THE NATURE OF PRIDE
There are three temptations to
which all humans are vulnerable: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes,
and the pride of life (1 Jn 2:16).
Not too many things in this world
arouse my desires, so by due process of elimination, I am most suspect to
pride’s pitfall. It is a peculiarity that those of us having a great desire to
serve God and cultivate ourselves are also highly susceptible to this vanity.
For some of us, the first two
temptations are overcome through prayer and self-discipline in the pursuit of
holiness. But the pursuit of holiness, coupled by good works and a slightly
misguided heart, can quickly develop into self-righteousness.
Hence, pride has reared its ugly
IT SNEAKS UP ON US
I have this fear that I will
someday become lukewarm and wake up one morning to find myself serving in
church not because I am driven by a passion for Christ but because I’m merely
doing what is expected of me.
It may be that we are initially
moved by God’s love and want Him to grant us an opportunity to return His
favor. Fasting and praying with tears in all humility, we pour our heart out
before God and offer ourselves as empty vessels to be used for His good
Touched by our sincere petition,
God bestows upon us some spiritual gifts to edify His church, and we are soon
provided with an occasion to contribute to the holy work. We carry out our
responsibilities faithfully, and all is well for God is with us.
Since we prove ourselves competent
and faithful, we are given more and greater responsibilities. In time, we
develop a reputation for being a “fervent” brother or sister in church. People
start to talk about how good we are, praise us, and thank God for us.
At this point, be very afraid that
our heart is not puffed up from this attention. Although we have a reputation,
we should be careful to make ourselves of no reputation, as Jesus Christ also
lowered Himself. We must pray earnestly for humility, or pride will be our
The nature of pride is this: it
sneaks up on us like a serpent slowly creeping into the depth of our heart to
plant its seed.
While soaking in the joy and
limelight of accomplishing great works for God’s glory, edifying and leading
many to come to believe in Jesus’ name, we continue unaware that our heart is
overrun by this weed of pride.
We may not notice, but others will
observe a change in our character, in our countenance, the way we walk, and the
way we talk. The alteration is subtle at first, but this inward superiority soon
manifests itself outwardly.
We become less considerate to
members in church who do not meet our standard of holiness. We develop the
Martha syndrome and start complaining to God why others aren’t doing as much as
us. We become increasingly intolerant of people’s weaknesses and very
opinionated in meetings and Bible studies. Our statements are curt, unseasoned
with salt, and before long we start parading around the church as if we owned
We have become very good at the
works we do, but brothers and sisters are miserable with whom we’ve become.
Abraham Lincoln once said, “Nearly
all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give
him power.” I find this to be true. Not too many men can responsibly handle the
power of power, maintain humility in a position of authority in the church, and
not become puffed up while exercising great spiritual gifts.
I speak not only of brothers, but
sisters also need to guard their hearts against this evil. For it is certainly
unbecoming of a woman to flaunt an attitude of arrogance and conceit when she
knows what is precious and beautiful in her holy Father’s eyes is a meek and
contrite heart—a gentle and quiet spirit.
It is a pitiful thing to see a
once-humble servant of God changed by pride and, like a fallen angel, cast down
by God because we no longer give or bring glory to His name. We become marred
vessels not useful for accomplishing His good work.
We Need to Repent
There was one particular summer I
was super busy with church work. I was doing everything—setting up at church,
cooking, cleaning, hosting preachers, preparing for religious education classes,
leading Bible study, etc.
It was during a fellowship
gathering at the end of the summer that I broke down. I remember feeling
strange that whole evening. During hymn singing, it was as if I was
mechanically opening and closing my mouth. I had no strength in prayer. It even
suffered me to move my tongue.
The Bible was propped opened on my
lap but I was unable to absorb the words. I couldn’t feel anything. I was completely
numb to the movement of the Holy Spirit. Dread overcame me as I realized my
worst fear had encroached upon me: I had become lukewarm.
Sin and pride had built up like
plaque to harden my heart. At that moment, I felt so distant from God, and it
was the worst feeling in the world.
In panic, I came before God in
tears of repentance. I begged Him to allow me to just feel again and to turn my
stony heart back into a heart of flesh. After returning to Him with all
sincerity, God did not only show me mercy but embraced me with His utmost love.
IT IMPACTS EVERYONE
Pride will bring down even the
most zealous holy worker, but let us also be aware that a proud person in a
position of leadership can be a stumbling block to the entire congregation.
Because of Pharaoh’s hardened
heart, the Egyptian people were afflicted by ten debilitating plagues. Because
the proud Israelite kings would not heed the prophet Jeremiah’s warnings to
repent, the citizens of Jerusalem
were besieged by the Babylonians and perished by the sword, famine, and
pestilence. And because they were blinded by pride and jealousy, the Pharisees
and Sadducees led the Jews to crucify Jesus Christ.
Under extreme pressure and
frustration from the Israelites, Moses struck the rock with his staff even though
God told him to speak to it. Moses didn’t want to upset the people, in part,
because he didn’t want to fail. Sometimes, we serve God fervently because of
our own selfish ambition to gain people’s respect, which is a form of pride.
For that one tiny slip from complete
obedience, God stripped Moses of the privilege to enter the promise land. If
God seemed unfair, it is because we don’t understand Him or see His greater
The LORD explained to Moses and Aaron, “Because
you did not believe Me, to hallow Me in the eyes of the children of Israel,
therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given
them.” (Num 20:12)
The key phrase here is that Moses
failed to hallow God in the eyes of the children of Israel. In trying to please men, we
forget that it is God’s instructions and approval that matter most. Therefore,
we have to constantly examine our actions; whether they are born out of pride
and whether they glorify God.
Also, the people were intently
watching their great leader. It is often easy to hallow someone who is able to
perform such extraordinary things before our very eyes and forget that it is
God who is working the miracles through them.
Maybe if God had allowed Moses to lead
the people into the promised land, they would have neglected to give God glory and
Moses would have become a stumbling block to their faith. In His own wisdom,
God raised up Joshua to lead the Israelites in Moses’ stead.
Although Moses had to step down
from his position of leadership, by no measure did he receive a shameful
discharge. After forty years of faithful service, God gave Moses the most
honorable retirement ceremony—He buried him with His own hands.
IT IS OVERCOME BY LOVE
We have talked much about the
pitfall of pride, but how do we rid our heart of this iniquity? How can we
continue serving God and not be inflated with pride?
Have you ever wondered why
humility, although such a prominent topic in the Bible, is not recorded as one
of the nine fruit of the Holy Spirit? Galatians 5 lists love, joy, peace,
longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
But where is humility?
An explanation of this curiosity
can be found in 1 Corinthians 13, where it is revealed that humility is, in
essence, a manifestation of love. A humble person does not parade himself or
becomes puffed up. He knows that he is an unprofitable servant and has only
done what was his duty to do.
A humble person does not behave rudely
or seek his own interests. His love is without hypocrisy—esteeming others above
himself. A humble person is not provoked and thinks no evil. He is slow to
anger, slow to judge, and quick to forgive.
Therefore, the secret to
overcoming pride is not to wear a mask of false humility but to be filled to
the brim with God’s love.
Now if love is a fruit of the Holy
Spirit, its increase comes by the fullness of the Holy Spirit, which is only
received through unceasing prayer in the Spirit. The apostle Paul best
articulates the importance of grasping God’s profound love in his own prayer
for the saints in Ephesus:
For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of
our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,
that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be
strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may
dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in
love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and
length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge;
that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to
do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the
power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations,
forever and ever. Amen. (Eph 3:14-20)
And what is this power that Paul
observes to work in us? It is the awesome power of the Holy Spirit, which dwells
inside of our sinful mortal bodies to give us strength and to grant us life
When we abide in God’s spirit and
become saturated with His love, we are able to bury our pride—the sin that so
easily disqualifies our service to God.
It amazes me when I consider the
power of this humble, one-syllable, four-letter word. Perfect love will cast
out fear, compel a person to lay down his life, forgive a transgression,
restore a wounded heart, and cover a whole multitude of sins. Yes, even our