If anyone has a right to be proud, it must be God. After all, He created the world without any help from you or me. He Himself is uncreated, eternal, and utterly faultless. If you think there is a problem with God, you are just showing your ignorance. He Himself dwells in unapproachable light, He is mighty, glorious, perfect in beauty and splendour, ominiscient – no one and nothing can compare to Him. He is the only One qualified to be proud. And yet, He is humble.
5 Who is like unto the LORD our God, who dwelleth on high,
6 Who humbleth himself to behold the things that are in heaven, and in the earth! (Psalm 113:5,6)
Since God is always beholding the things that are in heaven, and in the earth, this means that God is continually humbling Himself! The Bible says that there is nothing hidden from the eyes of Him with whom we have to do. It must give God pain to look at some of the stuff that is going on here, but He does it anyway. He is always humbling Himself.
In case you think this is just false praise for God, think again. I want to give you one example of how humble God really is. He is so humble, it is shocking.
As human beings, we have a tendency to want to be selective about the people we associate with. Our natural tendency is to seek the company of those who we find interesting, attractive, well-bred, intelligent, accomplished. We don’t mind if people know we have some distinguished friends. On the other hand, for most of us, there are some people we would rather not spend much time with at all. People who are mentally retarded, sloppy, who have obnoxious habits, who let their saliva drool from their mouth in public, who love to talk a lot – at a party most of us would be off like a rocket to the punch bowl if we found ourselves talking with such a person. And yet, I have found that God Himself is willing to associate with such people! In fact, He is willing to come into their lives, permanently! He is willing to adopt them into His family! God risks His great name accepting people like this into His family – he takes that risk with all kinds of folks, yes, even people like you and me. So God is very humble.
I have attended Bible studies in a bad area of Sydney where all the people were like this, and my uncle, who is a very wealthy medical doctor, was there, ministering to these people, and clearly taking delight in the way he could see the Spirit of God beginning to move in their lives. I am telling you, God is there for the people whom the world rejects. But are we there with Him?
When God sent Jesus into the world, He could have arranged for him to be born in Caesar’s palace, or at least in the house of a nobleman. But no, God sent His Son, who is God the Son, into the world to be born in an animal’s feeding trough. That’s what the word “manger” actually means. “Away in an animals-feeding-trough, no crib for a bed…”
There’s got to be a message in this for all the pretentiousness and hubris of mankind. None of us would be willing to have our children born in an animals feeding trough. But that was about the only place that was available for the Son of God when He came to earth. And it seems like God would like to be welcomed into our lives, He’d love to live in us, and move with us, but we are too busy exalting ourselves, and so we end up treating God like he is someone of a lower social caste than ourselves. So much of what we say and do is an affront to God, because we are leaving God out of things. Its as if our business is more important than His, as if our opinions count for more than His word, our ideas are better, and He is not worth consulting, except possibly after we’ve made our minds up anyway.
The Holy Spirit also is humble. He is the One who comes and lives in us, even though sometimes we don’t offer Him very good conditions. Sometimes we give Him a dirty house to live in. Sometimes, we don’t talk to Him for days or even weeks. And yet He, the wonderful Holy Spirit, waits patiently for us, hoping and believing that one day we will, together with Him, be all God wants us to be on the earth.
So How Does God Feel About Pride?
Pride is that attitude of self-worship which causes a man or woman, a boy or a girl to think more highly of him or herself than he or she ought. It was well expressed in the Frank Sinatra song, “I Did it My Way”. I couldn’t believe it when I actually heard some of the words to this song at a restaurant in Bucharest, Romania, as a lady sang the words in English: “Mistakes, I’ve made a few, but then again, too few to mention”. Unbelievable. If this does not make you cringe, nothing will.
One man in Romania said, “I have so much wisdom I am amazed that even God could fit it all into my head!”. When I hear statements like this, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. But people have said them in all seriousness!
The mind of a proud man seeks to construct everything in his internal world to offer up continual adoration and praise to the self, to the ego. All a man’s accomplishments and achievements are marshalled before his own internal gaze, he views them with self satisfaction. If others seem to excel more, the proud man can find a way to belittle that person or find fault. Pride has many symptoms and features. The difficult thing about it is that it is so hard to see in yourself! Often the people who hate pride the most in others are those who are the proudest themself.
A lot more can be said about pride, but how does God feel about it? On this point, the Scriptures are very plain.
“Everyone that is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord”. (Proverbs 16:5)
“For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the LORD of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.” (Malachi 4:1)
“God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6). If you are proud, God will fight against you, He will oppose you, He will resist you! Does it sometimes seem to you like that it what is happening in your life? Maybe God is resisting you – maybe you are proud! At least keep an open mind on the possibility.
Psalm 138:6 says, “Though the LORD be high, yet hath he respect unto the lowly: but the proud he knoweth afar off.” He knows them from afar, and that is where He keeps them. You cannot maintain an attitude of pride and be close to the Lord.
Sometimes we are wondering why we cannot seem to get close to the Lord. We pray, we study, and yet it seems like God is not willing to talk to us. Many times the answer to this lies in the fact that there is pride and hardness of heart in us, that we are not directly conscious of. If we will ask the Lord about it, and are willing for a bit of painful humbling, He may show us. Sometimes, we know there are things not pleasing to God, and we still hold onto them. This too, can be a form of pride. Sometimes you have to just come to the Lord and admit that you know there are things in you that are not right, and what is worse, you are not really willing to change. Perhaps in confessing this to the Lord, He will give grace and your heart will be softened.
The Bible is very consistent in the theme of God’s hatred for pride. In this respect, God is very different to the world system. The world system encourages pride up to a point, as long as it is somewhat covered over – so as not to be revealed in its full ugliness. I don’t think anyone really appreciates raw pride in others. It generates a kind of loathing in all men, especially other prideful people. God also hates pride, not because he is proud, but rather because it is so inappropriate! Anything good we have came only because of God. The light we might show forth is like the light of the moon, which has no light of its own, but merely reflects the light of the sun. Should the moon then boast as if it was the creator of the light which comes forth from it. Much less should we, who many times show darkness in place of the light we should be reflecting from the Lord.
The world system encourages you to be your best, not so much because that will enable you to help more people, but rather, because then you have something to be proud about, so you can feel good about yourself.
One of the most powerful motivations in the world today is what the Bible calls “the pride of life” (1 John 2:15). The apostle John tells us that this is not of God! Its is listed along with lust and greed as one of the basic core evil motivations that is in the world. (The good motivations, by the way, are love for God and people, and a passionate desire for the honor of God).
This “pride of life” motivation is what drives many people to devote their lives obsessively to their career or to the pursuit of money. In the process, people miss the plan of God for their lives. Often their families are neglected as well. The desire to live in prestigious real estate, to drive an expensive car, or to achieve some other material objective often has a lot more to do with fulfilling personal ego needs than anything else. The same can be said for the academic pursuit of knowledge and understanding. If the goal is never achieved, the person becomes miserable. And if the goal is achieved, chances are, the person will become proud of what they have done, and this pride will cause them to further resist the purposes of God for their life.
Lets see how God felt about the pride of one of the greatest emperors in world history – King Nebuchadnezzar. In the Book of Daniel we read:
“All this came upon King Nebuchadnezzar. At the end of twelve months he was walking about the royal palace of Babylon. The king spoke, saying, ‘Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for a royal dwelling by my mighty power and for the honor of my majesty?’
“While the word was still in the king’s mouth, a voice fell from heaven: “King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: the kingdom has departed from you! And they shall drive you from men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. They shall make you eat grass like oxen; and seven times shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses.” (Daniel 4:28-32)
Here is King Neb congratulating himself on how great he is, what he has done. He is finally basking in his achievements. He is talking about his mighty power and the honor of his majesty. No mention of or credit given to Almighty God.
God humbles him, so that he can know that no king is able to rule except by the sovereign permission of Almighty God. When I read the book of Daniel, I come to the conclusion that it is likely that Nebuchadnezzar was most likely eternally saved. God did a lot to reach out to him, and the message seems to have gotten through in the end.
God Humbles the Proud and Exalts the Humble
The story of Nebuchadnezzar is just one example of a recurring biblical theme concerning the way God runs the Universe. The principle is this, in due time, God humbles proud men, and exalts those who are humble. One place where it is repeated is in the first letter of Peter to the churches:
“Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time.” (1 Peter 5:5-7)
God is telling us that our job is to humble ourselves, and His job is to exalt us. If we try to reverse the roles, and do His job, exalting ourselves, then He will do our job for us, and humble us. It is one of the most powerful laws of the Universe.
If we humble ourselves, it will change our destiny. A person or nation against whom God has pronounced judgment can find mercy if they humble themselves. Of King Ahab, the Bible says, “there was no one like Ahab who sold himself to do wickedness in the sight of the Lord”. And yet, even wicked King Ahab, who led Israel into worse idolatry than just about any other, was noted by God at one point for his humbling of himself.
In 1 Kings 21:20-24 God has just condemned Ahab, through the mouth of the prophet Elijah. And it says goes on to say:
“So it was, when Ahab heard those words, that he tore his clothes and put sackcloth on his body, and fasted and lay in sackcloth, and went about mourning.
“And the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, “Do you see how Ahab has humbled himself before Me? Because he has humbled himself before Me, I will not bring the calamity in his days. In the days of his son I will bring the calamity on his house.” (1 Kings 21:27-28)
We see that Ahab’s humility at this point really moved the heart of God. And it will move the heart of God when you too, humble yourself, no matter who you are.
The act of humbling oneself before God, has wonderful consequences, even for a wicked man. On the other hand, pride can destroy the legacy of a good man. We see this in the life of King Hezekiah, who was probably the greatest reformer of all the Kings of Israel. God caused him to prosper so much that the King of Babylon came to check things out. The Scripture indicates that Hezekiah was proud and did not sufficiently give glory to God (see 2 Chronicles 32:25). The prophet Isaiah came and told Hezekiah that all these things were going to be taken away by the King of Babylon. Its interesting to note that Hezekiah’s legacy of godliness did not last. His son, Manasseh, became possibly the most wicked king in Judah’s history, even introducing occultic worship into the temple of God. Interestingly, however, even Manasseh found mercy with God. The Bible notes that Manasseh “greatly humbled himself before the God of His Fathers” (2 Chronicles 33:12). Its is an amazing tribute to the mercy of God that this king was restored to the throne from exile and imprisonment, all because he humbled himself. Surely there is a message in this for all of us.
A lot more can be said on the themes of pride and humilty, and I hope God will enable me to write more on this subject soon.
Truths that, if Known, Can Help free Us from the Sin of Pride
Pride is a sinful attempt to meet a deep emotional need that we have for significance. If we can realise though, that we are already immensely significant to God, who weighs our actions and their consequences very carefully, we can be freed from the sin of pride.
Christians especially, are beloved sons and daughters of Almighty God. We are
princes and princesses! We are so by virtue of our new birth and adoption into God’s family. We can’t take the credit for it, but neither should we think of ourselves as somehow insignificant. When a royal prince is born, the event is significant, even though that new baby has done nothing to merit fame or notoriety.
What we need to realise in all things is that we are so very dependant on God for everything good. We need God. We need everything He has to offer. We depend on God as life depends on the sun for its existence. And we need God’s special grace if we are going to be or do anything pleasing to Him. Let’s remember that, and ask for it from God too.