Pride and selfishness are the deadly duo of spiritual heart disease. They are the greatest stumbling block to an intimate relationship with God. But God gives us the tools to defeat them.
Don’t love the world or anything that belongs to the world. If you love the world, you cannot love the Father. Our foolish pride comes from this world, and so do our selfish desires and our desire to have everything we see. None of this comes from the Father. (1 John 2:15-16 CEV)
Just as “the world” opposes the kingdom of God, so pride and selfishness oppose God. As followers of Christ we should centre our lives upon God and His will. Any time that our lives become self-centred we inevitably push God to the margins. These verses from 1 John 2 provide a very clear reminder of this truth.
Pride is so sneaky it has a built in mechanism to prevent us detecting its presence in our own lives. The reduced presence or absence of humility in our lives prevents us from admitting our flaws. For this reason we need honest, trusted relationships in our lives to keep us accountable, God-focused, and humble. Sometimes we also mislabel it: confidence, self-assured, skilled, successful. These labels may be good and appropriate at times, but when they mask pride they become our enemy.
So here are 7 signs of pride that might prompt us to make important changes in our lives.
- We find ourselves taking credit for things beyond our control.
James has this attitude in mind when he warns about making plans for the future in 4:13-17. We should live our lives looking forward and backward with the attitude that we only accomplish anything because it is “the Lord’s will”. A farmer who takes credit for the perfect amount of sun and rain to produce a bumper crop would be another example.
- We find ourselves not noticing the needs of others.
When “me, myself and I” become our most used words, there’s a chance pride’s nibbling at our soul. Solomon provides a good example of this danger. Read his words here in Ecclesiastes 2:4-10. In just 7 verses the words “I, me and my” occur 19 times. However Solomon seemed oblivious to the burdens his accomplishments placed upon his citizens. When Solomon died the leaders of Israel immediately approached his successor and asked for their burden to be lessened. His refusal to listen resulted in ten of the twelve tribes seceding from his kingdom. (1 Kings 12:1-24)
- We begin thinking that we’re irreplaceable.
When Jesus came to earth the Jews seem to have developed an attitude of divine superiority. They were God’s people. Everyone else was a Gentile. They were blessed by God by virtue of their birthright. According to Luke 3:7-9 a major element of John’s ministry involved calling on the Jews to actually live as God’s people, not just claim the title. He also warned them that God had an axe that could cut them off and replace them. The ministry of Jesus demonstrates that God did indeed expand his definition of His people to include Gentiles. If Israel could be replaced after thousands of years we’re certainly not irreplaceable.
- We complete a task and immediately wonder what others will think of us.
It’s for this reason that in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus warns his followers to practice their spiritual disciplines privately. (Matthew 6:1-18) When our motivation, or part of our motivation, to give, pray or fast is to be seen by others, Jesus reflects, “Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.” We might receive the praise of our peers, but that’s all the praise we’ll get. Eugene Peterson provides an excellent translation in The Message,”Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you don’t make a performance out of it. It might be good theater, but the God who made you won’t be applauding.“
- When asked to list 5 weaknesses we struggle to identify 3.
Have you ever been asked in a job interview what your weaknesses are? I hate that question. I’m trying to get a job, not talk myself out of it. So of course I come up with an answer that’s socially acceptable and not too serious. But in moments of quiet reflection can you list areas of life that require growth, or are you drawing a blank? 2 Peter 1:5-9 calls us to a life of adding various virtues to our faith. Verse 9 provides this summary, “But if you don’t grow, you are like someone who is nearsighted or blind, and you have forgotten that your past sins are forgiven.” (CEV) Remembering where we’ve come from and where we still need to grow will keep us humble.
- When you’ve mastered the art of humility.
Numbers 12:3 makes a very curious statement, “Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.” Do you know who wrote the book of Numbers? Moses! It doesn’t give a lot of credibility to the statement does it? I’m really hoping this commentary was added by a later editor.
- We stop praying.
The very act of prayer acknowledges that we are not the Supreme being in our universe. A prayer of thanks acknowledges that God gives us blessings. A prayer of petition recognises our dependence upon God for our physical and emotional needs. A prayer of praise demonstrates humility by placing God in His rightful position above us. A prayer of confession admits our imperfections and reliance upon God’s grace for forgiveness and eternal life. A life without prayer reveals the belief that we can get through each day relying on our own strength.
I hope you don’t identify yourself in this list, but if you do I’ll post some spiritual remedies later this week as Part 2 of this discussion.
In the meantime, please feel free to leave a comment. Do you have an additional Pride Indicator? Perhaps a better example from Scripture than those I’ve provided?