Gods of This World: Pride
Pride has been the bane of humanity for about as long as we have been in existence. Throughout time many people have cherished inflated views of themselves and their abilities. Pride is also found on family, clan, community, cultural, and national levels. Much of what we see promoted around us in some way reflects pride or the appeal to our sense of pride. Unfortunately, pride and many varieties of pride have become gods of this world.
One can certainly see pride as one of the results of the Fall: man, now separated from his Creator and Source of life, finds himself a small player in a large and dangerous world, and must find some way to lift up his spirits (cf. Genesis 3:1-23, Isaiah 59:1-2, Romans 5:12-18). It is easy for people to desire to exalt themselves when they feel like they are insignificant. We feel the need to stand out from the other six billion people who walk the earth!
It is beyond doubt that human beings have a natural emotional volatility regarding their self-image. That volatility is there to remind us that we are the creation and that we ought to seek our Creator and His will, for we will not find sufficiency in ourselves (cf. Acts 17:26-28, Romans 9:20-21, 2 Corinthians 3:5). There are times when we all require encouragement and building up, and times when we have the strength to build up others (cf. Hebrews 10:25). Furthermore, man has the impulse to seek to take care of himself and those under his charge, and to gain a measure of satisfaction for so doing (cf. 1 Timothy 5:8, 2 Thessalonians 3:10).
Yet it is easy for people to take that volatility and those impulses and to make them the absolute. The situation is not made better by myths of the ideal of self-sufficiency: the “best men” among us are those who “pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps” and by their own effort “made something of themselves.” Pride and “independence” are thus exalted, while humility and interdependence are minimized.
Humans are not islands. They were never made to be entirely independent. There is a time to give and a time to receive (cf. Acts 20:35). Many people refuse the assistance of others because of their pride. They are willing to go without or see their loved ones go without as opposed to humbling themselves to receive support, be it financial, physical, emotional, or spiritual support. This emphasis on self-sufficiency and pride will be the downfall of many souls. The wonderful benefits of community and interdependence, things God desires of His people and His church (cf. Acts 2:42-47, 1 Corinthians 12:12-28) are too often sacrificed on the altars of pride and independence.
Pride need not be so obvious and bald-faced to be a major challenge for people. The challenge also goes under different names: ego, self-esteem, self-image, self-worth, and the like. Thousands of books have been written on how to look at yourself more positively. Seminars are held around the country and the world attempting to “empower” people; if you think yourself to be confident and successful, you will be confident and successful. In much of the educational world the emphasis has shifted toward raising the self-esteem of children: no one loses, what is really important is how you feel about yourself, and therefore nothing can be done that might ruin a child’s self-esteem. This trend has also infected the religious world: many “preachers” in denominations (and sadly even in the church) are little more than self-help gurus who quote a few Scriptures every so often. Their message is more about “you” than it is about Jesus!
It is not as if humans do not have egos or have no need for self-esteem. The difficulty with all of these self-help and ego-boosting programs is that they are wrongly directed. As long as humans are separated from their Creator they will suffer from low self-esteem and related challenges. Some will turn and project a hollow sense of pride but realize, deep down, that something is wrong and missing.
Our sense of self-image, self-esteem, and ego cannot be built on ourselves and be what God intends. Instead, we must gain satisfaction and sufficiency in God (cf. 2 Corinthians 3:5). We have value because God has found us valuable enough to send His Son to die for our sins so that we could be reconciled to Him (Romans 5:6-11). We derive our worth from being God’s faithful servants. Notice that the Bible does not explicitly speak regarding self-image, self-esteem, and ego, as if they need some special boosting through some self-help program. Instead, God calls on mankind to die to self and to live to God (Romans 6:11, Galatians 2:20). We should take on the identity of the servant of God, seeking to be conformed to the image of the Son (Luke 17:7-10, Romans 8:29). We can gain emotional and spiritual strength and confidence by realizing our place in God’s Kingdom, being part of something greater than ourselves, and through the love and support of God in Christ and our fellow believers (1 Corinthians 12:12-28, 1 Peter 4:10-11, Romans 8:31-39). These lead to true empowerment, not the shallow worldly shell of the idea!
Pride has been the bane of humanity for generations in all of its many guises. Let us not serve the worldly senses of pride to our own detriment and destruction, but let us seek God and find our sufficiency in Him, having been found to be His obedient servants!
Ethan R. Longhenry