spirit of our Lord. Well, that really stung. After reflection, I found that my need to be right had overtaken the actual principle being argued. But this faithful brother’s rebuke was just what I needed.
Afterwards, I thought about my poor behavior all that night, hardly sleeping. How could I have acted as I did? Sadly, it was my pride and conceit. A couple of years before this noble brother’s passing, I had the opportunity to thank him for his loving counsel. His rebuke was a great gift to me.
American clergyman, Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887), wrote that “Pride slays thanksgiving, but a humble mind is the soil out of which thanks naturally grow. A proud man is seldom a grateful man, for he never thinks he gets as much as he deserves.” Beecher describes the rocky, weed-infested soil that chokes us, that turns us from men and women of praise to creatures with an insatiable desire for self-justification.
How should we react when we see discord and tumult, as identified by James, occur within our ecclesias and committees? Such tumult can last for decades if not checked. Each of us is tasked to be a watchman for these behaviors. Certainly, turning away or ignoring them is counter to being faithful watchmen. We need courageous brothers and sisters to step forward, as that brother did for me.
Sometimes it may be wise to rebuke in the moment, or preferred in other cases to do so individually and in private. If a group or a committee has been tasked with some purpose, but their interactions have become a source of strain, unquietness, and disorder, faithful brothers and sisters must step forward to remind them of the spirit they must represent when laboring for our Lord.
we must hear and humbly respond to rebuke
No one is permitted to sow discord in the ecclesias of our Lord. As Titus instructed,
The fact is that the organization of the ecclesia is designed for mutual accountability. Whatever the office or task, we are expected to behave as representatives of our Lord. When we depart from this standard, we must hear and humbly respond to rebuke. When we refuse to hear the rebuke, we are no longer fit for representation of our Lord.
A Matter of Choice
Isn’t it wonderful that Scripture not only helps us to identify unwanted behaviors and their root causes but also clearly describes the behaviors we must all commit to? These goals are valid in our personal lives, our ecclesias and our daily pursuits.
While vanity propagates discord and tumult, the wisdom from above sows and harvests peace. Every day, and in every interaction, we choose to pursue discord or peace. Can we diffuse our pride by accepting that the only recognition we seek is from the Lord? Will we push aside our agenda to cast all our care upon him? Will we patiently wait for the Lord to deliver us, on His timetable? Will we acknowledge that whatever the pursuit, we are fully accountable to our God and to one another to be sowers of peace? Will we choose to love every time over fear or discord?
In the end, there is such great comfort when we reject pride in our hearts. We can indeed observe the wonder of God’s care for us.
We close here with the words of David, who systematically learned to put his trust in his God. Surely, he was confronted with evil men and “lying vanities.” But he, like our Lord, committed to him that judgeth righteously.