Oct.19 - The Pride Which God Hates

The Pride Which God Hates

October 19, 2014

Proverbs 6:16-19


The Pride Which God Hates

October 19th, 2014


Proverbs 6:16-19 lists 7 things which God despises. 


YHWH hates six things, seven things he despises:

1. Proud eyes

2. A false tongue

3. Hands that shed innocent blood

4. A heart that devises evil plans

5. Feet that run quickly after evil

6. A false witness, who whispers lies

7. The one who incites conflict among brothers.                                                                             Proverbs 6:16-19


First and foremost on that list is proud eyes, you know, the kind of eyes that look down one’s nose at others.  Pride, however, is often divided into two categories, even by psychologists and philosophers.


There is the more positive pride that could also be described as a feeling of accomplishment or satisfaction or even joy because of something we have done well. 


This kind of pride also extends to others, often to our spouse or kids.  Not only can we positively evaluate ourselves, but also others.  And they in turn can be proud of us.


What does it feel like when someone else praises you?  Does it make you feel good and happy about who you are?


What would it be like for your boss to come to you and say, “you really did well”?

What would you feel like if your dad or your mom said to you, “I’m proud of you”? 

What, if you met the Queen of England and she said to you, “you really made a difference”? 


Such pride is also called proper pride, or positive self-evaluation.  And it is this kind of pride that God himself displays.


In one of Jesus’ parables, God, the heavenly father, says, “well done” to those who accomplished something of worth in their lives.  God wants to be proud of us.


At Jesus’ baptism, we read in the gospel according to Matthew:


After Jesus was baptized and left the water immediately the heavens opened, and he saw the Spirit of God, like a dove, descending and landing on Him.  And a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased."                             Matthew 3:16-17


This was a key event in Jesus’ life.  It happened before he began his public ministry – you could almost say it initiated his ministry – because it brought to light his identity – the beloved son, in whom God the Father was proud.


But then there is the other kind of pride.


In the negative sense, pride is defined as

an inflated sense of one’s personal status or accomplishments. 

an excessive admiration of the personal self. 

an excessive or irrational belief in one’s own abilities or attractiveness in the eyes of others.

a belief that one is essentially better than others, esteeming one’s self as being above others while failing to acknowledge the accomplishments or strengths of others.


St. Augustine called it, “the love of one’s own excellence.” 

Dante defined is as "love of oneself perverted to hatred and contempt for one's neighbour".


Psychologist have found that there often is a link between social status and pride … that is, the feeling that one is somehow of more value than others who are in some lower social class. 


As such, pride is a hierarchy-enhancing emotion, as the proud person categorizes himself as being part of the strong, beautiful, successful, accomplished, intelligent, or holy and not part of those he considers weak, poor, unbelievers or unattractive.


It should not surprise us when we find that celebrities often have an overinflated opinion of themselves … after all, they are treated like they are something really special.


This kind of pride is also referred to as an inflated or excessive pride, false pride, and even neurotic pride if it results in pathological antisocial or violent behaviour. 


In the center picture, war is seen as the result of pride and greed.  Pride and greed are the primary reasons for violent conflict.  But it isn’t just ideological regimes and those that follow them whose sense of superiority causes harm to others. 


It can be as simple as the former school bully who becomes the work place bully because she still thinks that treating others poorly makes herself look superior.


As such, excessive pride has some connection to NOT feeling good about oneself.  It is the under-valued self or self-contempt expressing itself in the over-valued self or pride.


As such, pride is often associated with anger, aggression, jealousy, envy, and gossip.


Pride has to be in charge.

Pride has to be the center of attention.

Pride is over-confident.

Pride knows everything.

Pride is opinionated.

Pride is inflexible.

Pride is right about everything.

Pride will not admit mistakes.

Pride refuses to take advice.

Pride is irritated when corrected for mistakes.

Pride is competitive and has to win.

Pride wants to have and be more than others.


On a spiritual level, pride is considered a form of self-idolatry, where the person not only feels superior to others, but also superior to God.  God is rejected for the sake of one’s own image, one’s own accomplishments, one’s own achievements, one’s own intellect, one’s own abilities.  If I am so great, I have no need of God. 


This negative kind of pride also tops the list of the so-called 7 deadly or mortal sins found in the teaching of the Roman Catholic church.  It is considered the original and most serious and deadliest of the mortal sins. 


Verses out of Isaiah 14:12-17, originally written about a violent and proud Babylonian king who had recently died, have often been seen to have also apply to Satan.


How you have fallen from heaven, you shining son of the dawn.  How you are cut to the ground, you who laid the nations low.  You said in your heart, “I will ascend to heaven, above the stars of God. 

I will set my throne on high.  I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north. 

I will ascend above the heights of the clouds. 

I will make myself like the Most High.” 

But you are brought down to the abode of the dead, to the far reaches of the pit.  Those who see you will stare at you and ponder over you: “Is this the man who made the earth tremble, who shook the kingdoms, who made the world like a desert and overthrew its cities, who did not let his prisoners go home?”              Isaiah 14:12-17


While this passage originally was concerning a human ruler who thought himself a god, it can be applied to Satan.  In Revelation 12 we can read of his fall:


War arose in heaven … and the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world ….                                                                                                   Revelation 12:7,9


This is pride and this is why God opposes the proud, but gives grace unto the humble.


Humility and false pride are antithetical, and God resists the proud.  It is not that God merely doesn’t help the proud.  The wording implies that God actually lines Himself up in battle array against the proud.


So let me bring all of this a bit closer to home.  We may not consider ourselves proud, but most of us have at least a smidgen of pride.  How do I know? 


Because every one of us has this voice in our heads, this whisper that we often don’t recognize – the question of our worth.  I wonder if I’m OK?  I wonder if I measure up?  I wonder if I’m acceptable?  I wonder if I’m lovable?  I wonder how am I doing? 


Regardless of whether we are religious or not, Christian or atheist, we ask ourselves this question.  And the most common way that we deal with it is to look around us to see whether we measure up.


Andy Stanley speaks about this process of comparison as the “er’s”.  We try to find our worth, we want to find out if we are doing well, based on whether or not we are bigger, hipper, smarter, faster, better, richer, skinnier, stronger, than others.  In fact, whenever others have less “er” than us, we not only feel better about ourselves, but there is the very real danger that we end up feeling superior, one of the definitions of negative pride. 


The problem with the comparison game is that there will always be those with a better “er.”  Which is probably one of the reasons that people who seem successful to others are not never satisfied. 


We are never satisfied with what we have.  We want what we cannot have and take for granted the things we do have.


No matter how big the house, the muscles, the company, the paycheck, the boat or how good the holiday or how great the popularity, there is always someone with a bigger house, muscles, company, paycheck, boat, who goes on a better holiday and enjoys greater popularity.


Worse, there will come a time for everyone when they get older.  And whatever they have built their feelings of self-worth or superiority on will fail since there will be someone younger with whom they no longer can compete or keep up.  Errrr! 


But there is an even more fundamental problem with trying to figure out whether we are OK, whether we are worthwhile, whether we are lovable and acceptable.  And again this is true of the religious or the irreligious.  It is the growing realization that something is fundamentally flawed in our characters. 


Let me give you a couple of examples.  We may fight constant battles to assert ourselves.  We all lie and exaggerate.  We all have this emotion the German’s call “Schadenfreude,” the sense of joy over the failure of others, especially those who we dislike.  We may not like any of these aspects of our character, but we don’t seem to be able to change.


So there are aspects of our own character that we recognize as being wrong.  My earliest memory is when I was three years old.  My sister and I were playing in the yard when she told me that she had gone into her pants and she made me promise not to tell our nanny, who we knew would spank her.  When we went in, the first thing I did was telling our nanny what had happened, with the expected consequences.  I remember my sister screaming as she got spanked and I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that what I had done was absolutely wrong … it was something ugly that had raised its head within me, and I carry that action with me to this day. 


I had this sense of ought and ought not that seemed to be innately present.  While parental teaching and example will help to strengthen or weaken this conscience, this sense of right and wrong, I believe that every human being, especially in their childhood, has it to begin with. 


Writers know all too well about human nature and so they will portray even superheroes as flawed.  Sherlock is a cocaine addict and incredible vain.  Iron man is an alcoholic womanizer.  The Hulk has severe anger issues.  Spider man is riddled with self-doubt.  Wolverine has a temper and inadvertently stabs people in his sleep. Batman is obsessive and he deals with fear, self-hate, … and a host of other issues. 


So we all know that at the end of the day there is something inherently wrong with us.  As the apostle Paul writes, “The good I want to do I do not, and the very thing I hate, I end up doing” (Rom 7:15).  And we don’t need anyone to actually point that out to us or remind us of it.  We know it to be so.


So even the people we think are alright, often don’t feel alright about themselves;

who we think have it all together, know they don’t;

who we think are popular, famous, rich, who have a great looking spouse and well behaved kids … at the end of the day, they still wonder if they are OK. 

Who have accomplished a lot, never feel they have accomplished enough.   Those who have done a great deal of good never feel they’ve done enough. 


Some people look to self-help books and gurus on the one hand, and on the other hand at possessions or popularity, all in their attempt to fix themselves.  And they may think, “If only I can accomplish this, if only I can get this person’s approval, if only I can acquire this … then I will get to the point where I feel good about myself.


Another tack to deal with our character flaw is to go into denial mode.  The very thing that years ago we may have considered as bad, we now proclaim to be something positive: 

I don’t lie, I only advertise.” 

“I’m not defensive, I’m only assertive.” 

“I’m not vindictive, but you may want to get a new toothbrush.  Just saying.” 

“I’m not selfish, just out to find myself.”  


The problem we all have with ourselves cannot be fixed with a new relationship or a new acquisition or even a new way of justifying ourselves.  And so there is an underlying insecurity in all of humanity that goes to the core of our souls.  We always will wonder if we are OK, if we have accomplished enough, done enough, been good enough in order to counterbalance our character flaw.


The Bible makes clear that because of what we know to be true about ourselves is real, we were all born into a broken relationship with our creator.  And as such, there is an insecurity in all of humanity that goes to the core of our souls, because no accomplishment, no good deed, no purchase, nothing and no one can heal this relationship. 


If we continue to compare ourselves with others we will continue to be unhappy about who we are.  Yet we all have to look to some reference point, someone or something to tell us we’re OK.


So what is that reference point supposed to be?    


I want to go back to the very beginning of this sermon and remind you of what Jesus heard from heaven after he was baptized:  “You are my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.” 


I believe that it was because of Jesus’ clear understanding of who he was before God the Father, that he could begin his ministry.  Also, it was the reason why, in the Garden of Gethsemane, shortly before his arrest, Jesus called God the Father, Abba, the Aramaic word for Dad (Mark 14:36).   Jesus’ identity was set.  He knew that his relationship with God the Father was intact. 


The apostle Paul likely was told of Jesus designation for God and so he uses it twice in his letters, once in his letter to the church in Rome and once in his letter to the believers in the Roman province of Galatia in order to point something out about those he wrote to.


In each of these passages he speaks of the fact that Jesus came not only to make it possible for our sins to be forgiven by God, as important as that may be; not even to make us more loving individuals, even though that is crucial as well.  Jesus also came to bring us into a relationship with God that can be at the core of our being, that can give us a deep knowledge of who we are and whose we are. 


When the time was fulfilled, God sent his son … to ransom those under the law in order that we could be adopted as sons.  And because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his son into our hears, the Spirit who cries out, “Abba, Father!”                               Galatians 4:4-6


You have not received the spirit of slavery … but you have received the Spirit who brought about your adoption as sons, the Spirit by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father!”  The Spirit himself bears witness to our spirit that we are children of God.                Romans 8:15-16

The Greek word for “adoption as sons” is a term referring to the full legal standing of an adopted male heir in Roman culture.  You see, back in the first century, Roman families didn’t adopt babies.  It didn’t make sense to do so, given the high infant mortality rate.  Instead, if no son was born into the family, they would adopt a relative, perhaps a nephew, in order to become the one who would inherit everything and carry on the family name.  In very rare circumstances, if a suitable male relative could not be found, one of the male household slaves was adopted instead.  And this is what Paul makes reference to.

So God knows us as adults.  He knows our failures, our flawed character.  He knows of our enslavement, as it were, to constantly going against our own sense of right and wrong.  He knows where our actions do not line up with our conscience.  And yet, despite it all, he wants to adopt us into his family.  He wants us to become his children … to the point where we can call him Dad


One of the problems with faith is that it can be something cerebral, something intellectual, purely head knowledge that we have become God’s children and he has become our heavenly father.  This may be especially true if we had a conflicted relationship with our earthly father.


What God wants is something more.  This is the reestablishment of a relationship between the creator and the creature where we call the creator of the universe dad.  And in turn, the Spirit helps us to get to the point where the creator will say, “Well done my child.” 


And by the way, we don’t get to that place without the humility to commit to doing his will to the best of our abilities.  There is a sense in which we surrender ourselves to his love and his plan for us.


Andy Stanley asks the question: “Who do perfect parents compare their children to?”  What do you think?  The answer is “To Nobody.”  A perfect parent would not say to a child, “If only you were more like your brother.”  A perfect parent would not say, “If only you were more like me.”  A perfect parent would not say, “If only you were more like the Jones’ kid.” 


Perfect parents don’t say, “I wish my son looked more like Billy Mitchell next door.”  I wish my daughter is as cute as Judy Johnson.  Perfect parents don’t compare their children to someone else.   


So what would our heavenly dad compare you to?  Would he say to you, “Man, I wish you were more like Bill Gates?  I wish you looked more like Heidi Klum?  I wish you were as smart as Einstein?  You should be as musical as Mozart?  I wish you were as rich as Oprah?  I wish you were more like Mother Teresa?


What would he say to me?  You know Spencer, you should be like Billy Graham.  You should preach like T.D. Jakes.  You should lead a church the size of Willowcreek. 


God does not play the comparison game.  He is like the perfect parent.  And that means God says to us, “You’re fine because you’re mine.” 


The concept of being God’s child has to move from the letter to our heads and then to our hearts.  We don’t just give mental ascent to God’s love for us, but we actually feel it.  We actually feel that God thinks of us as his beloved children.  And His estimation of us is what really matters.    


If this actually hits our hearts, it may change a lot about the way that we think about ourselves.  It may actually make us realize that we don’t have to play the comparison game because God considers us worthwhile.  We don’t have to look for affirmation from everyone if God truly cares for us. 

We don’t have to crave attention or seek love in all the wrong places.

If we believe in God’s estimation of us, then we don’t have to seek our identity in the “er’s”, in being prettier, cuter, richer, skinnier than others.  And we don’t have to despair because we are getting older.


Yes, God still wants us to continue to grow spiritually, to develop positive habits, to become wiser and kinder over time … just like a parent hopes and wishes these things for his or her child.


So finding our identity in our relationship to God is not about being passive, or in doing nothing.  There is so much potential in us, that God would want us to explore.  But ultimately our identity is set and it makes all the difference.  We don’t need pride anymore. 


Why am I holding on to pride, my feelings of superiority,  and the affirmation of others
in order to feel good about myself? 

 Hebrew helel – only found here in the OT.  Isaiah uses Babylonian imagery where helel, the son of the dawn, was cast into the abode of the dead when he tried to ascend into heaven.  The KJV mistranslated the expression, son of dawn, into the name Lucifer.

Proverbs 3:34 LXX, quoted in James 4:6 and 1 Peter 5:5.  MT - to the humble he demonstrates his favour.  Similar to 2 Sam 22:28; Ps 18:27.