Life's "Little" Temptations (Part 3. The Pride Of Life)
This is one in a series of independent study articles. (Final of 3 in series)
* all [bracketed] words in Scripture verses are mine *
I believe, I think, I, I, I,... Have you ever stopped to count how often people say the word "I?" I believe that we all have "I" problems which cannot be corrected by glasses from your local optometrist. There is a reason for this and is the theme of this article, as we study Life's "Little" Temptations.
In the first part of this three-part series, we spoke of the first of three types of sin that the apostle John mentioned in 1 John 2, the lust of the flesh. The lust of the flesh is what drives our sin and causes us to want to sin even though our mind and spirit are screaming for us to stop. We found though that we are neither helpless nor left alone in this battle, but the LORD has made a way to say no to the flesh. In part two, we spoke of the lust of the eyes and spoke of how the stimuli of the world enter the eye gate and are designed to appeal to our fleshly selves. We discussed how we may put roadblocks up for the safety of own our lives, guarding our eyes, canceling out things that would cause us to sin. In this last installment of the series, we will consider the pride of life. If one considers these three categories, every sin we commit will fall into one of the three- the lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, or the pride of life.
"No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it." (1 Corinthians 1013)
"Do not love the world or the things that are in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world - the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life - is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever." (1 John 2:15-17)
"It's my life, I'll live it the way I want." That statement says a lot about how most people feel about their own existence. They don't want anyone telling them what to do that is not a source that they trust. Even when people give them advice that they need, want, and expect, they still want to feel in complete control. You may think that is okay, but what makes it not okay is that many individuals rebel against the idea that anyone is above them in authority, even God. They give up control to no one. The reality is everyone has someone in authority over them.
"One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all." (Ephesians 4:6)
Every graduation speech ever made has said something about the student's life stretching out before them and gives them the prompting, "Go live it to it's fullest!" Ah, the pride of life! What will I make of my life? What things will I gather to my life? What people will I surround myself to keep my life full? What can life do for me today? I see my kingdom stretched out before me - now bow to me - for I am king of my world!
If these statements made you smile, is it because they are ridiculous to you? or because you recognize the thinking and it hits its mark? In any bookstore in America, one can go and buy a "self-help" book that will give you this sentiment exactly. Worse, go into any Christian bookstore and find the same thing but with God, Jesus, or the Spirit on every other line. We will discuss why this is a problem and why we need to change our view on matters of pride and self-esteem.
When one considers any verse of Scripture on pride, one thing will always surface. Pride is always viewed as a sin. There is no application of the word pride that you can find in Scripture that concludes pride is not a sin. Given that fact, we are in trouble right away. Everywhere in the world, and in Christianity in particular, parents are telling children to be proud of themselves, to be proud of their country, of their heritage, of their race, to be proud of their life.
When one asks a Christian who uses the term pride why he uses that word, the usual response to the question is, "When I say proud, I mean it in a different way, a good way." Exactly what way might that be? "Oh, you know pride, you make me feel good, feel happy, you know, proud." When you get them to think more about the choice of that particular word, most really feel that there is no other word that fits what they want to convey. Thus they have a problem whether they know it or not.
Let us start with a definition in the common English language. The word pride is defined, according to the "Webster's Standard Dictionary," as: "self-esteem; haughtiness or disdain." Is that what was meant by the Christian that uses the word? Sometimes it is. Sometimes it isn't. The word proud is defined as: "full of self-esteem; of vain or arrogant conceit; dignified." Was that what was meant by the Christian using the term? maybe the "dignified" part? But then how does another's behavior or attitude cause you to be dignified? "I am so proud of you son, you make me feel dignified?" I believe it is these type questions that expose that sense of being lifted up, of pride.
Let's try to be reasonable here. Most of these are good principled people that don't mean pride in its Biblical sense when they use the word "pride" or "proud." Sometimes they mean "you make me rejoice in my spirit." Sometimes they mean "you bless my heart" or "you bring me joy" or "the choices you make fill me with gladness" and other things in that vein. They don't intend to say that the other person lifts them up with haughtiness and makes them feel differently about themselves than they thought before, or that they should think. People should consider how to say these sentiments in a way that does not include pride.
The Self-Esteem Myth
I feel, in the quest for knowledge, our free country has allowed an evil upon us that comes to us through the education system. We have given free reign to teachers in schools, professors in college, and the scientific establishment, to influence our Biblical base of knowledge so that the Bible is no longer our sole rule of truth and practice. We have allowed evolution in until it now seems accepted by all. Even a huge percent of Christians believe it in some form, and all in the name of pursuing education and wisdom. Here I want to speak of psychology and psychiatry and the myth, given to us of self-esteem. The myth has become a foundation upon which many faulty anti-Biblical beliefs come. Self-esteem and pride are "sisters" that follow each other wherever they go. Indeed, many people use the terms interchangeably.
Anyone that has read anything written by this author, knows I would normally use an original Biblical language source for meaning and Biblical dictionaries and lexicons because I am more interested in God's definitions than popular notions of meaning. This idea of self-esteem needs to be identified as defined by convention to correctly label it Biblically. Again the "Webster's Standard Dictionary" defines self-esteem as: "a justified opinion of oneself; an over-estimate of oneself, conceit." I think that nails the correct meaning. In the world's mind, a sense of self-esteem is an awareness psychologically and sociologically. But more than that, it is a measure of oneself, a justifying of oneself, to give value to oneself, to honor oneself.
I believe a better concept for the Christian to exhibit in this life is self-awareness. We are to be aware of the people around us. We are to be aware if we are an example for God and how we measure up to His expectations. We are to be aware if our behavior is a stumbling block to others or is unhealthy to ourselves. We are to be self-aware. The issue of our self-worth is an entirely different matter and is provided by the indwelling Spirit. He is the One that lifts us up. He rewards us with blessings. He sanctifies us. He guides our path as we walk among men. We are to walk with God and be self-aware.
To be a child of the King and a joint-heir with Christ means that we are given great mercy and it is bestowed as an honor we don't deserve. The honor makes us special, for if we do not tell others of Jesus, who will? But it does not lift us up to be better than anyone. We are all sinners saved by grace. We were the recipients of great grace. We are no more worthy of this than Israel is to be God's chosen people. They were not to think of themselves any differently than gentiles, yet being called of God, they bore a special burden to give the gospel to the world.
"Even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference." (Romans 3:22)
"For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For all who call on the name of the LORD shall be saved." (Romans 10:12-13)
Pride is a hideous sin and insidious. It eases in when someone isn't paying attention when one is not self-aware.
"Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall." (Proverbs 16:18)
"A haughty look, a proud heart, and the plowing of the wicked one are sin." (Proverbs 21:4)
I believe the phrase above, "plowing of the wicked one" is a reference to Satan and his connection to this horrible sin which so easily besets all of us.
"He who loves transgression loves strife, and he who exalts his gate seeks destruction." (Proverbs 17:19)
"It is not good to eat much honey; so to seek one's own glory is not glory." (Proverbs 25:27)
So what is our example to follow as we live this life? Is it not to imitate Christ and His attitudes when He was on earth? How did God in human flesh view these things of which we have been speaking? If anyone could have been proud of Himself, would it not have been Christ? But Christ, in fact, shunned pride and anything else that distracted from what was of real worth - eternity and His purpose for being here. We also being made into Christ's image should shun worldly pride and remember why we are here, to fulfill our purpose.
"Therefore you shall be perfect [complete, made into the image of Christ], just as your Father in heaven is perfect." (Matthew 5:48)
Christ was free from all pride:
Of appearance: "For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; and when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him." (Isaiah 53:2)
Of world success: "He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid as it were our faces from Him." (Isaiah 53:3)
Of reputation: "And He came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, "He shall be called a Nazarene." "And Nathaniel said to him, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" Philip said to him, "Come and see." (Matthew 2:23; John 1:46)
Of riches: "And Jesus said to him, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head." (Matthew 8:20)
Of rank; "Is this not the carpenter's son? Is not His mother called Mary? and His brothers James, Joses, Simon, and Judas?" (Matthew 13:55)
Of kingship: "Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here." (John 18:36)
It was not like Jesus didn't consider these things. He told his followers, for example, to regard their appearance (as they normally would) when they were fasting. He said He is a King. But His idea of success and riches and kingship were all aimed at heaven, eternity, and pleasing the Father. He thought of all those things but not with regard to reaping reward here. That is how we are to view pride, we are to follow Christ. We are to be all things to all people so as to be accepted enough to present them the gospel. We are to be heavenly-minded so that we have some earthly good.
"For all that is in the world - the lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and the pride of life - is not of the Father but is of the world." When Jesus made that statement, what did He mean when He said "pride of life?" The word pride is the Greek word alazoneia (al-a-tzon-i'-a) which means "self-confidence; boasting, pride." It comes from the root word alazon (al-a-tzone') which means "braggart, boaster." It can be literally translated vagrancy and means "going where no one has authority to go." The implication is that one with the pride of life boasts about his life and his confidence lies in his life itself and all that his life can provide. But more than that, the implication is that the person knows in his heart that he stands on ground that belongs to God and boasts that he is the one that makes all this possible. He stands and takes credit for God's work and acts as a vagrant by standing in God's place.
I believe that pride and the "pride of life" are the most rampant sins in Christendom today. The fact that pride is accepted so widely and so openly by so many doesn't help. Add to this, the magnitude of people that are blurred in their definition of what pride is, plus the fact that pride comes so very easily to the sinning human, and you have a volatile mixture indeed. Every sin has a spark of rebellion which is at its core, and that spark is pride.
The world is marching headlong toward accepting the Anti-Christ to be their leader in place of the true LORD, Jesus Christ. As the world spins ever lower, the Christian must rise above it or be sucked down with it to destruction. At some point, the Christian must say, "My attitude can't be as those around me. Even if my attitude is strange to any that hear it, I must remain true to what is right."
How do we show pride? We show pride outwardly only when our hearts stand in vagrancy in God's stead. A person can care about how he does his work when on the job for a testimony of God in his life, or he can care because of the status it represents to his life. It all begins with the heart. He can say in his heart that God gave him his station and place in life or he can say "I did this, it was me." A mom can look at her children and think, "Look what I am responsible for, I made these. They came out of my body" or she can say, "Look at the LORD's work in my life." How easy it is when everyone else is getting accolades for work done and getting credit, to take the credit oneself rather than to defer all glory to God! How easy to say "This is my life" instead of saying, "My life belongs to God." How easy it is to heap to oneself the temporary glory and attention of this world and to push away Jesus and His kingdom for another time and place. This is the time! This is the place! Give glory to God. When we reach eternity and give God the glory it will not be the same as giving it to Him now when our flesh pulls at us and the world around us is helping do the opposite. Don't you see how much more this means to God, to hear you defer to Him instead of sinning? Amongst all the sin bubbling forth on Earth God can look down and see glittering gems of faith sparkling in the midst of all the sin. Show Him that sparkle!
"Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion." (Romans 12:16)
"Jesus answered, "I do not have a demon; but I honor My Father, and you dishonor Me. And I do not seek my own glory; there is One who seeks and judges." (John 8:50)
"Because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened." (Romans 1:21)
Have you labeled yourself to be a proud person? Have you said to others, "I come from a proud people" or "a proud family" or "my heritage is full of proud people?" I'm sorry to tell you that any connection to pride is sin. Anyone that says to you that pride is a good thing, speaks out of ignorance or is lying to you. The devil knows pride comes before a fall and continues to have the world speak of pride as something precious to hold onto. Let me ask you; Have you ever been hurt by someone's pride? Has your pride ever hurt you? Have you made decisions you knew were wrong and just blamed your "foolish pride?" If you have you have tasted of the sin that so easily besets the world, and found it bitter, perhaps you have longed to be free of your destructive pride? If you have felt that way, you can be free but only by God's power.
Jesus can heal you of pride and put wisdom, discretion, kindness, humility in its place. He longs to be a balm to your soul. All you have to do is cry out to Him and tell Him your need of Him to be your Savior. Pray this prayer with me believing:
LORD Jesus, I know I am a sinner. I know I have been proud and it has hurt others and myself. I want to know the love of God. Please forgive my sin and come into my life. I believe you died for me and rose from the grave three days later. I cry out to you and trust you to save me and I promise to follow You all the days of my life. Thank you for saving me, in Jesus' name. Amen.
Other in this series of independent articles: