America is fond of a diva named Arroganté. She is the lead vocalist in a group called Pride. Arroganté is often seen hanging out with professional athletes and the Hollywood crowd. But she is not as welcome here on the Hill; it seems that those who get too close to her end up with campaign problems.
Regardless and nonetheless, some members still love to dance with her. When courting, she’ll wear various disguises and go by her off-stage name: Peripherí Modesté. Did I mention her unspoken middle name is Illusorí?
Everyone, however, knows when Arroganté is dancing with a member. You see, she’s got what’s easy for others to detect—“Significanté Addictíona Disorder” (SAD) and its viral twin, “Bragotto Attitudina Disease” (BAD), the carriers of which are usually blind to the waft of their bouquet.
For this reason, I hope you never go near Arroganté, dance with her, or do the unthinkable, sing in her band. Read on, my friend!
It’s not just public figures who struggle with pride; all of us are consistent offenders! Everyone is guilty! It’s just that it’s easier to spot this cultural plague in highly visible, celebrated people. Pride opposes the humility demanded in and by the Bible, as exemplified in Christ. Humility is commanded of Christ’s followers.
Let us seriously contemplate and practice humility and self-denial.
In this study, “Gaining an Increasing Personal Sensitivity to Arrogance,” I want to examine the subject of humility from at least four of its scriptural characteristics: Its Enemy, its Example, its Expression and its End. I think you will find this study to be quite constructive in your relationship to God, others, and self. My prayer remains constant that what follows from God’s inspired Word will aid your personal quest and maturation in Christlikeness for His glory. That is always our goal in Bible study. Don’t let pride sink your ship.
On a more personal note, in an attempt to illustrate the meaning of this Bible study, when I decided to go into full-time ministry back in college, I would soon turn down professional contracts to play in the NBA. In denying myself that, I chose instead to live on $7,500 a year and travel the world, playing with Athletes in Action and preaching the Gospel at the halftimes of our games. That act of self-denial has continually shaped my commitment to Christ and career choices. For the decades since, I have consistently made determinations to make my life count for Christ, not self, that have stemmed from personal acts of self-denial. God has blessed such actions in my life and He will in your life, too.
I therefore encourage you to consider making decisions that require humbleness and self-denial as you grow in His Word.
II. HUMILITY’S ENEMY: PRIDE
Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary provides a good definition of pride: “An unduly high opinion of oneself; exaggerated self-esteem, conceit.” Scripture condemns pride as sin in Proverbs 21:4:
“Haughty eyes and a proud heart, the lamp of the wicked, is sin.”
God hates all sin, but as this study will display, He extends an extra measure of holy hatred toward the sin of pride. States Proverbs 16:5:
“Everyone who is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord; assuredly, he will not be unpunished.”
Let us examine three fundamental biblical basics concerning humility’s enemy.
A. PRIDE’S INSTIGATOR
The Bible reveals that pride actually began in heaven, of all places, and was devised by Lucifer, a.k.a. Satan. Isaiah 14, Ezekiel 28 and Revelation 12 record the amazingly tragic account of God’s most beautifully created angel, Lucifer, whom He made to give Him glory. Lucifer became self-possessed, and instead sought to bring attention to his own person. Notice Isaiah 14:14 in this regard (a classic component in Satanology, the biblical study of all that Scripture says about Satan), wherein Satan is quoted as saying the following:
‘“I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’”
Exactly when Lucifer goes sideways and pride enters the universe is unknown because the Book of Genesis informs us that Satan existed in heaven prior to The Fall as recorded in Genesis 3. Think of it this way: Pride not only comes “before a fall” in a personal/experiential sense, but also, “pride comes before The Fall” in a chronological/theological sense. The sin of pride is the very first sin ever committed. Lucifer sought to make myself like the Most High. Paul comments on Satan’s sin in 1 Timothy 3:6, when he instructs Timothy not to allow an immature believer to become a leader in the work of the ministry. Why? The passage states the following answer:
“… not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil.”
I have made the mistake of elevating people too quickly in my own ministry only to find they could not handle success.
When one is elevated too quickly, whether an angel or a young person, pride can crop up in an uncontrollably destructive way.
The sin of pride eventually caused man to fall into sin. In the Garden of Eden, Satan appealed to Eve with this lie in Genesis 3:5:
“‘For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God …’”
He tempted her—deceived her—with pride, i.e., “… you will be like God.”
If you have watched The Bible (produced by my friend Mark Burnett), do you recall with what Satan tempted Christ in the wilderness? He appealed to Christ’s possible pride (Matthew. 4:1–11; Luke 4:1–13; Mark 1:12–13) in three different ways. Satan had full knowledge of Jesus’ divine identity and knew that perfect submission to the Father was necessary for Him to accomplish redemption. Satan wanted to derail God’s ultimate plan and therefore tempted Jesus by appealing to His personal interests—versus God’s. The attempt was futile, however, and only serves to display Satan’s perverted nature—in that he would even think that this would work (as it did with him).
Do such temptations work with you? Is your plan or God’s plan preeminent in your heart?
Satan tempted Eve and Jesus with pride. And he will tempt each of us with pride by appealing to our own selfish interests—to place them above God’s purposes. Be on the lookout! Christ said in direct response, “not my will, but Thy will be done.” May that be true with us as well.
B. PRIDE’S INTERMEDIARIES
The World, False Teachers (Weasels) and the Wicked, are the mediums Satan employs to manifest his influence via pride. Think of him as a drug-pusher, only he specializes in pride pushing. He desperately wants you to inject his addictive toxin into your veins. Notice these three vehicles more closely:
In 1 John 2:16 Scripture states:
“For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.”
Ephesians 2:2–3 follows. The biblical idea of the world is a synonym for Satan’s influence. (Paul is addressing fellow believers in the Church at Ephesus.)
“… in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.”
Importantly, the world is not owned by Satan but is heavily influenced by Satan, otherwise why are you as a believer in government if he ultimately rules it? This is an important theological distinction we need to make.
Satan also propagates his elixir of pride through the purveyors of false religions and false religious teachings. Notice 1 Timothy 6:3–5 in this regard:
“If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain.”
False religious teachers desire to deceive people and entrap them in “a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12). Make sure you are under Bible teachers who teach what Scripture teaches—versus twisting it.
The third medium that Satan uses for pride gestation is the wicked. Notice Habakkuk 2:4 in this regard:
“Behold, as for the proud one, his soul is not right within him; but the righteous will live by his faith.”
Be careful with whom you choose to keep company. First Corinthians 15:33 states in this same regard, “Bad company corrupts good morals.”
The World, the Weasels and the Wicked are Satan’s pawns whose objective is to tempt you to guzzle down their boss’ Kool-Aid. But don’t be deceived: pride is not cool and it is an aid to no one.
Be selective where you spend your time— and with whom you spend it, my friend. Have a watchful eye toward Satan’s intermediaries.
C. PRIDE’S INFLUENCE
One theologian defines sin as “being inherently prideful.” He wrote that sin is:
The desire for the autonomy of man; therefore, in the last resort, it is the denial of God and self-deification; it is getting rid of the Lord God, and the proclamation of self-sovereignty.
When we defy God, we herald that we believe our way is better. When we sin, we put ourselves on the throne, so to speak; we become the Lord. Herein is manifest, horrible pride! We arrogantly justify our actions with perverted reasoning to assuage our consciences. If all sin is prideful, then all men are prideful, for Romans 3:23 records that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
Pride has completely infiltrated the human race with one exception. Jesus Christ, being fully God and fully man, resisted pride entirely and remained submissive to the Father and in denial of all selfish interests. Galatians 6:7 warns that the end result of digesting pride in one’s body is this:
“Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.”
It follows that if one dances with Arroganté and allows pride to infiltrate and dominate his or her life then that person will eventually reap her fruits. Each of the following passages states what is associated with pride:
“When pride comes, then comes shame; but with the humble is wisdom” (Proverbs 11:2 NKJV).
“Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling” (Proverbs 16:18).
“A man’s pride will bring him low, but a humble spirit will obtain honor” (Proverbs 29:23).
“By pride comes nothing but strife, but with the well advised is wisdom” (Proverbs 13:10 NKJV).
“God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble” ( James 4:6).
Perhaps the most fearful result of pride is this last fruit, God’s active hindrance, or opposition. The key point of this passage in relationship to the others is that God will purposely cause a prideful person to reap exactly the opposite of what he or she so diligently desires—personal glory.
Don’t try to fight with God over who gets the glory!
The prideful will experience shame, destruction, humiliation, strife, and God’s personal hindrance. Be extra careful to always give God the glory for whatever is good in your life; always deflect praise to Him! After all, keep in mind He is the one who created you! When you are accounting for your accomplishments on the campaign trail, make sure you end by giving God the glory.
Now that we’ve covered the theological basics about pride as taught in the Bible, let’s try to gain a greater understanding about humility.
III. HUMILITY’S EXAMPLE: CHRIST
Humility is defined as “not proud or haughty; not arrogant; a spirit of deference or submission; ranking low in hierarchy or scale; insignificant.” While there are several biblical examples of humility, none compare in gravity and importance to our Lord Jesus Christ. Consider this contrast: the world, which is under the heavy influence of Satan (Ephesians 2:1– 10), is supremely prideful when it should be supremely humble in God’s presence. God, on the other hand, is worthy of supreme pride, or glory in Himself, yet through His Son Jesus Christ, God became supremely humble for man’s sake, even to death on a cross! Note this in Philippians 2:5–11:
“Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
What a glorious truth! Jesus voluntarily emptied Himself ! Scripture says “He humbled Himself!”
Notice what the second half of this passage reveals. Every knee will bow to Christ to God’s glory. Some will bow in submission to Christ as a result of repentance and faith in Jesus Christ unto salvation in this life. Tragically, many will bow the knee in humiliation before the King of kings and will be judged eternally for their unbelief, particularly related to their self-centered absorption, or pride. Bottom line: people deny Christ not because of something Christ has done to them, but for no other reason than their personal, sinful pride. They in essence exclaim, “I already have a Lord … Myself!” How unfortunate. Will you humble yourself today, or will God humble you in the future? Either way, you will be humble in His presence.
IV. HUMILITY’S EXPRESSION: LOVE
Genuine humility, in contradistinction to peripheral, illusory modesty, is exemplified and manifest in and by self-denial. Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends” ( John 15:13). Laying down one’s life is the ultimate act of self-denial. Denial of self is also in view in the previously cited Philippians 2 passage prior to 5–11; in 3–4 it reads:
“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”
The reason Paul went on in verses 5–11 of Philippians to describe the humility of Jesus was to spur Christians on by comparison. If Jesus, who is God, descended from heaven, humbly becoming a man in order to manifestly pay our due penalty for sin, how much more should His children live manifestly humble before Him, and with one another? What are you doing to fulfill Christ’s commission and to serve others?
Humility and self-denial lead to love for God and others. Consider the first and second greatest commandments, Matthew 22:37–40:
“And He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”
True and genuine humility are proportionately manifest in acts of love for God and others.
V. HUMILITY’S END: SALVATION
Jesus taught a parable in Luke 18:9–14 about a prideful Pharisee and a humble tax collector. This parable poignantly illustrates the result of a truly humble heart before God:
“And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: ‘Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
There is no salvation for a sinner who refuses to humble himself or herself before God.
Consider Christ’s teaching in the Sermon on the Mount. Much time is spent on humility before God. In Matthew 5:1–11, Jesus explains what kind of posture is necessary for salvation. Verse 3 reads, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” “Poor in spirit” is descriptive of a deep humility based upon the recognition of one’s utter spiritual bankruptcy apart from God. And in Matthew 18:1–5 (cf. Luke 9:46– 48; Mark 9:33–40), Christ’s disciples selfishly argued with one another about which one of them would be greatest in the Kingdom. Such pride! Jesus rebukes them, teaching them an object lesson on humility (Matthew 18:2–4):
“And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, ‘Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.’”
Humble, childlike submission to God is a prerequisite for entering the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus proclaims in Luke 9:23:
“‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow me.’”
This is a profound command that many Christians in America have conveniently overlooked. Theirs is a quest to embellish self with all the materialism, fame, and pride one can possibly assemble in a lifetime—and spiritualize those actions somehow. This passage says just the opposite should be our focus—God’s glory and purposes, not ours. The former is a “what’s in it for me” theology and mindset, versus Christ’s purposes and glory. Luke 9:23 should be a passage for memorization and constant meditation by American Christians.
Humility is not optional for the Christian.
If you have been called to office by God, then you have also been called to humility by God.
If you claim Christ as your Lord and Savior, search your heart to ensure that the sin of pride is far from you. James 4:10 expressly states:
“Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.”
For the believer, life is about God’s glory, not ours (cf. Galatians 2:20)! In essence, the glory of God is the purpose of all of life (Philippians 2:11)! Seek God’s glory and favor through true humility while putting off superficial, apparent humility—peripheral illusory modesty. What follows are some practical considerations relative to gaining in humility:
Memorize and meditate on the following passages:
“But to this one I will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word” (Isaiah 66:2).
“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8)
“The reward of humility and the fear of the Lord are riches, honor and life” (Proverbs 22:4).
Ponder and meditate on Christ’s sufficiency in relation to your own insufficiency.
Repeatedly acknowledge that by God’s grace you gained office and that the successes you’ve achieved are because of His and others’ doings—you owe much of what you have accomplished to others.
Habitually and constantly deflect and attribute praise to others, after all, you have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer you who live anyway! So then why try to gain glory for yourself ?
Aggressively ask questions of others and draw them out rather than talk about yourself.
Talk about ideas and the future more than about yourself and the past. “Forgetting what lies behind” (Philippians 3:13).
Learn to give the shortest possible answer to questions. Don’t hold the ball in conversations.
Share Christ’s love with others.
May pondering these things prove to be a valuable stimulus for your personal development of humility and self-denial. Amen!