Looking in the Right Direction
“Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall” —Proverbs 16:18, NIV.
I remember a now very famous theologian who misquoted this verse. Mind you, he wasn’t famous then, but he was considered the brightest star in our seminary. I really enjoyed correcting him.
Years ago I came within inches of throwing away my career because I thought I was better than my colleagues. I convinced myself that because they were behaving badly God couldn’t possibly want me to be around them.
If I worked a little harder at this I am sure I could come up with several more personal examples of just how easy it is for pride to slip in, take root, and grow into something not so beautiful, like a competitive spirit or an attitude of spiritual superiority.
“Self-esteem” is a word that can provide rich soil for the root of pride because it highlights “self.” But even in Christian circles, self-esteem has become the “north” to a generation of people who have been crushed by the circumstances of their lives. Books and courses on feeling good about ourselves multiply like rabbits. But there is a thin line between healthy self-esteem and pride. Too much self-esteem can be as destructive as low self-esteem.
Paul’s words come to mind: “Do not think of yourselves more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you” (Romans 12:3, NIV).
Sober judgment calls us to examine ourselves. It calls us to compare ourselves, not to those around us, but to Jesus. It reminds us not only how far we’ve come but Who brought us here and how far we still have to go to be like Him. We can feel good about who we are because of Christ, but keep pride in check knowing that who we are is all about His work in us by His Holy Spirit. Sober judgment helps us put the spotlight on the One who deserves it—Jesus.
When we have an “exceedingly high opinion” of His achievements, which is the definition of pride, we glory in Him and not ourselves. And that’s the way it should be.