The Perils of Pride
Arthur Shearman, Worcester, England
In previous articles in this section of the magazine, we have dealt with some damaging evils which the young Christian should avoid. It has been argued that the wise course for the believer is to avoid smoking, alcohol, the occult, etc.: "your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit", 1 Cor. 6. 19.
However, it is not only Christians who abstain from these things. There are many who make no religious profession at all and yet who, either on principle or as a matter of taste, never engage in such things.
We need to be careful that we do not present the gospel and the Christian life as a list of "negatives". The believer should abstain from things which are wrong, because of his positive opposition to all that belongs to Satan's kingdom. The pleasures of sin (and sin certainly can give pleasure) are poison to the pure.
Evils of the kind mentioned can be said to represent the evil without (i.e., outside). But what about the evil within?
There have been many who, out of religious zeal and commitment, have taken vows of abstinence and seclusion, and yet, in their solitude, have found that the real sins of their nature are still with them. The Lord Jesus made it clear that it is the evils that are within, those which come "forth from the heart", that defile a person, Matt. 15. 18. "From the heart": how significant this is. Young Christian, do you give enough attention to dealing with the wrong attitudes and values which work in your heart and mind, and which often spoil your best intentions and endeavours?
One of the most dangerous and insidious spiritual diseases, providing clear evidence of the work of the enemy within, is that of pride. If not mastered, this evil will soil the beauty of Christian character and spoil the enjoyment of Christian fellowship.
Pride represents the demand of our ego to be recognized, at all costs, as the first, the best and the highest. When we view it in the light of God's Word, we find that pride is the sin which militates most against God and His purpose.
We shall consider briefly (i) its origin, (ii) its nature, (iii) its condemnation, and (iv) its remedy. Let us ponder each of these prayerfully in die Lord's presence.
(i) The Origin of Pride. Where did pride begin? The straight answer to this is: "with the devil himself. Pride is the cause of the condemnation pronounced upon the devil, 1 Tim. 3. 6. The evil of pride is essentially personal and it existed before man ever did!
Consider Isaiah 14. 12-15. Here, behind and beyond the character of the king of Babylon, is described "Lucifer" (i.e., the shining one), the highest of all created beings. Yet, although so high, he aspired still higher. The throne of God was his target and goal -nothing less! Here we discover the origin and essence of pride. It can never get high enough; given free rein it would even dethrone God! As a consequence of his pride and rebellion, the devil is to be cast eventually into the hell specially prepared for him.
It is no wonder, therefore, that Satan, when tempting Eve, sowed the seeds of discontent by appealing to her pride, "ye shall be as gods (or God), knowing good and evil", Gen. 3. 5.
(ii) The Nature of Pride. What is the nature of this evil within each of us? It is possible to distinguish four types of pride.
Pride of Race. While there is nothing wrong in genuine patriotism and love for one's homeland, pride of race can easily develop into racial prejudice and hatred.
Pride of Place. While there is nothing wrong in an ambition to use the abilities and talents given to us, pride of place can lead to the worst forms of class distinction and snob bery.
Pride of Face. It is right to take a "pride" in one's appearance as far as cleanliness and dress is concerned, Indeed, some young people need to
give more, rather than less, attention to such things. Nevertheless, concern about one's appearance can be over done and can result in a self-admiration which is conceited and offensive.
Pride of Grace. What can we say of this? There is a sense in which we rightly make our boast in the Lord. We glory in His cross. But there is a boasting which ignores the saving grace of God and indicates a "holier than thou" attitude to others. This is nothing but spiritual pride - and an ugly thing it is!
(iii) The Condemnation of Pride. God hates pride! The book of Proverbs stresses God's feelings about it. The Lord hates "a proud look", 6. 17. "Pride and arrogancy", He says, "do I hate", 8. 13. Every one that is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord, 16. 5. Make no mistake, God loathes pride.
The evils which accompany pride are many. Strife, envy, complacency, arrogance, presumption and showing off can all be traced to a proud disposition. No wonder then that the Bible tells us that God resists the proud.
(iv) The Remedy for Pride. It is not easy for a young person to walk humbly with God, in a world where egotism, self-aggrandisement and self-expression are widely applauded. In the rat race of modern society, it seems that the humble and submissive must go to the wall.
The Christian, however, has one supreme Example, who, in word and action contradicts the opinions and ideas of a godless world. The Lord Jesus Himself stands before us and says, "learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart", Matt. 11. 29.
The familiar passage in Philippians 2 shows us that His rights as the Son of God were not selfishly grasped when He came to earth. Here is the essence of humility. For Him, it was "no reputation", "the form of a servant" and "the death of the cross". These descending steps stand in contrast to the ambitions of pride; they are the very reverse of all that Lucifer sought.
If we study the life and ways of the Lord Jesus, all our pride and conceit are immediately challenged and condemned. It was while washing His disciples' feet that He said, "I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you", John 13. 15.
How then can we conquer pride? Positive action must be taken. The apostle who initially rejected the Lord's offer to wash his feet could later say, "Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God", 1 Pet. 5. 6. We are not told to ask God to humble us. It would be a sad and painful experience for us if He had to do so.
By submission to the Holy Spirit, our lives can be remoulded. Yes, it is possible for proud self to be conquered and the likeness of the Lord Jesus to be developed in us. Briefly stated, the enemy within must give way to the Spirit within!