Three Ways Pride Distorts Our Thinking

Three Ways Pride Distorts Our Thinking

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

Some people’s sin struggles are evident. If they wrestle with foul language or lying, you can hear it. If they wrestle with immodesty or drunkenness, you can see it. Some spiritual weaknesses, though, are insidiously difficult to see–especially in ourselves. In Luke 9:46-56, in events that follow each other in very short order, the disciples’ struggle with pride is exposed by Jesus. We can understand why they struggled with pride. They were walking with the Messiah! He was training them for a special mission. Now, the only matter for them to settle was how they ranked among each other. Jesus exposes that very mindset in these verses.

PRIDE SEEKS PREEMINENCE (46-48). The disciples argue among themselves about who might be the greatest. Not only is this childish, but it reflects their short memory. They just displayed a deficiency of faith that prevented them from casting out the unclean spirit. Perhaps Peter, James, and John, given privy to the transfiguration, might have felt that if they had been among these other disciples they would have been able to cast it out. We don’t know. All we know is that Jesus rebukes the very idea of the arguing by placing a child in their midst. Children were barely noticed among first-century adults, but Jesus makes paying attention to and ministering to the least of people the mark of greatness. Discipleship is not about glory and visibility. It’s about having our eyes open to the humble and our hearts open to serving them. 

PRIDE SHOWS PREJUDICE (49-50). While some have tried to use these verses to say that there are saved Christians in religious groups outside of the New Testament church, they totally misunderstand Jesus’ point (not to mention, miss the teaching of a great many passages). What was John’s bone of contention? There was a disciple of Jesus who was doing works in His name (acting by His authority; recognizing His identity). They tried to prevent him “because he does not follow along with us” (49). They concluded this person couldn’t be acceptable because he wasn’t accompanying them. Jesus knows this man is on His side, but the disciples’ needed to hear this: “Do not hinder him; for he who is not against you is for you” (50). This territorial mentality can creep into our thinking. We should hold hands with all those who are on the Lord’s side, doing the Lord’s work. This is true if it regards the good works of others in the local congregation or if it is area congregations. 

PRIDE SEEKS PUNISHMENT (51-56). Pride shows itself in a very different way shortly after this. Jesus sends some followers on a mission, but they were rejected. James and John’s solution was to exact vengeance on them. They were anxious to call down fire from heaven and consume them. Whatever they expected as Jesus’ reaction, they had to be surprised at His rebuke. He corrects their thinking, saying that He came to this earth to save rather than destroy men’s lives. Jesus’ solution was simply to move on to more receptive hearts (56). Sometimes our impatience with others or disappointment in their displays of unbelief can make us trigger happy. Whether we are indignant on the Lord’s behalf or we feel personally slighted, we need to remember the patient, charitable response Jesus makes to those who, in the moment, refused to receive Him. That patience and kindness may or may not ultimately reach their hearts, but it is the best route to success in trying to both be a disciple and win disciples for Jesus. 

Do a Bible search and see what God says about pride. It’s at the top of the list in those deadly sins of Proverbs 6:16-19, things God says He hates! Both Testaments say that it leads to our downfall (Prov. 3:34; Jas. 4:6; 1 Pet. 5:5). So often, we see it as a struggle for those who are already in the body of Christ. I must constantly watch for this self-centered behavior, keeping my focus on other disciples, the lost, the less fortunate and weak, and especially the Lord. Let me remember that it’s all about Him and them, and say with John the Baptist, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). 

Pride Goes Before Destruction

Pride Goes Before Destruction

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent

brent-portrait

Brent Pollard

Solomon cautioned, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling” (Proverbs 16.18 NASB1995). I am sure we can think of many examples of this truth we have witnessed in our own lives. However, one that comes to my geeky mind is the downfall of Atari.

Atari was the video gaming console every child had to have from the late 1970s into the early 1980s. But then came along a glitchy game that nearly killed the video gaming console industry: “E.T. The Extraterrestrial.” Of course, we know of the movie by the same name. The film was a commercial success. “E.T.’s” director, Stephen Spielberg, wanted to capitalize on his movie’s success with a video game based on the titular character.

In addition, Spielberg wanted Atari to have the game ready for the Christmas season. Unfortunately, that timeframe only gave the developer requested by Spielberg about five months to complete the game. Spielberg’s request was not without precedent. The developer had previously worked on another game adapted from a Spielberg movie (Raiders of the Lost Ark). Nevertheless, the developer flying high atop Atari’s past success assured Spielberg that he could develop the game quickly.

The game did sell well, at first. But then the reviews came back from players. The game was confusing, tedious, and E.T. would routinely get stuck in a hole from which he could not extricate himself. Therefore, a quarter-million users returned the game to Atari, and Atari was stuck with over two million units that they could not move. This failure created a meltdown resulting in the breakup of Atari. Atari had lost over 500 million dollars. If not for the arrival of Nintendo’s video game console in the mid-1980s, introducing us to the lovable Italian plumber, Mario, one wonders if the gaming industry would be a billion-dollar industry today.

It may be that we can boast of many successes in life. Paul certainly could. Paul called himself a “Hebrew of Hebrews” (Philippians 3.4-6). Yet, Paul said he counted all his gains as loss, even rubbish, for the sake of Christ (Philippians 3.7-8). If you keep reading Philippians 3, you’ll note that Paul admits that he had not arrived at his destination but pressed onward so he could attain his eternal prize (Philippians 3.12-14). Paul then exhorts us to have a similar mindset (Philippians 3.15-16).

Yes, pride causes us to become blind to things like temptation. We become so full of ourselves that we have no room for the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. The Hebrews’ writer warns us about how easy it is to drift away (Hebrews 2.1-3). Therefore, we must be vigilant to watch our location relative to the Gospel. Paul writes: “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall” (1 Corinthians 10.12 NASB1995).

As we turn our attention back to Atari, we note that it was, at least, partly resurrected. It reported earnings of about 21 million in the fiscal year 2018. But what is 21 million compared to the half a billion dollars they lost in the early 1980s? Moreover, in the early twenty-teens, Atari filed for bankruptcy. Thus, Atari demonstrates that you cannot always get back on your feet after you stumble.

Fortunately, as Christians, we are showered by the riches of God’s grace (cf. Ephesians 1.7-8). Thus, if we will but “walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1.7 NASB1995). So, watch your feet and remember that pride goes before destruction.

“NO, HE’S ABOUT LIKE YOU!”

“NO, HE’S ABOUT LIKE YOU!”

Neal Pollard

A new preacher was moving to work with a church in a community where there were several more congregations. Two of the preachers already working in that area met for lunch and the conversation soon moved to the new preacher. One of the men asked, “Have you ever heard of this guy before?” The other said, “Yes, I know him very well.” The first, picking at the second, said, “Oh? Well, does he preach as well as you?” The second dryly said, “No, he preaches about like you!”

That second preacher had healthy self-image, didn’t he? He was obviously joking, but you probably have met his counterpart-someone who took such self-evaluation quite seriously. We call them the “one-uppers,” “the toppers,” and the one most likely to say, “Oh yeah? You think that’s something.” You hear them at work, at your kid’s ballgame, out with a group of friends, at family gatherings, and even with spiritual family members. Different things may make them tick-arrogance, low self-esteem, insecurity or feelings of inadequacy, a felt need for being the center of attention, and any number of other things. Typically, such behavior is thought boorish and overbearing and only rarely endearing.

The Bible tells the church, with its many and varied “parts,” that no one should “think more highly of himself than he ought to think” (Rom. 12:3). You are precious and valuable in the sight of the Lord, no doubt! However, you are not more special or valuable than any of His other children. Your soul is not even more valuable than the lost, as yet unredeemed soul of that wino in the gutter, that prostitute walking the street, that murderer on death row, or that blind mute living out a short life in the obscurity of an orphanage in Albania. My Grandpa Mitchell was known to often say, “Remember that nobody is better than you are and you are no better than anyone else!” What an even-handed, level-headed way to look at life. You are better at some things than others, you do better in certain areas of life than others, and there may be one of more things at which you are incredibly talented, competent, or proficient! Be grateful to God and give Him the glory for it or them. But never let it turn to sinful pride or an over-inflated ego. That is a turn off to men and God!