Plain Papers for Young Believers: Pride

 •  7 min. read  •  grade level: 8
The sin of selfishness, of which we spoke last, may be specially characterized as the sin most unlike Christ; but the sin of pride is directly of the devil. The one is anti-Christian, and the other is Satanic. Such, indeed, is the calm language of Scripture. In 1 Timothy 3:66Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. (1 Timothy 3:6) we read that being lifted up with pride was the cause of “the condemnation of the devil”; and in Ezekiel 28 we read the detailed account of how the heart of one who was once “full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty” was lifted up because of his beauty, and his wisdom corrupted by reason of his brightness, and who therefore fell from heaven to hell.
Pride Springs From the Heart
The root of all pride is in the heart; “Out of the heart of men, proceed... pride, foolishness” (Mark 7:21-2221For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, 22Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: (Mark 7:21‑22)). How can a young believer get rid of a proud heart? There is indeed but one way, that is by sitting at the feet of Him who is meek and lowly in heart until we are ashamed any longer to cherish a quality so unlike Christ, so like Satan.
Spiritual Pride
Let us consider one or two varieties of pride spoken of in the Word. We find the type of one variety, spiritual or religious pride, in the Pharisees of old, who were not ashamed to come before God with words like these, “God, I thank Thee, that I am not as other men are.” Surely no vestige of such an expression finds a place in the prayers of our readers.
We must remember that pride is one of the characteristics of the last days (2 Tim. 3:22For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, (2 Timothy 3:2)), and therefore we have need to be greatly on our watch against it. Spiritual pride is perhaps the worst variety, because it is not ashamed to show itself in connection with Christ’s name, a terrible thing when we think that such profess to be followers of the meek and lowly Jesus. Let this sin at least then be kept far from us, and let none who read these lines sin so fearfully against God as to use His truth to help them to commit the very sin of the devil—spiritual pride. When we really get into His presence, this can never be the case. “Then went king David in, and sat before the Lord, and he said, Who am I, O Lord God? and what is my house, that Thou hast brought me hitherto?” 2 Sam. 7:1818Then went king David in, and sat before the Lord, and he said, Who am I, O Lord God? and what is my house, that thou hast brought me hitherto? (2 Samuel 7:18). But when we are out of God’s presence, then boasting begins (2 Cor. 12:77And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. (2 Corinthians 12:7)).
Pride of Position
Another sort of pride arises from riches and position. We may see an instance of this in Hezekiah (2 Kings 20:1313And Hezekiah hearkened unto them, and showed them all the house of his precious things, the silver, and the gold, and the spices, and the precious ointment, and all the house of his armor, and all that was found in his treasures: there was nothing in his house, nor in all his dominion, that Hezekiah showed them not. (2 Kings 20:13)), in Nebuchadnezzar (Dan. 4:3030The king spake, and said, Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honor of my majesty? (Daniel 4:30)), in Belshazzar (Dan. 5:2222And thou his son, O Belshazzar, hast not humbled thine heart, though thou knewest all this; (Daniel 5:22)), in Herod (Acts 12:2121And upon a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat upon his throne, and made an oration unto them. (Acts 12:21)), and in many others. The question is, Is it seen in us? Do we in any of our acts betray this mean, this debasing, this un-Christ-like spirit to any who are poorer and humbler than ourselves? Surely not; for if spiritual pride is terrible, this is contemptible, and clearly shows that we have never really understood the place where God’s sovereign grace has set us. It is alluded to in James 3.
The Remedy
But it does not need riches to produce pride; this fatal seed is seen, alas, everywhere, and often those who are poorest are most proud; and this is especially the case among the Lord’s people. Many having become Christians and mixing freely on equal terms as Christians with those they never could have met on any other, instead of increasing in humility, have lost what little they possessed, and developed a proud heart.
When we talk of having very sensitive feelings, and being hurt by remarks of others, it is often only pride, and shows how miserably we are taken up with ourselves. Another variety of pride is shown in outward adornment, dressing after the fashion of the world, and in a manner unsuited to Christian position. Another variety is being puffed up by any gifts God may have bestowed upon me.
But I am sure that we have spoken enough of the evil; for the remedy let us look for a moment at the Lord Jesus Christ.
We find in the first place that He Himself expressly declares that He is “meek and lowly in heart” (Matt. 11:2929Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. (Matthew 11:29)). We find Him showing this in various ways — by taking our nature, sin apart (Phil. 2:77But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: (Philippians 2:7); Heb. 2:1616For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham. (Hebrews 2:16)), in His choice of station in life (John 9:2929We know that God spake unto Moses: as for this fellow, we know not from whence he is. (John 9:29)). How many of us who profess to show His spirit, if left to ourselves to choose our place in this world, would have made such a selection? We are called to be conformed to the image of our Lord. Which among us is so? We may well ask this question when we see Christians trying to be more than their fathers were, and pushing their children still higher than themselves. We strictly obey the first half of James 1:9-109Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted: 10But the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away. (James 1:9‑10), but how many rich rejoice when they are made low?
Christ or Self
There is a line visible from heaven whether we on earth can distinguish it or no. On one side of it are those who, be what they may, would still be something more, or seem to be something they are not; who cannot enjoy what they have, because they desire more, and cannot be gratified because they are not satisfied. There are those who are ashamed of the position their Master chose, and who are proud of one He refused to occupy. Christ and those that bear His image are not on this side of the line. It is not that we are called to change our station, but we are called to change our mind. But we must pass on.
The Lord took a lower place even than being a carpenter, and became the servant of all (Matt. 20:2828Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many. (Matthew 20:28); Luke 22:2727For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? is not he that sitteth at meat? but I am among you as he that serveth. (Luke 22:27)), even washing His disciples’ feet (John 13:55After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded. (John 13:5)). On account of all this He was despised (Mark 6:33Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him. (Mark 6:3); John 9:2929We know that God spake unto Moses: as for this fellow, we know not from whence he is. (John 9:29)), and those who follow Him will be despised too. They will be called mean spirited, and will be pushed aside and trodden down by the proud and ambitious. It matters not. If they have but drunk at the pure spring of humility in Philippians 2, their souls will be so refreshed that they will be full of joy at bearing ever so little of the beauty of their Lord.
What God Thinks of the Humble
Hear what God has to say of them. He hears them (Psalm 9:1212When he maketh inquisition for blood, he remembereth them: he forgetteth not the cry of the humble. (Psalm 9:12)), they enjoy His presence (Isa. 57:1515For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones. (Isaiah 57:15)), He delivers them (Job 22:2929When men are cast down, then thou shalt say, There is lifting up; and he shall save the humble person. (Job 22:29)), exalts them (Luke 14:11; 18:1411For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted. (Luke 14:11)
14I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted. (Luke 18:14)
), gives them more grace (James 4:66But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. (James 4:6)), while He resists the proud. Saints are exhorted to put on humility and be clothed with it (1 Pet. 5:55Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. (1 Peter 5:5)) (a beautiful word, meaning that on whatever side we are approached, humility is seen), to walk in humility (Eph. 4:1-21I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, 2With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; (Ephesians 4:1‑2)), but to beware of false humility (Col. 2:18, 2318Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, (Colossians 2:18)
23Which things have indeed a show of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honor to the satisfying of the flesh. (Colossians 2:23)
), which is only pride in disguise.
Nothing perhaps shows more the transforming power of the grace of Christ than when a man naturally proud and haughty becomes really meek and lowly in spirit; and nothing tells more strongly of the way in which the letter of truth held apart from Christ corrupts, than when we see a humble quiet person after coming among Christians became vain and puffed up—a sight, alas, which is not rarer than the former.
We plead then, in closing, that our dear readers will seek to cultivate the two graces of which we have already spoken— unselfishness and humility—and thus get a long way on in becoming like Christ, putting away from them, as hateful things, the anti-Christian sin of selfishness and the Satanic sin of pride.
But who is sufficient for these things? Thank God, the answer is not far to seek, “Our sufficiency is of God”; the meek will He teach His way. May we look to Him there in all meekness to put upon us more of the grace of Christ, and fit us better to become humble followers of the Lord Jesus Christ.
“Oh, may that mind in us be found,
That shone so bright in Thee—
The humble, meek, and lowly mind
From pride and envy free.”