Bread – Pride

December 6, 2012


Readings for Thursday, December 6, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Isa. 2:12-22; 1 Thess. 3:1-13; Luke 20:27-40; Psalm 18

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“Pride goes before a fall” is one of those statements we just make, knowing it is true but not knowing where it comes from. Well, it is a paraphrase of Scripture, from Proverbs 16:18 – “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” What is interesting about the origin is that pride, the focus on “I did it” does not go before a fall; it goes before destruction, which is a much more serious consequence than a fall. From a fall, we can be restored. From destruction, we are gone. A “haughty spirit,” a spirit which thinks of myself higher than I ought to, may therefore be a lesser form of pride, one where we put ourselves first a lot, but not all the time. Pride might therefore be that state of affairs where we believe that there is no higher power than me, when we believe to our core that “I am the Master,” where we have put ourselves into the position of God.

Proverbs is not in our reading today, but it instructs with respect to our readings.

From Isaiah we read: “For the Lord of Hosts has a day against all that is proud and lofty, against all that is lifted up – and it shall be brought low; … and the haughtiness of man shall be humbled, and the lofty pride of men shall be brought low, and the Lord alone will be exalted in that day…Stop regarding man in whose nostrils is breath, for of what account is he?” Isa. 2:12,17,22 There will be day, perhaps not too far in the future, when God will take out the people who are so prideful they do not recognize their absolute need for God, for Christ. They, the prideful, will be destroyed. As powerful as the first two phrases are, the last one strikes me as even more powerful. Why do we exalt people over God, why do we exalt ourselves over God – “Stop regarding man … for of what account is he?” We lift ourselves up as someone important and God yells at us – “Stop it.” But what do we do?

In today’s reading from Luke, we have an example of man’s pride leading to false conclusions. The Sadducees have confronted Jesus over what happens in heaven when seven men (all died) have married the same woman (in succession) and they ask, then, whose wife is she at the resurrection? Jesus answers the question by pointing out that there is not marriage in heaven as we think of it. The Sadducees are not God, they do not have God’s perspective, they do not have faith in God’s promises, they do not have the wisdom of God, and in their pride they apply their reason to their known facts and circumstances and come up with a seeming impossibility which they will then use to stump God. How often do we do the same thing? In our pride we rely upon our own observation of facts, apply our own version of science or logic, and applying our own reason come to our own conclusions about what can and cannot be done. Once we have come up with our options, our alternatives, we then select the one most likely to succeed or least likely to cause us grief, and then go do it in our own power. Then we go to God (maybe, if we even recognize there is one) and say – “see, we did it” and, if the plan went well, say “what a good person I am” and, if the plan went poorly, say to God, “See your way doesn’t work.” When the Sadducees pointed out to Jesus that God’s plan did not work when analyzed from human perspective, from human logic, Jesus essentially says to them – “But that is not God’s plan at all. That is your version of His plan. His plan is something even more wonderful than you can even imagine.” In their pride, the Sadducees had nothing to say.

What is one of the most interesting readings today on this subject of pride is Psalm 18. In the middle of this Psalm, David says this great truth – “For you save a humble people, but the haughty eyes you bring down.” Ps. 18:27. However, if you read the entire Psalm, you realize that David is demonstrating an attitude of haughtiness, of thinking of himself more highly than he ought to, which is sort of amazing. For example, he says at one point “The Lord dealt with me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands He rewarded me…I was blameless before Him, and I kept myself from my guilt.” Ps. 18:20, 23 In other words, I was a good guy and so God helped me – aren’t I something special. The focus is on the “I” and not the “Him” in these statements. So, in one respect, David is insightful enough to recognize that God brings down the prideful, but is not insightful enough to realize that he is acting prideful at the same time.

So why was David, and why aren’t we Christians destroyed because of our pride? I think it is because of a critical difference between pride and haughty eyes. With pride, David would have said “I won the battle.” With haughty eyes, David says “I was a good person, and therefore God won the battle.” With pride, it is me and me alone. With haughty eyes, we think we had something to do with the victory, but we really know, deep down, that it was God’s victory that He let us participate in. Man who is so prideful that he puts himself in place of God goes to destruction. Man who is so haughty that he believes that he can manipulate God through his actions, but recognizes that he is under God and subject to Him, goes to discipline. From discipline, there is repentance, return, and restoration. From pride which puts ourselves in place of God, there is destruction.

But why be talking about discipline on the one hand or destruction on the other? Isn’t there a third choice, one which approaches God in full humility, without pride? Actually, there is but for modern man it is distasteful. It is the recognition that, without God, I am nothing, I am already dead in my sins (and “dead” means “dead”). If I bring nothing to the table, then what is there to have pride in? If it is all God’s, then how can I have a haughty spirit, thinking I am somehow did something or achieved something?

So where do you fall on the pride spectrum? How much regard do you have for yourself versus God? When you look in the mirror, do you see someone who is God, someone who needs God from time to time, or someone who needs God absolutely, at all times and in all places and circumstances. Where is your “pride-o-meter” set? We love to set it at “1” and God’s word to us is that it ought to be set at “0.” Perhaps as we struggle to bring it down we should recognize that, even in this, the battle belongs to the Lord and not to us, and we should therefore pray “Come, Holy Spirit.”

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© 2012 GBF

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