The foolishness of pride

Pride is perhaps the most destructive attitude of all.

It damned Satan. It damned the angels who followed him. And it has damned many others throughout history.

Yet instead of warring against it, our world actually promotes it.

Of course, that’s not too surprising since Satan wants to promote pride and squelch humility. He’s got strategies and schemes, and one of those schemes is to fan the flames of pride and to stomp out any small spark of humility.

He doesn’t have too hard a time doing that since our own hearts are prone to pride. As Spurgeon once explained, “There is nothing into which the heart of man so easily falls as pride, and yet there is no vice which is more frequently, and emphatically, and more eloquently condemned in Scripture.”

Since the world promotes pride, Satan promotes pride, and our own hearts promote pride, we better pay careful attention to what God says about pride or we’ll easily become ensnared in its trap.

Throughout the Bible God gives us a number of different reasons it is completely foolish to be proud.

It’s foolish to be proud because of God’s attitude towards the proud person.

God hates pride. In Proverbs 16:15 Solomon is very blunt, “Everyone proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord.”

God hates pride, because pride is a violation of the first commandment. God alone is to be worshiped and served because His will is supreme and He alone is God. But pride asserts that man should take supremacy over God. The proud man opposes God. But God will not tolerate a usurper who attempts to rise above Him. Thus God opposes the proud man.

That means if you are proud you are setting yourself up in opposition to God.

You versus God.

That’s not a good match. You don’t have a chance. As Thomas Watson explains, “The proud man is the mark which God shoots at. And He never misses the mark.”

If we say we love God, how can we ever be content with doing something that He hates? We can’t, and if you are a believer you are going to war against pride because you understand what Scripture says about God’s attitude towards the proud person.

It’s foolish to be proud because you have no reason apart from Christ to be proud.

What would you think of a person who went about speaking very dogmatically about all sorts of different issues but was always wrong? 2 plus 2 equals 5. The earth is flat. I remember being embarrassed recently when I saw someone asked who was the president before Bill Clinton and she said confidently Colin Powell. Colin Powell isn’t even one of the options. Yet she was certain. You get embarrassed for people like that because they are displaying their ignorance. They are showing everybody just how little they know.

And that’s what we are doing when we become proud. We are displaying our ignorance. We are showing everybody just how little we really know.

When we become proud we are acting like we are the Creator when we are only creatures. We are forgetting our own natural insignificance.

Think about some of the things people are proud about. Men often become proud when they have some power. They think they are something because they have been placed in a position of authority. Scripture explains that God is the one who gives men power and authority and He is able to take that power and authority away. Isaiah writes, “He it is who reduces rulers to nothing, who makes the judges of the earth meaningless.”

King Nebuchadnezzar found this out the hard way. King Nebuchadnezzar had become strong and great, and he was a person of incredible importance in this world’s eyes. Instead of praising and giving glory to God, he began to take pride in himself and in his power. We read in verse 30 of Daniel 4, “The king reflected and said, ‘Is this not Babylon the great, which I myself have built as a royal residence by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty?’ While the word was in the king’s mouth, a voice came from heaven, saying ‘King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is declared: sovereignty has been removed from you and you will be driven away from mankind and your dwelling place will be with the beasts of the field. You will be given grass to eat like cattle, and seven periods of time will pass over you, until you recognize that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind and bestows it on whomever He wishes.” That’s exactly what happened and what did Nebuchadnezzar learn, verse 34, “I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever; For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom endures from generation to generation. And all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, But He does according to His will in the host of the heaven and among the inhabitants of earth; and no one can ward off His hand or say to Him, what hast thou done….Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise, exalt, and honor the King of heaven, for all His works are true and His ways just, and He is able to humble those who walk in pride.” Daniel 5:18-20 sums it up, “O King the Most High God granted sovereignty, grandeur, glory and majesty to Nebuchadnezzar your father. And because of the grandeur which He bestowed on him, all the peoples, nations, and men of every language feared and trembled before him…But when his heart was lifted up and his spirit became so proud that he behaved arrogantly, he was deposed from his royal throne and his glory was taken away…until he recognized that the Most High God is ruler over the realm of mankind, and that He sets over it, whomever He wishes…”

That’s a major league example of why you shouldn’t be proud when you’ve been given some pride and authority. Any importance that you have, any position that you have, it’s from God, and He could very easily take it away.

Men often become proud about their talents and abilities. A guy who is a good basketball player walks with a little swagger because he can play basketball better than others. A guy who is a good mechanic takes pride because he knows how to fix cars and others don’t. A woman who is an excellent cook boasts about herself because of her abilities in the kitchen. We all know when you have a talent or ability, one of the first things you do is look around to see if anyone else noticed, so you can take pride in what you’ve accomplished.

But we have no reason to be proud about our talents and abilities because everything we have is a gift from God. You can take this down to the most basic level. Imagine a person on life-support becoming proud and boasting about how he is breathing. You’d say buddy I’m glad you are breathing, but don’t you see, you are only breathing because you are hooked up to this machine. Everything we have is from God, even our breath. We are completely dependent. That’s not just true when it comes to breathing, that is true when it comes to everything we do.

If you look at 1 Corinthians 4:7, Paul explains, “For who regards you as superior. And what do you have that you did not receive? But if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?” When we boast about our gifts we are flat out lying, because we are talking and acting like we achieved something when in reality we’re only able to achieve anything because of God’s grace.

We can do what we can do because God enables us to do it. That’s it. End of sentence.

It’s amazing how insidious pride is. We can even become proud about our spiritual gifts. A preacher can become proud about a sermon he preached on humility. Or someone can become proud about the money they put in the offering plate.

It’s important we war against spiritual pride of any sort. Once again, Charles Spurgeon explains, “It is of the utmost importance to us to be kept humble. Consciousness of self-importance is a hateful delusion, but one into which we fall as naturally as weeds grow on a dunghill. We cannot be used of the Lord but what we also dream of personal greatness, we think ourselves almost indispensable to the church, pillars of the cause, and foundations of the temple of God. We are nothings and nobodies, but that we do not think so is very evident, for as soon as we are put on the shelf we begin anxiously to enquire, ‘How will the work go on without me?’ As well might the fly on the coach wheel enquire, “How will the mails be carried without me?” Far better men have been laid in the grave without having brought the Lord’s work to a standstill, and shall we fume and fret because for a little season we must lie upon the bed of languishing? God sometimes weakens our strength in a way a the precise juncture when our presence seems most needed, to teach us that we are not necessary to God’s work, and that when we are most useful he can easily do without us. If this be the practical lesson, the rough schooling may be easily endured for assuredly it is beyond all things desirable that self should be kept low and the Lord alone be magnified.”

When we become proud we are not only showing that we are ignorant regarding our natural insignificance, we are also showing our ignorance of our spiritual condition. As believers we sometimes have too rosey a picture of our spiritual condition apart from Christ. And that’s a bad place to be, because we’ll never appreciate the magnificence of what God has done for us in our salvation until we understand what the Bible says about us before our salvation.

Paul uses a choice word in Romans 5:10 to describe who we were before God apart from His work of grace in our lives. He says we were God’s enemies.

Think about the ramifications of that.

Before God saved you:

Your mind was opposed to God. As Jonathan Edwards explains, “It is evident, that the mind of the unsaved man is naturally averse to thinking about God. And hence, if any thoughts of him be suggested to the mind, they soon go away. Such thoughts are not apt to rest in the minds of natural men.” Romans 3:18 says of the unbeliever, “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” In other words – unbelievers do not think of God aright. Before we were saved we had little regard for God. He was small and contemptible in our eyes. We did not fear Him. We valued our friends opinions of us, and were much more afraid of offending them than we were of displeasing the God that made us.

Your desires were opposed to God. Ephesians 2:3 explains, “Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh…” We did not desire God. Thinking about God and His attributes was a chore to us. Instead we desired to do evil. Look into the unsaved heart and you do not find a passion for the true God, but a passion for oneself. There was not even a spark of a right desire for God in us. As Paul explains, we were dead in our transgressions and sins.

Your will was opposed to God. Unsaved man does not love God but instead hates him. We may not see that hatred displayed because there are things which restrain that hatred at the present time like unbelief or a distorted understanding of who God is. But mark this: when an unsaved person sees God for who He really is, unless there is a work of grace in that man’s heart, he will hate God. For as Romans 3 says, “There is none righteous, not even one, there is none who understands, there is none who seeks after God…”

Your behavior was opposed to God. Paul writes in Colossians 1:21, “And although you were formerly alienated and hostile, engaged in evil deeds…” We were actively warring against God by disobeying His commands and attempting to dethrone Him and set ourselves up in His place. We were not neutral bystanders – instead we were God-haters and we demonstrated that hatred for God through a wicked life.

Your worship was opposed to God. Every man is a worshiper. Unsaved man just worships the creation instead of the creator. No man can serve two masters –therefore when a man worships anyone other than the true God, he is setting himself up as God’s enemy.

We need to understand that we were God’s enemies. We did not seek Him nor love Him. Even our best deeds were filthy rags in his sight, polluted by sin. How foolish to become proud of ourselves, when apart from Christ, there was nothing good in us. Imagine a child bragging about a mess he made in his pants. You say that’s gross. You are right, that is exactly how gross it is for us to brag about anything we have done. The proud person has an unbiblical view of sin, and has an unbiblical view of himself.

Believing this humbles us and helps us see the greatness of Christ. Again Edwards writes, “How wonderful is this love that is manifested in giving Christ to die for us. For this is love to enemies…How wonderful was the love of the Father, in giving such a gift to those who not only could not be profitable to him, but were his enemies and to so great a degree. We had great enmity to against Him, yet so did He love us, that He gave His own Son to lay down His life, in order to save our lives, from His own throne there, to be in the form of a servant; and instead of a throne of glory, gave Him to be nailed to the cross, and to be laid in the grave, so that we might be brought to a throne of glory. How wonderful was the love of Christ, in thus exercising dying love towards His enemies. He loved those that hated Him, with hatred sought to take away His life, so as voluntarily to lay down His life that they might have life through Him.”

So it’s foolish to become proud because of God’s attitude towards the proud, and because we have nothing to be proud about apart from Christ, we’re just creatures and sinful creatures at that.

It’s foolish to become proud because of what pride produces.

You may have heard the old story about two rabbits hiding in a bush because they are surrounded by a pack of wolves. The one rabbit looks at the other and says, what do you think we should we do? Should we try to escape, or should we wait a couple of minutes until we outnumber them?

Rabbits reproduce very quickly, and so does pride. Pride’s constantly having little babies, but these babies aren’t cute cuddly little things, they are monsters. Pride is not a stand alone sin, it invades and affects everything about you.

Or to put it another way, pride has some terrible side-effects. If you were deciding whether or not to take a certain drug, one of the things you would do is look at the listing of side-effects. If it said, death, comas, loss of mental capacity, put you in a wheel-chair, you probably wouldn’t take that drug.

Well, Scripture tells us pride has some terrible side-effects.

Pride leads to forgetting God. (Deutoronomy 8:11ff)

Pride can cause a godly man to act in wicked ways. (2 Chronicles 26:16ff)

Pride produces ingratitude. (2 Chronicles 32:34,35)

Pride causes us to sin in our speech. (Psalm 31:18)

Pride causes us to act in careless ways, like a fool. (Proverbs 14:16)

Pride causes us to close our ears to God’s Word and to lean on our own understanding. (Jeremiah 13:9,10)

Those are just some of the things pride produces. On the flip side, it’s interesting to note what pride prevents. It keeps us from praying, from reading God’s Word, from receiving life-giving rebuke, from changing, from seeing our own sin, from truly listening to others, from developing deep and meaningful relationships, from being truly used in the kingdom of God. The list is almost endless.

Jonathan Edwards sums it up when he writes, “Pride is the main handle by which Satan grabs hold of Christian persons and is the chief source of all the mischief that he introduces to clog and hinder the work of God.”

So it’s foolish to be proud because of how Scripture describes God’s attitude toward the proud, because apart from Christ we have no reason to be proud, and because of what God’s Word tells us pride produces.

It’s foolish to be proud because of what the Bible reveals are the consequences of pride.

Imagine that you had to go on a journey down a certain road. And so you asked someone who traveled the road often to draw you a map. When he draws the map he also lays out some of the pit-falls. Watch out for this, watch out for that. Since you’d never traveled down that road, you’d be foolish to ignore his warnings. You’d be careful not to fall into the traps.

Here we are on a journey, it’s called life. And we have a map, it’s called Scripture. Only it’s not written by someone who has only traveled the road, it’s written by the owner of the road, the ruler of all, the one who knows all things. We’re blessed because he’s carefully laid out many of the traps along the way.

Yet so often we fail to pay attention to what He has to say. It’s like this whole thing that is happening with the Catholic Church. Scripture talks about it – Paul says in 1 Timothy 4, “the Spirit explicitly says that in the later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to the deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from certain foods…” I mean Scripture talks about it, how could people fall for it, but they do.

Or sometimes I will listen to certain preachers and it’s almost like they are opening up their Bibles finding a verse, and saying the exact opposite of what that verse really means. And Scripture talks about that too…

I think of Nebuchadnezzar. He has a dream. Daniel interprets it and tells him what is going to happen and why. I would think this guy would go, wow, I better repent. I don’t want that to happen. But no he just ignores the message, keeps going his way, and eventually it all happens just as Daniel foretold.

It’s easy to look at Nebuchadnezzar, the Catholics, and even others who are caught in weak churches and think what is going on guys, how could you be so fooled. Yet, truth be told, the same thing often happens to us. We are ensnared by pride.

God’s been good. He’s gone to great lengths to warn us of the dangers of pride. We just need to pay careful attention to what He says.

Psalm 31:23, “The Lord preserves the faithful, and will fully pay back the proud doer…”

Proverbs 11:2, “When pride comes, then comes dishonor…”

Proverbs 15:25, “The Lord will tear down the house of the proud…”

Proverbs 16:5, “Everyone who is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord, assuredly he will not be unpunished.”

Proverbs 16:18, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling…”

Proverbs 29:23, “A man’s pride will bring him low…”

Isaiah 2:11 foretells a day when, “The proud look of man will be abased, and the loftiness of man will be humbled, and the Lord alone will be exalted in that day…”

Jesus Himself says in Luke 14:11, “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted…”

You may think you are something for a little while, you may even deceive a few others into believing it, but you will not fool God. There is a day coming when the proud will stand before God and be humiliated, but the humble will stand before God and will be exalted.

God’s given us warning about this, and he’s also given us examples. Nebuchadnezzar’s one. Herod’s another. Flip over to Acts 12:21-23, “And on an appointed day, Herod, having put on his royal apparel, took his seat on the rostrum and began delivering an address to them. And the people kept crying out, ‘The voice of a god and not of a man.’ And immediately an angel of the Lord struck him because he did not give God the glory and he died…”

If you are proud you are playing with fire. You will suffer the consequences. Scripture makes it very clear there is a day coming when God will humble everyone who is proud. Malachi 4:1, “For behold, the day is coming, burning like a furnace; and all the arrogant and every evildoer will be chaff; and the day that is coming will set them ablaze,” says the Lord of hosts, “so that it will leave them neither root nor branch.”

And once again, we could look at this from the opposite angle. We’ve talked about the consequences of pride, but we could spend just as much time talking about the many benefits of humility.

For one, Psalm 34:18 says, “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves those who are crushed in spirit…” Psalm 51:17 tells us, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise…” God says in Isaiah 57:15, “I dwell on a high and holy place, and also with the contrite and lowly of spirit in order to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.” And then in Isaiah 66:2, “…to this one I will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.” Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:3 and 4, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” And “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted…” And we’ve seen in James that God promises one to give grace to the humble, and two to exalt the humble.

You’re foolish to be proud because of the consequences of pride, and because you are missing out on the many blessings of humility.

It’s foolish to be proud because pride is a characteristic of the wicked not the righteous. You claim to be a Christian. Which means you claim to be a follower of God. But when you are proud you are placing yourself in the camp of those who oppose God. Pride is not just a mistake, it’s not simply a character flaw. It’s sin. Proverbs 21:4 says, “Haughty eyes and a proud heart, the lamp of the wicked is sin.” In Mark 7:22 Jesus tells us that pride is evil and defiles a person. In 1 John 2:16 we read that pride is against God. And Psalm 73:3,6 uses pride as a synonym for the wicked. That’s why 2 Timothy 3:2 tells us that one of the marks of the last days is that “men will be lovers of self…” It makes no sense for a person who claims to love God and to be concerned about righteousness to be proud because by doing so he is sinning, defiling himself, actively opposing God, acting just like the wicked around him, and really living up to Paul’s description of the apostate who live during the last days.

It’s foolish to be proud because of how Jesus Christ humbled himself. Jesus Christ deserved glory and honor. If you look over at Hebrews 1, you read that “He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power…For to which of the angels did He ever say, ‘Thou art my Son, today I have begotten Thee’? And again, ‘I will be a Father to Him, and He shall be a son to Me.’ And when He again brings the first-born into the world, He says, ‘And let all the angels of God worship Him…’….of the Son He says, ‘Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever, and the righteous scepter of His kingdom, thou hast loved righteousness and hates lawlessness, therefore God thy God has anointed Thee, with the oil of gladness above thy companions…And Thou Lord in the beginning didst lay the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are they work of thy hands; they will perish but thou remainest and they all will become old as a garment, and as a mantle thou will roll them up, as a garment they will also be changed, but thou art the same, and thy years will not come to an end…”

Yet what did Christ do? He humbled himself. Philippians 2:6-8, “…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. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

“The Lord of the world became a servant in the world. He whose right it was to rule, took obedience as His life characteristic…”

If Christ who was perfect, who never sinned, who was and is God, if He voluntarily humbled himself, how much more should we.

One of the things that makes pride so dangerous is that it is so hard to spot. The very definition of being proud is to think you are better than you really are. So it’s not surprising that the proud person doesn’t tend to see his own pride. That’s why I’d encourage you this week to think long and hard about your life, and to do some serious soul-searching, to discover if and where you are proud, when you are tempted to be proud, and to war against it.

Because really, pride is the height of folly. Remember what God’s attitude is towards the proud, that you have no reason to be proud, what pride produces, the consequences of pride, the description of the proud, and the character of our Lord!

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