Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the LORD; be assured, he will not go unpunished. Proverbs 16:5
The Problem of Pride
Pride. The word carries with it so many meanings, so many emotions. There is the positive sense of pride, which Webster defines as “a reasonable or justifiable self-respect” or “delight of elation arising from some act, possession, or relationship.” We all understand this sort of pride. I have it towards my wife and children. While they indeed have their flaws (as do I and you!), there is so much more about them that gives me “delight and elation.” My wife is kind and compassionate, she works hard, and is an abundant blessing to me. My children are growing, it seems, in the love of the Lord, and ever-so-slowly are morphing into respectful and (hopefully) godly young men. And I am proud of that. The church I serve, Sylvania, has its share of flaws (like any other church). But I am proud that Sylvania is my local church. The Word is taught clearly; the people seem to be growing in grace and love toward one another; Jesus’ name is being made known locally and around the world. And I am proud of that.
Pride, however, doesn’t just carry a positive sense. In fact, the overwhelming use of the word usually has a negative feel to it. Webster also defines pride as, “inordinate self-esteem.” It is an issue of too much self-reliance. In a culture full of dreams and talk of “the self-made man” and “trusting in yourself”, we can quickly get caught in the net of inordinate self-esteem. We can easily think to highly of ourselves, assuming that (1) we don’t really need anyone else (2) we are better, in some way, than everyone else and (3) our way is always the right and best way.
The Fool and Pride
The fool is regularly marked out as a proud or arrogant person in Scripture. It is the despising of wisdom and instruction that marks out the fool at the beginning of Proverbs (Proverbs 1:7). A need for wisdom and instruction is a counter against inordinate self-esteem. When a person feels that they cannot be taught, cannot learn, do not need instruction, do not need something beyond themselves, they are by definition a fool. Pride and foolishness go hand in hand. And of course, Scripture presents to us that God is the ultimate source of wisdom and instruction, and the longing for his wisdom is the greatest display of humility, and therefore the antithesis of being a fool.
Many theologians view pride (and perhaps its complimentary sin of unbelief) as the true source of all other sinning. Many point to pride being the chief sin of Adam and Eve in the garden. There was a rejection of God’s wisdom. Instead, they became wise in their own eyes. That which had been restricted they now longed for. In their pride, they pressed past the boundaries that had been established for their safety. John Chrysostom states in his Homilies To The Thessalonians, “Pride is the beginning of sin, the first impulse and movement toward evil.” C.S. Lewis humorously speaks about the enemy’s tactic to make the believer “proud of his humility” in letter 14 of his Screwtape Letters. All around us are opportunities to become fools through inordinate self-esteem.
What Is To Be Done
As we continue this series, we will look closely at the various ways people can be foolish, those “common traps” if you will. Behind all of these things, stands this sin of pride – I know better than God does. I know better than the Word. I know better than the larger community of faith that is whole-heartedly pursuing Jesus. Pride drives us away from our need of the Lord and toward ourselves. This is always accompanied by disastrous consequences.
So, in the meantime, what do we do. Proverbs teaches us to (1) Receive God’s word (2) to treasure God’s word (3) to make our ear attentive to wisdom (4) to call out for insight (5) and to seek for understanding like a treasure (Proverbs 2:1-4). “…then, you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God” (Proverbs 2:5). God has supplied the means of grace to learn his ways, namely, the Word. Apart from it, we are chasing after the wind, destined to trust in our own ways.
Part 1 of this series
For Further Reading