Pride and humility Refs
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God assures us that pride comes before a fall. Pride is thinking you are better and more important than you really are. Humility is its opposite and is pleasing to God.

Daniel 4

Nebuchadnezzar was a mighty king of Babylon who had built a magnificent empire. He was so proud that many bricks in Babylon have been found stamped with his name. Nebuchadnezzar wrote Daniel 4 to show others how God can deal with the proud. After one warning from God, Nebuchadnezzar did not learn, so God made him go mad until he learned that God does rule. In the end, Nebuchadnezzar realised that God was able to humble people who are proud.

1. Did Nebuchadnezzar have any reason to believe that God was powerful?
2. After the events of the fiery furnace, Nebuchadnezzar tried to change, but pride won. How can pride be controlled in our lives?
3. How long was Nebuchadnezzar to be insane?
4. Think of some ways in which we show pride.
5. Think of some practical ways to develop humility.


Simple definitions
Pride is thinking we are better or more important than others, or than we really are. Humility is thinking we are not as good as, or are less important than, we really are.

God makes it clear:

. . . whoever has haughty eyes and a proud heart, him will I not endure. (Psalm 101:5)

and

This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word. (Isaiah 66:2)

Throughout the Bible, we are taught to avoid pride and aim for humility. For example, Paul wrote

Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought . . . Honor one another above yourselves . . . Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. (Romans 12:3,10,16)

Symptoms
Here are some questions to see if you may have a problem with pride:
1. Do you think you are more likely to be right than other people?
2. Have you ever kept people waiting while you were improving your appearance?
3. Is it important to you that people are aware of the good things you do?
4. Do you care if others think you are arrogant?
5. Do you praise people for the good they do? What about when they are doing things you know you should be doing yourself?
6. If you achieve something special or perform very well at work or school, do you feel you must tell others about it? What about if you have done something badly and been criticised for it—do you still have to tell others about it?
7. Do you ever laugh at the way others do things because you can do them better?
8. Do you ever look down on others?

Showing pride

O Lord, it’s hard to be humble, when you’re perfect in every way . . .

So run the words of a tongue-in-cheek song (“It’s Hard To Be Humble” by Mac Davis — Screen Gems (copyright Casablanca Record and FilmWorks Inc.) ) that perfectly summarises the problem we all have with pride. Of course, we would never say that we are perfect in every way, but we seem to expect that humility will be difficult for us because of the many things we are good at.

Have you ever felt proud of something you have done? Have you felt proud of the valuable achievements of others? This feeling of pleasure resulting from something well done is the sort of pride Paul felt for several churches as they solved problems or withstood opposition. Pride in the work of God is also praised in the Bible. e.g. 2 Corinthians 8:24 These are examples of pride which are not bad—a feeling of pleasure for anything well done or praiseworthy. In general, however, when God speaks of pride, he refers to the human pride that is self-centred and bad.

Where pride is good
    • pride in God
Psalm 34:2; Jeremiah 9:24; 1 Corinthians 1:31
    • pride in others
2 Corinthians 1:14, 5:12, 7:4, 12:5
    • pride in self
Galatians 6:4; James 1:9–10
Where pride is bad
    • pride in appearance or riches
Ezekiel 7:20, 28:5, 17; 2 Corinthians 5:12
    • pride in comparisons
1 Corinthians 4:6; Galatians 6:4
    • pride in achievements
Proverbs 27:2; Hosea 12:8
    • boasting
1 Corinthians 5:6, 13:4; 1 John 2:16
God brings down proud people
2 Samuel 22:28; Psalm 18:27; Proverbs 3:34; 16:18; 18:12; 29:23; Isaiah 13:11; 23:9; Zephaniah 3:11; Matthew 23:12; Luke 14:7–11; James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5.
God loves humility
Psalm 18:27; Proverbs 3:34; 18:12; Isaiah 66:2; Micah 6:8; Romans 12:3,10,16; James 4:6,10; 1 Peter 5:5.

Developing humility
Here are some daily exercises for controlling pride and developing humility. Learn the verses and practise what they teach.

1. Do something good or help someone— and make sure no-one else ever finds out. Matthew 6:3–4

2. Tell someone about something in your life you regret or are ashamed of—they can help you improve. James 5:16

3. Compare your achievements in serving God with those of Jesus or Paul. Hebrews 3:1–2; Philippians 4:9

4. Do not praise yourself or talk about the things you have done to serve God.Proverbs 27:2

5. Do everything to give glory to God and not yourself. 1 Corinthians 10:31

6. If you feel like boasting, boast about God and his power. Jeremiah 9:23–24

7. Praise others every day and consider them better than yourself. Philippians 2:3

The rewards of pride and humility
God will bring proud people down as he brought down Nebuchadnezzar, Haman and Absalom. The more we think of ourselves, the less God thinks of us.
See Esther and 2 Samuel 14–18

When people are humble, God makes plans to lift them up and make them important in his kingdom. Thinking less of ourselves and more of God means that we will live with him forever.


Pride is almost always self-centred and in these cases it is wrong. If we have pride or wish to boast, have pride in God and boast about what he has done. If we practise being humble, God says that he will make us important in the kingdom.


1. Are there any things you could be doing for God that you are too proud to do?
2. What Bible characters were commended for their humility? Can you think of some things they did which demonstrated great humility?
3. When do you find it hard to be humble? Be specific.
4. What is the difference between being humble and having low self-esteem?


1. Find four people in the Bible who were too proud (excluding those already mentioned in this chapter).
2. Can you find anyone who was too humble?


• Read the book of Proverbs.
• The genius of discipleship by Dennis Gillett (published by The Christadelphian, 1984). Chapters 10. 5 pages.
• The dimensions of a disciple: planning for spiritual growth
by Stan Dawes (published by the author, 1993), Chapter 23. An interesting and practical discussion about the danger of pride.


28. Repentance
55. The law of love
58. Wealth and money
62. Careers and employment
65. Gossip

 
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