Pride has felled many spiritual giants. It was pride that cast Satan out of heaven, as he boasted, “I will be like the most high.” Pride drove mankind to build the tower of Babel, and led to the judgment of the sinful Israelites in Judges who did “that which was right in their own eyes.” As recorded in II Kings, pride decimated the lives of Rehoboam, Uzziah, Amaziah, and Hezekiah.
Pride contributed to the downfall of Benedict Arnold, a brilliant general who could likely have become the most famous patriot of the Revolutionary War, had he not betrayed his own nation.
The record of history confirms the testimony of scripture. God cannot use prideful people. In truth, “God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.” After recounting the story of the Pharisee and the publican, Christ concluded, “He that exalteth himself shall be abased, and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.”
A vast chasm stands between pride and true humility, a chasm that can only be crossed by the grace of God. In light of the realities of pride, we must ask ourselves, “How do we manifest pride?” “What are the characteristics of true humility?” “How can we cultivate a humble spirit today?”
Pride and Disobedience
Disobedience to God is one of the greatest forms of pride. This disobedience takes on numberless disguises, ranging from subtle excuses to brazen lies. Every disobedience comes when we elevate our understanding above God’s perfect wisdom, like Saul did by refusing to fully obey God’s command. Saul became king when he was “little in his own eyes.” But then, with the accumulation of power, prestige, wealth, and status, Saul became prideful, and then disobedient.
As Saul’s life illustrates, we cannot flaunt God’s law and hope to escape the consequences. Further, we do not possess the luxury of picking and choosing which parts of God’s Word to obey.
Disobedience is always pride, for when we disobey God, we claim that our way is better than God’s perfect will, and our limited understanding is superior to God’s infinite wisdom.
Other Disguises of Pride
In addition to disobedience to God, we demonstrate pride in countless other ways. Someone once said, “The greatest form of pride is a prayerless life.” By failing to pray and to love God’s Word, we assert that we can live life perfectly well on our own strength.
God said, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” Pride elevates the idols of the flesh—hurtful words, sinful pursuits, unclean activities. Pride elevates the idols of the heart—bitterness, despair, anger, unclean thoughts, and a host of other gods—above the Lord, whom we are called to love with our “heart, soul, mind, and strength.”
Fear of man is another subtle disguise of pride. Those who fear man over fearing God demonstrate a lack of eternal perspective. Zedekiah concerned himself more with what the princes thought of him than what God thought of him. The religious elite of Christ’s day loved the praise of man more than the praise of God.
The Clothing of True Humility
What are the characteristics of Christlike humility? In contrast to deceitful pride, true humility longs to draw nearer to God. True humility prostrates itself before God’s throne, begging His divine presence and interposition in the suppliant’s life.
True humility joyfully obeys the Master at every turn, knowing that His way is always the best way. True humility diligently obeys and honors God-ordained authorities, whether they be government officials, parents, church leaders, or employers.
True humility refuses to take offense, recognizing that “only by pride cometh contention.” “Great peace have they which love thy law and nothing shall offend them.”
True humility prays, “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Like David, true humility cries, “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit with me.”
True humility asks God to instill a repulsion towards the idols of the heart and of the flesh. True humility lives in light of Micah 6:8, which says, “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God.”
The Cultivation of True Humility
To cultivate humility, one must continually come before God in broken surrender and humble repentance. Jim Elliot said, “One does not surrender a life in an instant – that which is lifelong can only be surrendered in a lifetime.” We must acknowledge the sin of pride. We must ask God to empower us by His Spirit to walk before Him and to serve Him in true humility.
We must seek to live a life of humble and childlike, faith, obedience, and trust, knowing that our best efforts will be rubble if not performed from a heart of genuine, Christlike humility. As Andrew Murray stated, “Pride must die in you, or nothing of heaven can live in you.” With the Psalmist, can you honestly pray, “Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty”?
In the words of Augustine, “It was pride that turned angels into demons. It is humility that turns men into angels.”
Question: Why do we struggle so much with pride? How can we cultivate true humility?