What goes before a fall? The Good Book says ‘Pride’.
Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. (Proverbs 16:18)
What is pride, anyway? The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines pride as: ‘overweening opinion of one’s own qualities, merits’ and ‘proud’ as ‘haughty, arrogant’.
Roget’s Thesaurus speaks of the double-edged nature of pride. Many people use the term to refer to satisfaction in their children’s accomplishments, or to self-respect. But Roget’s Thesaurus reminds that pride is also connected to:
arrogance, haughtiness, insolence, loftiness, lordliness, overbearingness, presumption, superiority, narcissism, vanity, egotism.
Hence we see the origin of the 1960’s slang phrase “ego trip”.
Paul warned Timothy three times to watch out for the proud and arrogant false teachers in his midst. In 1 Timothy 6:3, Paul commented:
If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, he is conceited/proud and understands nothing.
The Greek word for pride (tuphoo) has the root concept of ‘smoke’, almost like our modern concept of the ‘smoke and mirrors’ used by spin-doctors. Again in 2 Timothy 3:1-2, Paul said:
But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive...
The danger of pride is why Paul cautions against ordaining new believers, lest they come under the devil’s condemnation through unteachability. (1 Timothy 3:6)
Why is pride spoken of as the first of the seven deadly sins? Perhaps because pride causes us to forget our Maker:
Your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt, the land of slavery. (Deuteronomy 8:14)
Pride is basically non-productive and unteachable:
Pride only breeds quarrels, but wisdom is found in those who take advice. (Proverbs 13:10)
Pride is self-destructive:
When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom. (Proverbs 11:10)
Pride is the spirit of the mocker:
The proud and arrogant man-"Mocker" is his name; he behaves with overweening pride. (Proverbs 21:24).
In High School, many ‘Big Men on Campus’ become proud and mocking while they are ‘the big fish in a small pond’. But things change when they go into the real world. Pride goes before a fall.
The most difficult thing about pride is that it is like bad breath: easy to detect in others, and hard to detect in ourselves. Pride has to do with a sense of entitlement, that we deserve everything that we have, that the world owes us a living. The most famous human being once said in Mark 7:22 that pride comes from within our hearts and actually makes us unclean (non-kosher). Pride separates from others, by seducing us into thinking that we are better than others. Pride is the root cause of every caste system, every class system, and every system of racial hatred.[i] That is why the Bible says:
Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. (Romans 12:16)
Pride goes before a fall.
Pride makes it very difficult to admit our need for anyone else, even God himself. Dr. Albert Runge comments that “Pride is the greatest hindrance to prayer.”[ii] Pride feeds the illusion that we are completely independent and self-sufficient. That is why Jesus said:
It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter God’s Kingdom. (Matthew 19:24)
Yet real breakthrough happens when we admit our need, our helplessness and powerlessness over life’s struggles. CS Lewis’ wife, Joy Davidman, resisted her need for God for many years. She writes:
God had been stalking me for a very long time, waiting for his moment; he crept nearer so silently that I never knew he was there. Then, all at once, he sprang. For the first time in my life I felt helpless; for the first time my pride was forced to admit that I was not, after all, 'the master of my fate'.[iii]
Pride and humility are total opposites. That is why both James and Peter quote Proverbs 3:10: “God opposes and resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ Let me ask you a question: Do we really want the Maker of the Universe to be opposing and resisting us? Yet that is what is guaranteed if we don’t deal with the pride issue. God will resist us at work, at home, in society. Pride may not be a big deal to us, but it certainly is to God. Why is God so opposed to pride? Because it cripples our ability to really love others around us. As the famous poem in 1 Corinthians 13 puts it, love is not proud. Why are so many people successful in business and failures at home? Pride goes before a fall.
Pride, like alcohol addiction, is cunning, baffling, and powerful. It is almost impossible to destroy head-on. Dr. Albert Runge comments that “our pride may lead to false guilt and self-condemnation, which refuses to accept God’s gracious forgiveness.”[iv] That is why Jeremiah 17:9 says: “Our heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” The secret to taming one’s pride is gratitude and thanksgiving. As John Fischer puts it,
a thankful heart cancels out pride and arrogance. No need to judge other people when you are thankful for who you are. No need to measure yourself by and compare yourself to others when you are thankful for what God has done in your life.[v]
Gratitude is a deep sense that life is a generous gift from a gracious giver. Gratitude is best expressed by the ancient words: “All things come from You, O Lord, and of your own have we given You.”
My prayer for those reading this book is that each of us as Canadians will gratefully lay our pride and self-sufficiency down at the foot of our Maker. It is our hidden pride that is holding back the waves of God’s revival to our thirsty nation.
Rector, St. Simon’s Church North Vancouver
Anglican Coalition in Canada
[i] AA Allen, The Price of God’s Miracle-Working Power, 1950s, http://www.agapao.de/download/books/allan.pdf p. 89 “Pride generally takes one of five forms: 1)Pride of FACE –How much better I look than those around me. 2) Pride of PLACE – Don’t ask that of one in my position! 3)Pride of RACE – I come from an excellent family and must uphold the family honour at any cost! 4) Pride of PACE – Everyone should be able to see that we are the most capable and efficient person available. No one else could keep up with me! 5) The last and worst one of all: Pride of GRACE: Look at my spiritual accomplishments, how humble I am, the length of my fasts, my visions, dreams and revelations, the gifts I possess – I must be a special favorite with God!
[ii] Albert Runge, A Brooklyn Jew Meets Jesus, Christian Publ., Camp Hill Pennyslvania, 2001, p. 197
[iii] “Extraordinary Joy”, http://www.boundless.org/2005/articles/a0001188.cfm
[iv] Runge, p. 178
[v] High Praise Media Group Page http://home.bellsouth.net/p/s/community.dll?ep=16&groupid=281535&ck=