The Bible could not be clearer about God’s attitude toward both the proud and the humble. He plainly regards pride as synonymous with wickedness. The wicked “speak arrogantly” (Ps. 94:4). The one with a perverse heart “has a haughty look and an arrogant heart” (Ps. 101:5). The proud treat others wrongfully (Ps. 119:78). But, when you imagine a proud person, do not think of a wino in a back alley, smoking crack, cursing, and indulging in every sort of immorality. More often, he looks like the Pharisee in the temple thanking God that he’s not like that guy (Lk. 18:10-14). He could be the “older brother” of Luke 15, not obviously immoral or riotous or wasteful or overtly disobedient. He may go to church with us. He may even be us. How can we tell when we see him or her? Here are three questions to ask:
CAN I BE TAUGHT?
“The fear of the Lord is the instruction of wisdom, and before honor comes humility” (Pr. 15:33). With these words, the Bible connects honor and humility but does so concerning the subject of instruction. Contrast this with Jeremiah’s audience, of whom it was said, “But they did not obey nor incline their ear, but made their neck stiff, that they might not hear nor receive instruction” (17:23). All of us play the role of students in multiple relationships. Do we think we know more than our teachers? Do we feel like they cannot tell us anything we do not know or show us a way better than we are already doing it? Do we regard such teachers with contempt, looking down on them and even slandering them? Behind such folly is unteachable pride.
CAN I BE CORRECTED?
Proverbs 13:1 says, “A wise son accepts his father’s discipline, but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke.” Proverbs 15:5 calls this same person “a fool.” A proud heart leads one to bristle and rebel when another attempts to correct him or her. Correction is to be given with humility (2 Tim. 2:25) but mustn’t it also be received that way? If not, why not? We are to show all humility to all men (Ti. 3:2), being clothed with humility (1 Pet. 5:5). That is most stiffly tested when we face the correction of another, whether parents, elders, a spouse, a friend, a teacher, an employer, or whoever may be in a position to have to suggest a course of correction for us.
DO I SEEK GOD?
David describes the wicked in a number of unflattering ways in the 10th Psalm, then adds, “The wicked in his proud countenance does not seek God; God is in none of his thoughts” (4). Few of us, if asked, would say that was true of us. We want to be thought of as those who seek God and think about God. Yet, if we are self-centered and full of self, there is no place in our hearts for divine guidance. If I am proud, I do not stop to think about what God thinks of my words before I speak them. I just blurt them out. If I am proud, I do not consider what His Word says before I act. I just do it. Obnoxious, selfish, and proud behavior is not the mark of one seeking God. It is of one seeking self. The Holy Spirit calls us to use the mirror of scripture to honestly answer this question. Through James, He says, “For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing. But the wisdom from above is fist pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace” (Js. 3:16-18). Therein is the litmus test determining pride and humility.
This is a serious matter, deserving full attention. Pride drives a wedge in one’s relationship with God (Ps. 138:6). Pride causes friction between one and God (Pr. 3:34). Perhaps no statement makes self-examination on this matter more urgent than Proverbs 8:13, where God simply says, “Pride and arrogance and the evil way and the perverse mouth I hate.” Lord, let us be a humble people!