We are proud of our children, proud of our friends, proud of our homes, proud of…ourselves. We are proud of our accomplishments, proud of how we have averted disaster, proud of our successes. We are a proud people. Yet even as Christians we often forget that every good and perfect gift is from above (James 1:17). What has come to us, whether joyful or trying, has been handpicked and hand designed by God.
While it may not be sinful to feel satisfaction in performing good works (Galatians 6:4), there is a pride that God hates (Proverbs 8:13). God hates anyone or anything that would set self above Him in order to steal His glory. Unfortunately, it is this pride that entraps us as sinful men and women. When we exude pride—and ultimate trust—in ourselves, we demonstrate a desire for control and sovereignty that belongs to God alone. And when we display pride in ourselves, we tiptoe into dangerous territory.
“How you have fallen from heaven,
O star of the morning, son of the dawn!
You have been cut down to the earth,
You who have weakened the nations!
“But you said in your heart,
‘I will ascend to heaven;
I will raise my throne above the stars of God,
And I will sit on the mount of assembly
In the recesses of the north.
‘I will ascend above the heights of the clouds;
I will make myself like the Most High.’
“Nevertheless you will be thrust down to Sheol,
To the recesses of the pit.
(Isaiah 14:12-15; cf. Ezekiel 28:12-18)
The verses noted above from Isaiah 14, as well as a similar passage in Ezekiel 28, on the surface and in their immediate context describe the respective fall of the kings of Babylon and Tyre. At the same time, the broader context of these passages demonstrates that the spiritual power behind these kings was a supernatural one: Satan. There is arrogance in the verses quoted above—an arrogance that led to Lucifer’s fall. He was a being who desired to be God; he was not content to be a servant of God, which in itself ought to be viewed as the highest privilege. And so, God cast him out of Heaven. Arrogance falls alongside a host of other sins that simply are not acceptable to the Lord (Romans 1:28-32)
Determined to continue in his rebellion, this fallen being tempted Adam and Eve with the same sin of pride, cultivating in them a desire to be God.
The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:4-5)
And so the same temptations linger today. Our flesh rebels against a sovereign God, for we in our sinfulness desire to place other gods before Him, particularly the god of self. Yet God makes clear that it is the humble man who is exalted before Him (Proverbs 11:2, 16:18-19, 29:23).
Let us consider a man who exalted himself and quickly and severely learned that God alone is sovereign. For the sake of space, this writer requests the reader go and read Daniel 4:1-37. Once that has been accomplished, return here for the remaining discussion.
The king Nebuchadnezzar was a proud man. Indeed, he was ruler of the known world in his time! Lofty thoughts of himself consumed him and so God intended to bring him low that he might acknowledge Him as true King. Yet God in His mercy offered this ruler an opportunity to repent, as Daniel pleads with him to do in 4:27. Yet Nebuchadnezzar refused to bow the knee to the Lord, and so he was brought low.
Immediately the word concerning Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled; and he was driven away from mankind and began eating grass like cattle, and his body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair had grown like eagles’ feathers and his nails like birds’ claws. (Daniel 4:33)
Is it not providential how, earlier in Daniel’s book, he notes that it is God who appoints and removes rulers?
It is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings; He gives wisdom to wise men And knowledge to men of understanding. (Daniel 2:21)
Notice, then, how this great ruler by men’s standards was brought to a point of repentance and acknowledgment of the true God:
But at the end of that period, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever. (Daniel 4:34a)
When Nebuchadnezzar raised his eyes to heaven, it was a display of humility. As he raised his eyes to the One who had made Himself known, he acknowledged that God alone is king.
Pride is a particularly strong and deceptive sin, and it is wholly contrary to the call and nature of the Christian, who is called to resemble his Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:5-8)
Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:1-3)
Christians are called to be humble, just as their precious Redeemer is humble.
There is another offshoot of pride, namely spiritual pride, that appears to run rampant among Christians, particularly those of a conservative, Reformed mindset. It is a pride that looks down its spiritual nose at those less mature; it is a pride that believes and gloats that it has the corner market on the truth. It is a pride that hides behind sound doctrine and noble goals. It is a pride that leaves no room for grace and no room for growth. Yet, ironically, it is a pride that stunts the spiritual growth of the one who possesses and practices it. It is a pride just as abominable as any other manifestation of this sin, and yet it is often deemed as acceptable among those entrapped by it.
We will not linger long here, as those who practice spiritual pride are wont to recognize it in themselves (as is true of so many sins!). James 1:21 exhorts us to “in humility receive the word implanted,” yet many grow calloused in their humility as their knowledge of the truth expands. Their heads are filled with an abundance of truth and facts and saving doctrine, yet it cannot find its way to an outward, practical expression in their lives. Theirs is a dead faith, peppered with spiritual words and overflowing libraries, but a life that does not demonstrate what they profess with their lips.
May we seek, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to mortify the sin of pride in our life. May we pray for a growing desire to emulate our Lord, who was the perfect example of humility. Pride is not acceptable before God, lest we boast in anything other than the cross of Christ. Yet there is forgiveness for the one who has been blinded by his pride. Seek Christ and He will transform you as He has promised.