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Raise Your Hand if You’re Not Prideful

Have you ever wondered what would happen if your pastor or Sunday school teacher asked the congregation to “Raise your hand if you are not prideful”?

Would there be some who would raise their hand?

What about those who didn’t? Couldn’t that in itself be a sign of arrogance?

What would you do? Would you raise your hand and be counted among those who are blind to their pride? Or would you merely be still, hoping to be overlooked as someone who is “righteous” enough to understand his or her own conceitedness?

It would be a kind of catch twenty-two, damned if you do, damned if you don’t question. It’s the kind of question we ask ourselves about other people all of the time.

In our minds, as we make judgments about the people that we meet or those that we already know, one of the first qualities that we measure in them is pride. That’s not necessarily a bad place to begin as we judge whether they may be an appropriate person with whom to spend time. BTW, we should be discriminate about a great number of things when we are looking for mates, business partners, friends, etc. It also means that we ARE to judge people! A common misapplication of Scripture would say otherwise. I digress…

The point is that as we measure internally the qualities of a person, we often do and should begin with that person’s pride. This is evidenced in the Scripture as the great “lists” of vices are sometimes preceded with some sort of prideful or self-centered sin. (2 Tim 3)

This does not come without difficulty though.

First, there is the problem of how do we discern pride. Next, by what standard should pride be measured against? Finally, would be the implementation of some kind of system that measures pride as far as how much (if any) is acceptable.

It’s about now that I am beginning to feel like I am writing for the Pharisee Press; Ten Ways to Keep Pride from Invading Your Ministry. Hmmm, on second thought that sounds like the title of an Evangelical best seller.

And therein lies the difficulty. It’s just like the original question. Anytime we go down the road of attempting to discern pride in others, we are faced with our own. That brings us to the first truth about pride.

We are all infected with it!

From the pious to the wretched, it flows through our veins like a poison. The unregenerate is prideful in his autonomous reason and means of righteousness. The pious man is prideful in his self-righteous realization of his piety. Pride is a sinful cycle, evaded by none. So, if you are looking for discernment, you may be overlooking the fact that pride is the human standard, not the exception. There’s very little inspection needed to figure that out.

That brings us to question number two. By what standard should pride be measured? This is especially important now that we are assuming that every person is prideful. There must be some other standard or rule that we can stand up against pride for our own good as well as our own discernment. In other words, if our motives are pure and we are truly looking to make proper judgments about relationships with others and our own spiritual condition, what quality would a person have that would indicate the absence or at least the minimal presence of pride?

Faith is the antithesis of pride, therefore it should be the standard that pride is measured against. In fact, a lack of faith may be the same as the presence of pride.

For example, pride often reveals itself in self-reliance and is based upon ones own view of their ability to fulfill their own need. A love of money is actually pride of ones ability to obtain wealth and its fulfillment of the desire of accomplishment. This pride is a replacement for faithfulness in either God’s already accomplished work or his promise to complete his work in us. The same thing is true for a love of power or authority. A man can become consumed by his self-quest for more power and the high that it brings when he rules over others. This replaces the faith that God gives when we realize that a real leader is actually a servant and we trust God enough to become that servant.

There are more practical examples though; less we be caught in the trap that says, “We’re not like those ‘rich’ or ‘powerful’ people”, we should look at some.

What about sex? There are those who would look to adultery, homosexuality, or pornography rather than rely on God’s promise that his way of sex inside of marriage is best. Pride drives everyday people away from that kind of faith every day.

What about hatred? When someone hates another who has done him no wrong, it is a manifestation of pride when faith would be to love your neighbor. Klan members and Black Panthers don’t have the market cornered here. Lots of us harbor hate, and that is a lack of trust in God.

What about verbal abuse? When someone verbally abuses another it is a replacement of faith in God’s precepts for the phrase “who do you think you are”. Have you ever experienced road rage? I’ll bet you’ve used the rule its better to give than to receive while on the highway. Even road rage is a lack of God’s command to love your neighbor is better than your vengeful act.

So, if pride occurs in the absence of faith, then what does that mean for our desire to target pride?

A good measure of pride may be better served by measuring faith.

Now what I mean by faith is not necessarily saving faith, although it may be. Faith as used here is simply trusting God to do what he says. In this way the presence of faith is set against the absence of pride. It’s like looking at the fuel gauge in your car. If the gauge reads full, then there is very little room (air) in the tank. If the gauge reads empty, then the tank has very little fuel and is virtually full of air.

Two things are true in this analogy.

First, the measurement taken is of the fuel, not the air. The gauge reads from the perspective of how much fuel is in it. That is what is important to the driver. The fuel is what drives the engine and the amount of fuel in reserve directly impacts how long the engine will run and how far the car is capable of traveling.

On the other hand, although the fuel gauge reads from the perspective of how much fuel is in it, the lack of fuel implies the presence of air. The car will not run on mere air. It needs the fuel. Once the tank is completely empty of fuel the pump will pump air to the intake and the engine will cease to run on all cylinders, beginning with the first cylinder to receive air rather than fuel. The spitting and sputtering is not so much a measurement of the air as it is a mere indication that the air is in the carburetor.

The same could be said of pride. If we see self-centered sinful behavior, it is no measurement of pride, rather it is mere evidence of its penetration into the mind. On the other hand, the same sinful behavior is an indication of a lack (low measurement) of faith. Whereas if faith were fully realized, pride would be minimalized, marginalized, and eventually nullified, leaving little evidence of its presence.

Here is a way that the Apostle Paul described the relationship between faith and pride…

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.” (Romans 12:3, ESV)

Here, Paul sets pride against faith and warns us to consider our own condition according to the measure of faith that God has given us rather than over valuing our self-righteousness. How much faith is in your tank? The evidence can be seen and testifies directly to the Christian tenant of faith. This testimony is either one of truth or one of hypocrisy.

This is especially important for leaders. Leaders are the face of the church many times, and those who look at the church who are growing ever more skeptical especially due to our hypocrisy, are watching. Leaders should have a pretty full tank when it comes to faith. A hypocrite is easily spotted as the leader who longs for too much power and disregards his calling of service.

No man appears in safety before the public eye unless he first relishes obscurity. No man is safe in speaking unless he loves to be silent. No man rules safely unless he is willing to be ruled. No man commands safely unless he has learned well how to obey. No man rejoices safely unless he has within him the testimony of a good conscience.

Thomas à Kempis[1]

The laity is no more exempt from the judgment from the outside as they are the existence of pride, and the hands and feet of the church should plead to God for an increase in faith. It is not as though faith is nonexistent in the church. It necessarily exists so that there is a church. The problem is that faith rarely exists in any robust fashion. In other words, the tank is pretty empty and in many cases the church is running on fumes because her people are not hitting on all eight cylinders.

Whatever it be that makes us trust in ourselves that we are comparatively wise or good, so as to treat those with contempt who do not subscribe to our doctrines, or follow our party, is a proof and fruit of a self-righteous spirit. Self-righteousness can feed upon doctrines, as well as upon works; and a man may have the heart of a Pharisee, while his head is stored with orthodox notions of the unworthiness of the creature and the riches of free grace.

John Newton[2]

Pastors are especially susceptible to pride in the pulpit and should be extremely diligent to war against it by trusting only in God’s power and none of their own. I have written extensively on this and will continue to do so. The church will have continuous difficulty if the men who preach God’s Word do so under their own authority.

As long as a person has a notion that he is guided by immediate direction from heaven, it makes him incorrigible and impregnable in all his misconduct.

Jonathan Edwards[3]

 

So, I would like to ask, please raise your hand if you are not prideful. While you’re at it, pray as the father of the child in Mark 9:24 petitioned Christ. “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.” The best way to defeat pride is to grow in faith and the best way to testify truthfully of the power of God is through that same growth.

What’s in your tank, fuel or air?

Oh, and you can put your hand down now. 🙂

 

 

[1] Ritzema, E. (Ed.). (2012). 300 Quotations for Preachers. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[2] Ritzema, E. (Ed.). (2012). 300 Quotations for Preachers. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[3] Ritzema, E. (Ed.). (2012). 300 Quotations for Preachers. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

Donnie
I was born in the mountains of Southwest Virginia, born again at a very young age, married a beautiful and likeminded woman, moved to Tennessee, and raised two children in the Southern traditions of loving God and neighbor, exercising manners, and being stewards of the land and its bounty. After becoming involved in youth ministry in our local church, the need of teaching people "what they believe and why they believe it" became painfully apparent, especially in my immediate context (rural Southern churches). We began an apologetics/theology ministry there but have since moved on. After serving in church leadership and being called to faithfulness and duty to protect our congregation from a rogue pastor under church discipline of his previous church, my experiences in this biblical process shape much of what I believe about how churches in the South have become weak and why nominal Christianity is prevalent. I love the Church and Southern culture so you can expect to read about apologetics and theology as well as church and culture here, written southern style, by the grace of God. Deo Vindice
http://www.southernbyhisgrace.com

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