Pride is exalting one’s self above others and before God. Pride is ugly and is something that we can most readily see in others and most unfortunately miss in ourselves. Pride is like a chameleon in that it is remarkably adept at manifesting itself in many ways. Though pride has countless expressions, we most typically think of the blatant ones. For example, we have all been in situations when someone starts shamelessly promoting themselves until everyone is uncomfortable. What is remarkable about such situations is that the person doing so is often strangely unaware of what is going on though most everyone else is painfully aware. That is highly instructive about the deceptive power of this sin of pride.
As if this deceptive nature did not make it difficult enough to have victory over pride, Scripture teaches that this sin (like all sin) originates in our hearts. You see, if we have been raised such that we were told bombastic self-promotion is distasteful, we might think that our ability to hold back from such obvious expressions of pride means that we have this sin of pride under control. But Scripture simply will not let us make such a conclusion. Just because we have the social ware withal to not be recklessly on a mission to promote ourselves does not mean we are having victory in this area of pride. For one thing, most of us are good at going about this self-promotion thing quietly and almost unobtrusively, but the grieving of the Holy Spirit and the effects of this sin on our relationships remain sad realities.
There remains yet another more disturbing reality about this sin of pride. We can and do grieve the Holy Spirit and harm our relationships with one another with pride within the confines of our inner life. Recently we read from Luke 1 in our Bible reading plan and after Mary visits Elizabeth she says “My soul exalts the Lord” (Luke 1:46). We have recorded for us in that chapter 10 verses recording this exalting of the Lord. In verse 51 we read this:
“He has done mighty deeds with His arm; He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart.
This verse reveals that we can be proud in the thoughts of our heart. And if we are honest we are. We may not walk into a room and declare our superiority and brazenly promote ourselves, but within the confines of our hearts we may be doing just that. We may be comparing ourselves to those around us and making ill-informed judgments about them all unperceived at least initially. But eventually those proud thoughts do affect the way we treat people and they certainly are an affront against the Holy Spirit. Do you notice God’s response to such things in Luke 1:51? He scatters those who are “proud in the thoughts of their heart.” The word “scattered” is used elsewhere with the idea of squandered and is used parallel with concepts such as to perish. In other words, God’s response to pride, even pride in the thoughts of our hearts is clear. For those who are not saved, they will be judged outside of Christ according to that pride. For those of us in Christ He will graciously discipline us on the basis of our union with Christ and humble us for this pride, this unseen pride of the heart.
If we can consider these truths without any sorrow, there remains something wrong with our understanding of the sin of pride. For we are all falling short on this and need transforming grace to continue to spur us to turn away from this pride of the heart. The next verse shows us that this grace is readily available:
“He has brought down rulers from their thrones, And has exalted those who were humble. (Luke 1:52)
The way forward in the face of this sin of pride is down. We must get low before the Lord about the pride of our hearts and as we do so He will exalt us, but He will do so in the way we were intended to be exalted: Exalted by His grace in Christ for the glory of God. When we are exalted like this those around us forget us and think much of Christ and mysteriously and wonderfully our lust for self-exaltation is subsumed in godly desire for God’s exaltation. In the context of repentance and turning from worldliness (which pride certainly is), we are given this wonderful warning and invitation in James 4:6:
But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.”
Pride is ugly. Humility is beautiful. Grace is necessary. Growth in Christ is possible, possible in the heart.