Pride in the Gospel

Addressing — attacking! — human pride is at the very heart of the gospel. (See my last blog for my initial run at this thesis.)

This I see, but this can also scare me. Because pride is a bigger problem than we think, methinks.

Five observations that can send a little chill up my spine (how about you?) . . . :

1. God despises not just overtly proud actions but pride of heart.

Look at Proverbs 16:5, for example: “The LORD detests all the proud of heart. Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished.”  (Cf. Prov. 16:18.) So, I guess that means the Lord is allowed to make even the private thoughts one may have to oneself fair game for discipline? . . .   Eesh.  (By the way, Jesus doesn’t lighten up on this point one bit; if anything, He screws the point even tighter — see Luke 12:1-5.)

Even “a haughty look” (you know the posture, that facial expression) is something God notes with extreme displeasure. (See Proverbs 6:17, Isaiah 2:11.)

2.  Much of the Divine judgment recorded in Scripture is rained down on pride, is prompted by God’s displeasure and anger at pride, and is designed to eliminate pride.

There’s a sense in which the fall and curse all originate in a prideful action. But even all that aside, just look at Isaiah 2-4, Isaiah 13, 16, 23, 25, 28; Jeremiah 13; Ezekiel 7, 24, 30; Hosea 5, 7; Habakkuk 2; and just the number of lead-ins and narratival asides and prophetic explanations that go something like this: “I [the LORD] will punish you seven times more for your sins, to break down your pride” (Lev. 26:18-19); “O Judge of the earth, render recompense to the proud” (Ps. 94:2).

The rationale for why the Canaanites needed to be eliminated entirely and why idolatry just in general had to be dealt with so severely was because God didn’t want anybody around left to boast or credit the wrong source for why positive things have eventuated in their lives (see Deut. 29:17-18).  It ticks God off to have blessings credited to the wrong source — one’s own abilities, or the power of another (false) God. This is one reason why “boasting about tomorrow” is sinful — it presumes one has more control or power than you do, which is inherently prideful (see Prov. 27:1; Jas. 4:13-16; cf. Matt. 6:31-34).    

3. Good people can go bad because of pride.

Besides some of the more high profile cases (Solomon, even David to an extent), Amaziah (2 Chron. 25), Uzziah (2 Chron. 26), Hezekiah (2 Chron. 32), all provide cautionary tales of how people who start out well, and are even described as people whose “heart was devoted to the Lord,” can suffer a great fall because of pride.

Talk about scary. One can be truly blessed of God, with things going really well. But maybe even BECAUSE of that blessing, BECAUSE of the success brought by God, you let it go to your head . . . Bam!  Downfall!!   . . .  That’s scary to me.

And when I think about people I have known, good ministries I have known, that were destroyed by arrogance, the conflicts generated by clashes of egos. . .  and I’ve known too many.  Tougher still is the recognition that I’ve been sucked in myself and participated in some clashes motivated in part by my own pride, protecting my ego, or responding with harshness out of wounded ego.  Yeah; I’ve seen it, and I’ve done it.  And that’s not even counting the number of ministries that COULD be healthier than they are if only pride and ego didn’t get in the way.   

4. God’s judgment of pride is severe. (You can call it “discipline” if you prefer, but I warn you that distinction isn’t going to help much. . . . )

Just read some of the passages cited above and in the last blog on this. You and I might shrug and say, “Well, you know, we all have pride (chuckle, chuckle).”  But God doesn’t take it near so lightly, nor regard pride’s presence in a person with near such flippancy. People are killed, or struck with debilitating disease, loss of property and livelihood, even ripped from their home and carried into slavery, at times after having been forced to see their loved ones slaughtered, all to eliminate arrogance and pride.

Put it this way: I don’t want to get God’s attention — nor do I want God to have to get MY attention — over pride.  . . .   Neither do you. 

5. Pride creeps in to our mindset more subtly than we realize.

Thomas Aquinas and the medieval theologians in general, in their exploration of “the seven deadly sins,” counted pride as the worst of the lot and the most insidious, because pride (“self-concern”) underpins all other sins at root.  They may well be right.

As Proverbs warns, and as Scripture in general testifies, pride can creep up even in otherwise godly people. Pride can creep in unawares, too; and be a blind spot in people believing their motives are nothing but good. (Saul, Amaziah, Uzziah, Hezekiah, Simon all found this out the hard way.)

Pride serves as a huge problem in redemptive history and God devotes much of His gospel energy to addressing it and eliminating it. And yet, I look at our culture, I look at our churches, I look our leaders, I look at my own heart, and recognize . . . pride is a bigger issue and a bigger deal even still, even now, than we think.

Is this not true?

About the Author

Todd Mangum

Dr. R. Todd Mangum

Todd Mangum is the Academic Dean and Professor of Theology at Biblical. He is ordained by the Southern Baptist Convention. Todd is the author of The Dispensational-Covenantal Rift, and co-author (with Dr. Paul Pettit of the Howard Hendricks Leadership Center in Dallas, TX) of the just-released book, Blessed are the Balanced: Following Jesus into the Academy (Kregel), and of several articles seeking to bridge divides among Bible-believing Christians. He is married to Linda and they have three sons.


0 # Peter Zacharoff 2013-11-20 22:01
:lol: REALLY great article. Very EYE :-? opening! Great use of Biblical authority in your writing. A timely message. Thank you Sir!
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