We’ve spent the first four weeks looking at some of the macro themes in the introductory section of Proverbs. Beginning today, we’re going to zoom into various aspects of character and life. Today we’re going to begin by addressing a vice that no one in our city is free from. Often, we can’t stand to see it in others, but are quite often absolutely blind to it in ourselves. It is not a stretch to say that there is not a sin that makes someone more unpopular, yet which is so difficult to pin down and identify in our own lives. What is it? Pride.
Most situations in life are not covered by the normal rules of life. It doesn’t take living long to discover that you can have access to more information than any other generation in the history of the world and still make a mess of your life. Being human is not easy, clean and tidy. Life requires more than having the right information and being relatively optimistic. We need something that is rarely talked about today. We need wisdom. That’s where the ancient book of Proverbs comes in. Proverbs is all about wisdom for every day living.
In Proverbs God meets us on the street and delivers us aid in the skill of living, particularly in the gray areas of life. But (and this is really important to understanding the book of Proverbs – and the Bible), this wisdom is not merely the result of following a particular technique, memorizing pithy saying or mastering a body of content. Rather, the wisdom that we so deeply need is the result of becoming a particular type of person. Godly wisdom is the result of a type of character, or posture of heart and life, that enables you to make the right decisions. Why would that be? Well, because who we are (i.e. our character) shapes and informs how we live, think, see, perceive, act, relate and make decisions in every day life.
So, wisdom doesn’t begin with how we live, but who we are. This is why 1:7 says that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” When we fear the Lord (i.e. the combined state of awe, wonder, worship, love, joy, hope in God, through Jesus) we become the type of person that can make the right decisions where the normal rules of life don’t normally apply. We’ve spent the first four weeks of this series looking at some of the macro-level themes of Proverbs. From here on out, we’ll be zooming into various aspects of character and life.
We’ve spent the first four weeks looing at some of the macro level themes. Beginning today, we’re going to zoom into various aspects of character and life. We’re going to begin by addressing a vice that no one in our city is free from. Often, we can’t stand to see it in others, but are quite often absolutely blind to it in ourselves. It is not a stretch to say that there is not a sin that makes someone more unpopular, yet which is so difficult to pin down and identify in our own lives. In fact, as CS Lewis once said, the more we have it ourselves, the more we dislike it in others. What is it? Pride.
Biblically, pride is our greatest enemy and humility is our greatest friend. Today the questionis not if pride exists in your heart but where it exists how its being expressed in your life. The famous Reformer, John Calvin, said pride is the ground of all other sins. Jonathan Edwards said that pride is the “worst viper that is in the heart and the most difficult sin to root out.” This is one reason Proverbs never ceases to call us to be open, teachable, reasonable, to listen and more. All of these are manifestations of humility. In fact, we see this message throughout the Bible:
Mt 23:12 “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”
Ja 4:6 “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (cf 1 Peter 5:5)
Mt 18:4 “Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom.”
The message of the Bible is not that God helps those who help themselves, but those who humble themselves. What we’ve already seen in our study of Proverbs is that if you think you’re wise you’re actually a fool, but if you’re aware of your foolishness you’re on your way to becoming wise. Today we’re going to explore this important topic under three headings:
#1 What is pride?
#2 Where does it lead?
#3 How do we get rid of it?
Q#1: WHAT IS PRIDE?
First, pride is rooted in you taking God’s place in your life.
8:13 The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate.
21:2 Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the heart.
Pride: “psychological state of an exaggerated opinion of oneself that does not correspond to social reality” i.e. Every human heart wants to be its own supreme being; it’s own god, savior, lord, and king. Every human heart, by nature, wants to call shots, decide what’s right, define self-worth, determine truth, find it’s own meaning in life – and, ultimately, have its own way. Often, pride results in poor listening, lack of receiving correction, lack of confession, etc. Pride is seeking the supremacy of God and refusing to acknowledge your dependence on him. In this way, pride is anti-God. And, for this reason, there is nothing God hates more than pride. In fact, you cannot find stronger language against sin in Bible.
“Pride in the religious sense is the arrogant refusal to let God be God. It is to grab God’s status for one’s self. In the vivid language of the Bible, pride is puffing yourself up in God’s face. Pride is turning down God’s invitation to join the dance of life as a creature in his garden and wishing instead to be the Creator, Independent, reliant on one’s own resources. Never does pride want to pray for strength, ask for grace, plead for mercy, or give thanks to God. Pride is the grand illusion, the fantasy of fantasies, the cosmic put-on. The fantasy that we can make it as little gods leaves us empty at the center.” - Lewis Smedes, Love Within Limits, 34-35
If we’re at the center, then we are supreme. Here’s a quick test: “How much do I dislike it when others snub, ≠ take notice, patronize, show off, threaten, correct me?” Why is it so hard when that happens? Because these are an attack on your god, your personal kingdom. They are a threat to your perceived supremacy.
Second, pride is needing to feel better than other people in some way.
Since you’re the supreme being, you cannot permit others to challenge your supremacy – therefore you must find a way to feel better than other people, in some way:
13:10 By insolence comes nothing but strife, but with those who take advice is wisdom.
11:12 Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense, but a man of understanding remains silent.
i.e. Pride makes us compare, compete, look down, despise, feel contempt for others. Why is that? Each persons pride is in competition with everyone else’s pride. We are like self-installed supreme beings walking through life attempting to compete with everyone else’s supremacy. Listen to how CS Lewis put it:
“Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more than the next man. We say that people are proud of being rich, or clever, or good-looking, but they are not. They are proud of being richer, or cleverer, or better looking than others. If everyone else became equally rich, or clever or good-looking there would be nothing to be proud about. It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest.” CS Lewis, Mere Christianity, 110,111
It’s not a suprise that the world is set-up for this: Resumes+applications+online dating+social media = all reinforce the idea that we need to make a strong case for our existence before others to show that we count. We are alll unsatisfied and incomplete in some way and walking through life attempting to amass a resume. We are constantly in the courtroom tyring to prove ourselves, worth, value. It turns like into an unending courtroom battle in which we are constantly offering evidence, posturing, litigation, consultations, seeking verdict. What verdict do we want? “I am a person who counts. I am OK. I have value. I am here for a reason.”
The Bible tells us that every human being is out there earning his/her salvation. i.e. self-salvation project.
“My drive in life comes from a fear of being mediocre. That is always pushing me. I push past one spell of it and discover myself as a special human being but then I feel I am still mediocre and uninteresting unless I do something else. Because even though I have become somebody, I still have to prove that I am somebody. My struggle has never ended and I guess it never will.” Madonna, Vogue
The ego is insatiable. It is a black hole. Every single human needs to prove that to themselves and others and the easiest way to do that is find people that you’re better than and remind them and yourself of that. Ex. Arty + Politicians + Hipsters + Business + students + parents + liberal + conservative. The result is endless posturing, jockeying for position, criticizing, snubbing, looking down on others – further drama in the courtroom of life, seeking a positive verdict to prove ourselves.
Third, pride is constantly being aware of yourself.
28:26 Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered.
To trust in yourself, throughout Proverbs, is antithetical to trusting in the Lord. To trust in yourself is to be constantly aware of yourself: how do I look, how am I doing, how am I being treated, calling attention to self, what do I think, etc.
Practically, what does that mean? It means that both high and low self-esteem are forms of pride even thought we don’t typically think about it like that. It’s easy to envision the guy with the arrogant laugh and proud swagger, but we don’t tend to think of those with low self-esteem as equally proud. How could that be? Because they’re still concentrating on self, thinking about self, what a failure they are, getting down on self, etc. They are just as self-absorbed.
Superiority complex + inferiority complex rooted in pride. In the first, the ego is inflated. In the latter, the ego is deflated. One who has a superiority complex feels like they are winning the case of life. Those with the inferiority complex feel like the evidence is stacked against them – they are losing the case of life. In the end, its the same system, the same courtroom. The case happens to be taking different directions, but its still pride.
Potential misunderstandings (adapted from CS Lewis)
#1 Taking joy in a job well done.
#2 You can be proud of others. “I’m proud of you” = “I’m excited and thankful for you”
#3 God ≠ trying to snub you. He’s not threatened by you. But, he wants you to know him and pride gets in the way of that.
#4 Also, a humbel person is probably not the kind of person your imagining, maybe someone who walks around mumbling, “I’m nobody”. More than likely, it is a cheerful, intelligent person who takes real interest in you.
Q#2: WHAT IS THE RESULT OF PRIDE?
16:18 Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.
18:12 Before destruction a man’s heart is haughty, but humility comes before honor.
21:4 Haughty eyes and a proud heart, the lamp of the wicked, are sin.
The word for destruction here is used to describe bones breaking or something coming to ruin. How does pride do that? In two ways: practical ruin and spiritual ruin.
PRACTICAL RUIN: Look at 21:4. What does this mean? Our pride serves as a lamp, or how we see everything. Our pride distorts, bends, twists everything that you see – and that is going to cause you to make bad decisions. Pride keeps you out of touch with reality. You’re seeing wrong, but you don’t see it – because that’s how pride works. Everything is colored by pride, but to you “it just seems normal”. This will have a variety of ruining effects at work, at home, and in all of your relationships.
SPIRITUAL RUIN: Pride also works against the created order of reality. God is by his very nature other-centered. At the very heart of God is self-giving love. If you’re about getting glory vs giving it you are on a collision course with the Creator and created order. The first step in dealing w/ pride is to realize you are proud. If you don’t do that, then you have a big problem. Why would that be the case? Because humility of character is necessary for you to live on trust and you need trust to be in relationship with God.
Q#3: HOW DO WE GET RID OF OUR PRIDE?
I hope all of us want to deal decisively with our pride. Cure? Antidote? Get it out of our system? The most common approach is to try to beat pride with pride – which only reinforces our prid. “I’m strong enough…I can do it…” and the devil laughs. Why? Because He is content to see you becoming pure, brave and self-controlled provided you’re still relying on yourself. Paul gives some help here in 1 Cor:
1 Cor 4:3 “But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me.”
What is Paul saying here? He’s saying, “I’m not in courtroom any more. I’m not in system. I don’t connect my worth to my performance..If I do well, doesn’t puff me up. If I do poorly, I’m not devastated…My self-image is built on something else...it is God who justifies me. (judge = justify)”
Christianity turns the heart upside down. It tells us that the verdict of life is in. God accepts, adopts, loves, forgives me in Christ. Christianity is not about our performace leading to a verdict; rather Jesus’ verdict, in our place, changes our performance.Jesus went into courtroom for us, took verdict we deserve, so we can get the verdict he deserves. In other words, through the gospel, the court of life is adjourned.
Only when this news becomes greatest possession will we stop viewing ourselves as greatest possession. Importantly, Jesus didn’t come and appeal to our pride: “Suck it up, try harder, go faster…” What did he say? “Me for you.” He died > you might live. He took your guilt > you might be free. He lost Father > you might gain him. We lift ourselves up > He came down. We make ourselves big > He made himself small.
We think of ourselves as everything > He made himself nothing. We think we’re really living > He came that we might really live. It was achieved through humility and it can only be received through humility. Here’s the catch: You have to admit that you need it. And, oddly, that is hard because that takes humility. All you need is nothing and often, we don’t have it. Nonetheless, we are not saved by our humility, but by his humility in our place. This humble God loves to save proud sinners.
10 WAYS TO WEAKEN YOUR PRIDE
(adapted from a larger list by CJ Mahaney in Humility)
#1 Get to know God really well.
#2 Daily reflect on the gospel of Jesus Christ.
#3 Begin day by acknowledging your dependence upon God, expressing gratefulness to God, casting cares on him.
#4 Practice the means of grace: prayer, Word, song, memory.
#5 Seize your downtimes throughout the day to memorize and meditate on Scripture.
#6 Identify evidences of grace in others and seek to encourage them.
#7 Invite and pursue correction.
#8 See trial as an opportunity not a threat.
#9 Laugh often, especially at yourself.
#10 At the end of every day, transfer the glory of the day to God.
Humility: True Greatness, CJ Mahaney
The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness, Tim Keller
Humility, Andrew Murray
Tempted & Tried: Temptation and the Triumph of Christ, Russell Moore