PRIDE – GOOD, BAD, OR UGLY?

In both the Old and New Testament the Bible warns about the danger of pride. The book of Proverbs has much to say about pride, and the best known verse is probably Proverbs 16:18 that declares “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” In Proverbs 8:13 wisdom personified lets us know “I hate pride and arrogance.”

A lesser known Old Testament verse that has always grabbed my attention is Obadiah 3a where God tells Edom, “The pride of your heart has deceived you.” When I read that I cannot help but think that Edom was not the last to be deceived by a prideful heart.

There are not as many references to pride in the New Testament, but both James 4:6  and I Peter 5:5 quote Proverbs 3:34, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” I John 2:16 notes the pride of life, along with the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes, “comes not from the Father but from the world.”

It’s obvious that there is a kind of pride that is bad; and not just bad, but sinful. Historically Christianity has put pride first in the list of “the seven deadly sins.”

There is a kind of pride that is bad, but most of us recognize that there is also a good kind of pride. In Romans 11:13 the Apostle Paul writes “I take pride in my ministry.” And in II Corinthians 5:12 he tells his readers he is giving them “an opportunity to take pride in us.” Two chapters later in 7:4 he affirms them with “I take great pride in you.” In Galatians 6:4 Paul instructs, “Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else.”

Pride is not always self-centered and boastful. One writer observes, “In a good sense it means having a feeling of self-respect. People can be satisfied with their achievements. They can be proud of something good that they have done.”

There is also a good pride we have in others. I take Proverbs 27:2 seriously: “Let someone else praise you, and not your own mouth; an outsider, and not your own lips.” I’m 68 years old and still appreciate it when someone tells me “I’m proud of you.” And is there any parent or grandparent reading this who has not taken pride in their child or grandchild? Tell them you are proud of them, but don’t overdo it!

In thinking about this subject I was impressed by an article in Psychology Today by Leon F. Seltzer entitled “8 Crucial Differences between Healthy and Unhealthy Pride.” Here are a few selected paraphrased nuggets that made sense to me:

Healthy pride is about self-confidence and represents a positive notion of self-worth.

Healthy pride is not about bragging and boasting.

Healthy pride has nothing to do with comparing oneself to others.

Those with healthy pride motivate and inspire others.

Healthy pride isn’t egocentric. And that’s why those with such pride can take pride not just in their own accomplishments, but in those of others as well.

So there is a bad kind of pride and a good kind of pride – but I also want to suggest there is an ugly kind of pride that goes beyond bad pride. Ugly pride not only brags and boasts about oneself, it also demeans and devalues others. Ugly pride displays an air of condescending superiority towards others.

In his “Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector” in Luke 18:9-14 Jesus painted a picture of ugly pride. Luke’s introduction sets the stage by noting Jesus’ audience: “To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable.” You may want to read or reread Jesus’ powerful story.

I conclude by encouraging you to have good pride, guard against bad pride, and make every effort to never engage in ugly pride.

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IT’S A NEW YEAR – SO WHAT?

With the ending of the year this week a lot of us are thinking about changes we would like to make in the coming year. Some will make resolutions, of course, while others will be less specific in considering how they would like to do better. It is true, in a sense, that when we move from December 31 to January 1 this week it will be just another Saturday to Sunday, but it also will mark the beginning of a New Year. I am among those who like to give consideration to at least a few positive changes I would like to make as we turn the calendar from one year to another.

During October, November, and December Jan and I have already made one gigantic change in selling our house, moving to Texas, and making arrangements to buy a new one. I am also using the occasion, as I generally have in the past, to specify a few challenges for myself. A couple have to do with my health, of which I will not bore you, and one is a general spiritual challenge.

I’ve been thinking a lot the last couple of weeks about the Apostle Paul’s challenge in Ephesians 4:1, “I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” I don’t think he is talking about a specific “calling” to be a pastor or missionary or whatever, but the general calling to be a Christian—a disciple of Jesus. In other words, the urging to live a life worthy of the calling you have received is for all of us who have said yes to the Lord. But what does it mean “to live a life worthy of the calling” we have received? It certainly can’t mean that having been accepted, forgiven, and saved by grace we are now supposed to measure up by becoming worthy in ourselves.

I looked at a variety of other translations and got some help from Eugene Peterson’s The Message. He paraphrases, “I want you to get out there and walk on the road God called you to travel.” The way I am taking Paul’s challenge for myself is to continually give myself to living as a Christian and making progress in it. And the key for me is the phrase “making progress.” None of us would have to look too far in the New Testament, or think very much about living the Christian life,  to come up with a couple of specifics we could focus on with the beginning of another year.

What I’ve become more convicted of the past few weeks is the Bible’s general call for and Jesus’ specific teaching about humility. Two teachings from Jesus that have my attention are Luke 14:11, “For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted,” and Luke 18:9, “To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable.” Clear instruction from Paul that challenges me is in the middle of Romans 12:3, “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought.” I had already been thinking about this matter, and then read in a book last night that living the Christian life is not compatible with self-aggrandizement. I looked the word up and self-aggrandizement is “the practice of enhancing or exaggerating one’s own importance, power, reputation, status, etc.” To me this sounds like what both the Bible in general and Jesus in specific tells us not to do.

I have no idea what specific area or areas you may want to make progress in this coming year, but for me it is chipping away at pride and cultivating humility. I’m using this post as a first step. If you would like to join me I encourage you to read the passages I have cited in their context, especially the two parables of Jesus in Luke 14 and 18. It’s a New Year – so what? It’s an opportunity for us to give ourselves to making some progress in living the Christian life. It’s up to you whether or not you do.

Feel free to leave a reply below or email me at bobmmink@gmail.com; also consider sharing this post on Facebook.

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DON’T DO THIS!

The writers of the New Testament Gospels don’t often give us an introduction to Jesus’ parables, but Luke gives one that grabs my attention and hopefully yours as well. In introducing what is called The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector Luke tells us to whom it is addressed: “To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable” (Luke 18:9). I’m somewhat convicted by the description of those to whom Jesus is speaking. When it comes to being confident of one’s own righteousness and therefore looking down on everyone else, perhaps we should hear the warning “Don’t do this!”

In the parable that follows this introduction Jesus gives examples of spiritual pride and spiritual humility represented by a Pharisee and a tax collector. In his prayer the Pharisee thanks God that he is not like other people and gives God a couple of examples of his righteous living. The tax collector, on the other hand, humbly asks for God’s mercy because he knows he is a sinner.

Spiritual pride is evidenced by presumption before God, a harsh fault-finding spirit towards others—especially those deemed less spiritual, and a desire to be noticed. It reminds me of Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount when He talked about focusing on the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye while ignoring the plank in your own (Matthew 7:1-5).

Spiritual poverty is the opposite; it is not presumptuous before God, does not look down on others picking at their shortcomings, and isn’t jockeying to be seen by others. The “sinful woman” who anointed Jesus in Luke 7:24-50 is an example of spiritual poverty. (If you have time grab your Bible and read the account.)

Jesus concludes the parable affirming that the tax collector went home justified before God rather than the self-righteous Pharisee. He then adds an observation in the second part of Luke 18:14 all of us might spend some time contemplating: “For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Who does the humbling of those who exalt themselves and the exalting of those who humble themselves?

I hope none of us are confident of our own righteousness and that we do not look down on everyone else. (The two do go together!) As a matter of fact, I would say “Don’t do this!”

Comments are invited below and share this post if you think others would appreciate it.

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