“I can throw a football over them mountains.” We all have had, or do have, those friends who live in the “glory days.” As you begin to read about pride and humility you may have someone come to mind.
The fact is, we all struggle with pride that is rooted deep but may come from different soils. Your soil may be lack of self-worth, arrogance, fear, or inadequacies. In Scripture, however, we are to turn from self-pride to a humble boasting of God and His work.
Pride vs. Pride
The prideful heart seeks to elevate our self above those around us in order that we may receive honor. In his book Humility, C. J. Mahaney, defines pride as being, “when sinful beings aspire to the status and position of God and refuse to acknowledge their dependence upon Him.” Many of us recognize that we are prideful by nature, albeit we sometimes try to spiritualize our pride.
The Gospel of Mark gives an example of what this looks like when we try to purify our pride. In Mark 10:35-45, James and John ask Jesus to give them thrones on either side of Him. The questioned posed by these disciples displays their lack of comprehension about the Kingdom of God. In the same manner, we create cultures in which the holinization of pride occurs. Jesus makes clear to the disciples, the character of those in God’s Kingdom should be one of a servant and not of a ruler.
Pride arises in our heart for many reasons and yet we must attack each one of them. The most evident form of pride comes from a character placing themselves in the position of God. Pride does not always come from overconfidence and heightened self-worth. The opposite is also found when a lack of self-worth and inadequacies create self-doubt. This temptation begins to create a proud heart in order that we may be accepted by peers, fit in with our surroundings, or even feel worthy before God. Analyzing the root of our pride will inform us to seek out the right counsel in making war against our pride.
The danger we create in the church without recognizing the difference between these two is never equipping each other to attack pride in the right way. The most common tactic is a shame culture. We create this idea that we should all be thinking less of ourselves. While some may need this type of attack, this is not the most biblical model. Those who over compensate their low self-esteem and inadequacies with a shame culture will never see freedom from the root of their sinful problem. The root of the issue needs to be recognizing the pride we are to take in being children of God. In Paul’s letters, we find out that we are “dead in the trespasses and sins”, “children of wrath”, “alienated”, and “hostile in mind”.
However, he goes on to say we are “fellow citizens with the saints”, “members of the household of God”, “holy”, and “made alive” if we are found in Jesus.
The way in which pride is to be attacked is maintaining the right understanding of humility. Scripture does speak of battles with pride in a way in which the Gnostics would deal with the flesh. Rather, we understand pride in the right manner and with the right lens. The goal of humility is not to create shame but to give glory.
Humility is found in pointing others toward the character of God not by demeaning your own character. I would like to use the definition structure of Mahaney’s characteristic of pride to define humility as: “When sinful beings acknowledge the status and position of God and aspire to show the world their dependence upon Him.” In order to counteract the shame culture that seems to be prevalent when fighting pride, we must place a high value on our new standing before God in Christ. We do not give honor to God when we eliminate self-worth. True humility is a right placing of God, not a lower view of self.
There is much for us to boast in and yet, we must realize we are not the source of this boasting. The work of Jesus in becoming man and living the life that we could not gives every ounce of boasting to God. We show the world much joy when we boast in Jesus and what He has done for us to give us this boasting. Pride is a beautiful characteristic in the Christian as long as that pride is founded and pointing to Jesus. We give God glory by basking in our redeemed self that He gave in order for us to have eternal worth. May we praise God through recognizing the glory found in us and the opportunity to show the world that the glory is salvation through the cross. May Jeremiah 9:23-24 be our boasting:
Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man boast in the wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.”