Pride Destroys

Pride destroys.  No, seriously, it does.  That’s what the Bible says: “Pride goes before destruction” (Prov. 16:18).  Or do we think it is for no reason that the following question and answer sequence are recorded in Holy Writ: “Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him” (Prov. 26:12).  Or what about these laconic yet incisive words from the blessed apostle: “Never be wise in your own sight” (Rom. 12:16)?  Presumably one would concede that keeping our pride in abeyance requires self-control.  If that’s true, then what are we to conclude regarding the uprising of our pride when the ancient sage speaks thus: “A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls” (Prov. 25:28)?

Self-control refers to disciplining oneself, to curbing or restraining one’s desires.  More often than not, self-control must be exercised with respect to one’s passions (like anger or love), one’s appetites (food, sex, etc.), and one’s will.  Not everything we want or desire is good; and, as Paul Tripp often says in his sermons, “A good thing can become a bad thing when it becomes a god thing.”  We live in a sex-crazed culture.  Although sex is a good gift from God, illicit sexual affairs is the reason behind many ruined marriages.  Think, for example, of all the good men in ministry who have been brought down due to sexual sin.  With respect to those whose lives have been ruined because of their inability to abjure sexual sin, Solomon exclaims, “all her slain are a mighty throng” (Prov. 7:26).

During my Scripture-reading the other morning, Paul’s words in Romans 12:16 seemed to jump off the page at me: “Never be wise in your own sight.”  But too often we are wise in our own sight.  Hence Paul’s words elsewhere: “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12).

Pride puts me at the center of my universe.  It causes me to think that everything revolves around me.  It causes me to view other people as if they were nothing more than a means to an end.  It’s what causes me to view my wife and kids as an intrusion in my life when I’ve got something that I think I need to do.  There’s a reason that many Christian philosophers, including Augustine, believed pride to be the root cause of all of our sins.[1]  Well did the reformer of Geneva say, “[T]here is no one who does not cherish within himself some opinion of his own pre-eminance.”[2]

Pride causes me not to listen to others.  And because God knows we all have an inflated view of ourselves, he puts people into our lives to help provide correction.  He surrounds us with people who love us.  God comes to our rescue by telling us in Scripture: “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice” (Prov. 12:15).  Dear friend, humble yourself and listen to those closest to you.  Don’t forget: “Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed” (Prov. 15:22).  I could go on: “The ear that listens to life-giving reproof will dwell among the wise.  Whoever ignores instruction despises himself, but he who listens to reproof gains intelligence” (Prov. 15:31-32).

Strikingly, the Lord of life, Jesus the Son of God, came to earth to die for prideful people.  He died for self-focused, self-centered people.  Unlike us, he was not consumed with pride.  No, rather as Paul writes, “though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9).  He didn’t count equality with God a thing to be grasped (Phil. 2:6).  What picture of humility!  John Milton’s words are apropos:


Father of mercy and grace, Thou didst not doom

So strictly but much more to pity incline.

No sooner did Thy dear and only Son

Perceive Thee purposed not to doom frail Man

So strictly, but much more to pity inclined,

He to appease Thy wrath and end the strife

Of Mercy and Justice in Thy face discerned,

Regardless of the bliss wherein He sat

Second to Thee, offered himself to die

For Man’s offence.  O unexampled love!

Love nowhere to be found less than divine!

Hail Son of God, Savior of men, thy name

Shall be the copious matter of my song

Henceforth and never shall my harp thy praise

Forget nor from thy Father’s praise disjoin[3]

[1] Norman Melchert, The Great Conversation: A Historical Introduction to Philosophy, 5th ed. (NY: Oxford University Press, 2007), 249-250.

[2] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (trans. F. L. Battles; ed. J. T. McNeill; Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1960), 3.7. 4.

[3] John Milton, Paradise Lost, ed. Gordon Teskey (NY: W. W. Norton & Company, 2005), 3. 400-415.


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