I Pity the Fool: The Poison of Pride

Good morning.  My name is Phil Human.  Today we’re continuing our series on Proverbs, which is a series of teachings intended to teach young people how to become wise.  And we talked about how wisdom is more than morality – there are plenty of very moral fools.  And wisdom is more than intelligence – universities are filled with fools with doctorate degrees.  Wisdom is not sophistication – there are plenty of people who live very simple lives who are wise.

Also – we’ve reminded ourselves each week that Proverbs are principles not promises.

And we’ve also reviewed each week our working definition of wisdom.  Wisdom is the ability to see things for how they really are – and to make decisions in accordance with reality.  If you cannot see the true state of your financial picture you will end up broke.  You will make decisions that are foolish.

One of the more difficult aspects of proverbs is that it doesn’t give us techniques to learn in order to become a wise person – rather it talks about character traits that are necessary in order for us to become wise.

And this morning we are speaking of the one character trait that proverbs declares will make fools of us all. There is one character trait guaranteed to make fools of us all – and that is pride.  Pride makes fools of us all.  So today we’re going to look at Four things. We’ll look at –

What is pride

Why is it so dangerous?

How can we diagnose pride?

What is the antidote?

First – what is pride?  Simply put – pride comes from comparing yourself to others and always winning.  Pride is this.  you.   ME!!!  See the difference!

Our families favorite comedian is Brian Regan and he has a wonderful sermon/comedy skit called I walked on the moon.  Where he tells his audience how he wishes he could have been one of the few astronauts who walked on the moon – why?  So that – no matter what Story is being told, he could at any time say, “I remember one time, when I was walking on the moon.   I remember that time I was driving my lunar rover on the moon.

What is that comedy skit about?  Pride.  He wants to be able to pull out the trump card at any time on anyone on earth and say.  you.  ME.  See the difference?  And I love Brian Regan but that skit is about fighting Pride with Pride.

“Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man… It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element of competition is gone, pride is gone.” C.S. Lewis

That’s pride.  How can I get to this state?  Well, I either have to puff myself up.  Or tear you down.  I either puff myself up or I tear you down.  But either way – eventually I will get to the point where I will look down my nose at you.

“As long as you are proud you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you.”
 C.S. Lewis, 

Now – why is it so dangerous?

Where it leads us – what it does to us and and how it operates…

A few years ago we visited my brother and his family in Wisconsin on Thanksgiving.  And in their town they have a cool tradition – they have a nighttime parade on Thanksgiving night. It’s intended to launch the Christmas season.  Christmas floats – bands playing Christmas music – And it’s fun – all kinds of lights and music – but – really – everyone is there to see one guy.

When the parade started – when we saw the first Christmas float went past- every kid knew who was at the end of that parade.  Santa Claus!

Well – the book of proverbs says that when you see pride come marching by – you know what’s at the end of that parade?   

Proverbs 16 18 Pride goes before destruction,
a haughty spirit before a fall.

Proverbs 11:2 When pride comes, then comes disgrace,
but with humility comes wisdom.

Proverbs 29:23 Pride ends in humiliation,
while humility brings honor.

When you see pride come marching past – there’s only one thing at the end of that parade – and it ain’t Santa.  If you see Pride – the destruction, disgrace, humiliation are sure to follow.  It’s a comin’.  And you don’t want to end your parade that way, right?  Me neither! That’s a terrible parade.  That’s a bummer of a parade.

The danger of pride is that it leads us on a path that is sure to make fools of us all.  Proverbs declares over and over that our path is leading to only two places – Humility or humiliation.

Secondly – it’s dangerous because of what it does to us.   Pride makes us ugly.  No one finds pride to be attractive.  No one likes it when they see it in others.   No woman ever said – “The first thing that attracted me to him was the way that he was in love himself.”  No one ever said – “You know what I really liked about her?  She was so conceited.  It was adorable”

CS Lewis in Mere Christianity – There is no fault which makes a man more unpopular, and no fault which we are more unconscious of in ourselves.  And the more we have it ourselves, the more we dislike it in others.  The vice I am talking of is Pride or Self-Conceit. 

And Lewis brings to our attention yet another reason why pride is dangerous.    Although pride is one of those things that is often easy for us to sniff out in others – and often nearly impossible for us to see in ourselves.  Pride is one of those things – like greed – silently kills our souls.

I read a report in the news this week about a family in Omaha that had to be rushed to the hospital because of carbon monoxide poisoning.  The air they were breathing was poisonous – but they couldn’t smell it or taste it, or hear it – but it was silently killing them.

Pride is carbon monoxide to your soul.   You don’t know it’s there but it’s killing your soul.

So how can we diagnose it.  Let’s find out – but first – just a quick note to clarify something.  There is a healthy kind of pride.

For instance, pleasure in being praised by someone you respect or admire is not pride.  Your spouse or significant other tells you that you are beautiful or handsome, or generous and kind, and it makes you feel good – not pride.

Even the Bible says that someday we long to see Jesus and to hear him say, Well done, good and faithful servant.”  That’s not pride.  It becomes pride when it passes from gratitude for pleasing someone you care about – to becoming, I must be something else, I must really be something.

If we delight in ourselves rather than delighting in the compliment, then we’ve passed into danger territory, right?

We shouldn’t think it wrong to be proud of other people.  Anytime we admire someone other than ourselves, then we are taking a step away from pride.

So when I say that I am proud of Journey Church, that can be very right.  Paul often writes to churches and says, I am proud of your actions.”  You are rocking it!  Way to go!  And perhaps the better word is admiration.  I admire you Journey Church, for the way you care for people…  For your selfless care for Togo and Haiti and others…

But of course the danger becomes when I say, I am proud of the church that I have created.  (Breathing on fingernails and puffy chest)  that’s a universal sign of impending destruction.  Anytime someone blows on their fingers and does this on their chest – the end is near.

And that’s the very sneaky thing about pride.  It worms its way into our lives and can corrupt even the best of things.

For instance, it is quit possible for someone to be proud of their spiritual health.  Look at me.  I have got my act together.  There was a time a religious leader was praying in the temple – and what was he praying?

“Thank you Lord that I am better than these people.  I fast twice a week and I give away a tenth of all my money.”  Uh oh.  That dude is in trouble.  Why, because God hates people who pray and give?  No…  We are supposed to pray and give.  What’s the real problem?  Pride.  Look at me.  Don’t you see?  you….  ME!  Do you see the difference?

So he starts out doing right – things that ought to earn him a well done good and faithful servant, and instead he ends up a poster child for what not to do…. Why?  Because he allowed himself to think he was really something special.  He became a religious Me Monster.  Yuck!

And this brings us to the real issue, right?  The real issue is that even though none of us, including God, like Me Monsters, we all have to be honest and admit that all of us struggle with pride.

Pride is so subtle, so sneaky, that we are often unaware of our pride. How do we know if we have it?  So let me throw out a few questions to help us see our pride.  Consider these like a carbon monoxide detector – if these are sounding alarms in your soul then you ignore them at your own risk.

1.  Do you like to compare yourself to others?  Proud people thrive on comparisons, and guess what?  Guess who usually ends up the winner of the comparison?  You guessed it.  ME!  See!

Even the disciples struggled with this…  On more than one occasion the disciples get into an argument about their ranking to Jesus.  Who are the starters, Jesus?  And who are the subs?  What’s the ranking?  No one wants to ride the pine – everyone on the bench thinks they are better than someone out there.  Proud people compare themselves.

2.  Are you critical of people who succeed?  Proud people can’t rejoice with people who rejoice, instead they become jealous.  That person got a promotion?  Oh Brother!  I mean, really!  Why be so petty.  Why be upset if something good happens to another person.

3.  Are you overly critical of yourself?  This is a sneaky form of pride, actually.  In this form of pride – you are still comparing yourself to others, but you are always on the losing end of the comparison.  me.  YOU.

Self pity is a warped form of pride.  You suffer all the soul killing poison of pride without the temporary high that comes with feeling superior to others.  It’s not humility.  Humility isn’t thinking less of yourself.  Humility is thinking of yourself less.

4.  Do you have a hard time acknowledging you were wrong?  Proud people have a difficult time saying three word sentences – like, I was wrong.  I am sorry.  Please forgive me.

No – proud people like to add words to those simple life giving statements – they protect their pride by saying things like,  “I’m sorry if you took me the wrong way.”  I’m sorry that you were offended.   Proud people like to put qualify their apologies.

5.   Do you have a lot of conflicts with other people?  I once heard a pastor say, “ I’ve seen very few conflicts between the humble and the humble.”  Humble on humble crime is very rare.  Now the proud versus the proud?  The fight is on!

6.  Do you tend to be thankful?  Humble people say thank you.  Proud people forget to say thank-you because to them they are simply receiving something they deserve.

7.  Are you devastated by criticism?  Or do you shrug it off without reflection?   Proud people are either insulted by criticism or – they feel they are so far above you that they just say – well, who cares what you think about me.

Remember – we’re going on the assumption that pride is a silent killer of our souls, so we need to be on guard.  Wisdom is the ability to see things for how they really are – and so these diagnostic kinds of questions help us see what’s going on under the hood of our hearts, so to speak.

Wisdom is the ability to see things for how they really are – and then to act accordingly.  So – lastly – what’s the antidote to pride?

1.  We are going to marinate our souls with the Good News.  (The Gospel)

The Antidote to pride is the Good News of Jesus.  And we need long and thoughtful exposure to it.   We need to soak our souls in the Gospel message.   

What about Jesus’ message kills pride?  First – it forces us to see how bad off we really were.  It demands us to ask – what exactly are we proud about?

The message of the bible is that  You (and me) – we were so messed up – we had screwed up our lives so badly – we were so bad off that the only thing that could rescue us from living forever away from God’s presence – was the death of God’s only son Jesus.

We were in such dire straits.  That God’s son Jesus had to die to save you.  If that’s true – then what exactly are we puffing ourselves up about?  I mean, is it my belief that Jesus only had to die a little bit for me – but he died a whole lot for you?

Do we think that Jesus’ death – that he kind of enjoyed dying for me – I mean, look at me.  But he really didn’t want to die for you.  You low life.  He died happily for me.  He died miserably for you?  Is that how death works?

No – he died the same death- for all of us.  And that is a great leveler of all humanity.  What am I boasting about?  It forces me to see myself as no better off than the person I am looking down my nose at.  It is the great leveler of all humanity.

However – the gospel message – the good news – also protects us from that terrible inverse kind of pride….  feeling worthless.  The good news rescues us from self pity.

It lifts us up.  We might not be worthy of the kindness Jesus shows us by dying for our sins on the cross – but the fact that he did so for me- means I am not worthless.  I am not worthy – but I am not worthless.  In fact – It makes me precious.  God emptied the storehouses of his love in order to rescue me from my sin and adopt me.

Last week my friend Joe talked about adopting a child and in 1999 it cost $16,400  dollars – Chicken feed – compared to what Jesus paid for you.  And – for the person you are looking down your nose at.

This is the gospel.  And only by reflecting on it – thinking about it – the bible says that transformation begins – according to Romans 12:2 – with renewing the way we think.

Meditate on the goodness and grace of God.  Allow the unfathomable love of God to get us off the pedestal and start seeing ourselves and others for how we really are.  All of us – sinners saved by the grace and goodness of God.

Then – we celebrate it.  We worship with thankful hearts.  And slowly, we will see pride dwindle in our heart.  And in its place – humility.

That’s the primary thing we need to do to overcome pride.  See us for how we really are.

2.  Ask the Holy Spirit to gently point out to us moments of pride. 

If you give permission to the Holy Spirit to point out prideful attitudes in your heart – He will gladly respond.  Why?  It’s not because he’s upset – it’s because God wants us to be free from it.  So don’t be afraid to ask God to help show you when pride rears its ugly head in your thoughts or actions.  And then – respond appropriately.  Thank you Lord.  Teach me to live humbly before you.

3.  Serve others. It takes humility to serve.  But serving is an important part of antidote to pride.  When the disciples were fighting about who was greatest – Jesus said, whoever wants to be great should be a servant of all.  And then he washed the dirty feet of the disciples – and then he said, as you see me do, you should do too.

So if you want to become more humble, serve more often.   There’s plenty of opportunities to serve within Journey and we will be asking for more help as we get closer to the building opening next summer.

But there’s also plenty of opportunities to serve people in your home, neighborhood or workplace – without getting any recognition.  Find a way to put the concern of another before your own.   But fight the me monster who wants to receive credit for it.

4.  Take steps to grow in your faith.

“God opposes the proud
but gives grace to the humble.”

So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you. 

Investing in our spiritual journey leads to humility.  Because humility is simply knowing our place.  So we draw closer to God and we see God for who he is and we see ourselves in comparison and ultimately,

We will find that although we have very little to boast about…

We have so much about which to rejoice.