“Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, all of whose works are truth, and His ways justice. And those who walk in pride He is able to put down” (Daniel 4:37, NKJV).
Nebuchadnezzar was driven from his throne over Babylon to live as a wild animal because of his pride that praised his accomplishments while ignoring God (Dan. 4:22-33). Instead of praising the Most High God, who “rules in the kingdoms of men,” the king praised himself and his majesty (Dan. 4:25, 28-31). God has not abdicated His rule over the nations (Ps. 22:28; Acts 17:26). Those in power who honor the true and living God are blessed; those who pridefully dishonor Him face inevitable defeat (Ps. 33:10-22). “The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; He makes the plans of the peoples of no effect” (Ps. 33:10). And, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord” (Ps. 33:12). Nebuchadnezzar learned God’s “works are truth, and His ways justice” (Dan. 4:37). God calls national leaders and all the earth’s inhabitants to humble themselves before Him. “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” is true of individuals and nations (Prov. 16:18). Daniel’s counsel to the Babylonian king remains relevant: “Break off your sins by being righteous, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the poor. Perhaps there may be a lengthening of your prosperity” (Dan. 4:27).
4 “Yet I am the Lord your God ever since the land of Egypt, and you shall know no God but Me; For there is no savior besides Me. 5 I knew you in the wilderness, in the land of great drought. 6 When they had pasture, they were filled; They were filled and their heart was exalted; Therefore they forgot Me” (Hosea 13:4–6, NKJV).
Yahweh saved Israel from Egyptian oppression and He sustained her in the wilderness. But instead of giving God thankful, obedient service, Israel forgot the Lord and turned to idols (Hosea 13:1-2). Worshiping Baal and the golden calves Jeroboam had set up, Israel added sin upon sin. What led to Israel’s apostasy warns us not to fall as she did (1 Cor. 10:6-12). Hosea 13:6 describes the sequence of Israel’s apostasy. (1) Israel became satisfied in her prosperity. They were “at ease” in their abundance and failed to humbly obey God and serve their brethren (Amos 6:1-7). The church of the Laodiceans provides a similar warning against spiritual apathy (Rev. 3:15-17). (2) Israel’s heart was filled with pride. Pride is an insidious enemy that elevates us above God in our minds. Pride is an undeniable step away from God and is abhorrent to God (Amos 6:8). The church in Sardis wrestled with pride’s self-righteous fruit (Rev. 3:1-2). (3) Israel forgot God in her self-sufficiency. Israel forgot that God was their savior and sustainer. Israel’s prosperity led to prideful sufficiency while ignoring God (Deut. 8:1-20; 32:15). The parable of the rich fool warns us not to trust riches but to lay up heavenly treasures (Luke 12:15-21). “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12).
11 Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. 12 There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another? (James 4:11–12, NKJV).
God’s prophet gives us a plain warning not to speak evil of one another. “Speak evil” translates the Greek word katalaleo, “to be a traducer, i.e. to slander:–speak against (evil of)” (Strong’s Greek #2635). Words that belittle, defame, and libel other Christians (or anyone, for that matter) are sins against brethren, against God, and His law. James does not negate the accurate, appropriate judging of sin. For example, the apostle Paul said we judge unrepentant Christians (“those who are inside”) by applying corrective discipline and putting away the evil person from ourselves (1 Cor. 5:12-13). James is condemning unrighteous judgments that are void of divine truth. He addresses and exposes the sinful “wars and fights” that arise among Christians in this context (James 4:1). Divisive, factious words and actions are worldly and prideful (James 4:1-6). We “become judges with evil thoughts” when we quickly think the worst, grumble and complain against one another, and show partiality in our treatment of one another (James 2:4, 12-13; 5:9). We become the law or standard by which we judge others. James cautions us to remember God is the Lawgiver to whom we are all answerable. He saves and destroys; therefore, we give place to His judgments. Let us not become judges of one another to our destruction.
30 No wisdom, no understanding, no counsel can avail against the Lord. 31 The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the Lord. (Proverbs 21:30–31, ESV)
A great temptation faced by all is to believe our wisdom, understanding, and counsel are unquestionably better than any other. This temptation opens a door through which pride enters to prevail over our thinking and conduct. The sin of pride leaves God and His will out of the picture as we make decisions and set the course of our lives. James put it this way, “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.’ As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil” (Jas. 4:13-16, ESV). We must revere God’s sovereignty in all our preparations for success (whether in business, in relationships, politics, or any other endeavor under the sun). Our wisdom, understanding, and counsel cannot prevail against the revealed will and purposes of God. God gives grace to the humble but resists the proud – a lesson we all need to remember (Jas. 4:6). As we “fight the good fight of faith” and “lay hold on eternal life,” we must not forget the victory belongs to the Lord, not to us (1 Tim. 6:12).
20 Wisdom calls aloud outside; She raises her voice in the open squares. 21 She cries out in the chief concourses, at the openings of the gates in the city she speaks her words: 22 “How long, you simple ones, will you love simplicity? For scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge. 23 Turn at my rebuke; Surely I will pour out my spirit on you; I will make my words known to you.” (Proverbs 1:20–23, NKJV)
Solomon personifies wisdom as a virtuous woman calling out in the streets to all who will stop, listen, learn, and follow her words of understanding. She seeks to bless those upon whom her words fall. Yet, in their ignorance, the naïve turn away from her insight. Others mock her perception while others loathe her knowledge. Even so, wisdom offers her spirit of discernment to all who are willing to hear. But beware. Rejecting wisdom’s call ultimately leads to ruin (Prov. 1:24-27). What is at work in the heart that refuses God’s wisdom? Proverbs 1:29 gives us an answer: “Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord.” Pride and irreverence prevent accepting wisdom’s guidance. We must choose to fear the Lord and to love the knowledge He gives us in His word. If not, we will search for wisdom and never find her (Prov. 1:28). Here is our test: Our attitude and reaction to the gospel of Christ (“the wisdom of God”) tell whether we hear wisdom or despise her (1 Cor. 1:21-25; 3:18).
23 Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, let not the mighty man glory in his might, nor let the rich man glory in his riches; 24 But let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight,” says the Lord. (Jeremiah 9:23–24, NKJV)
This stern warning against pride in personal wisdom, power, and wealth is set against the backdrop of God’s wisdom, power, and richness. Paul wrote, “Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Cor. 1:25). Human insight is nothing before the Almighty’s wisdom. Only the boastful would make such a foolish claim. Concerning human power, “Thus says the Lord: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart departs from the Lord” (Jer. 17:5). Pride moves people to think they are stronger than God. Riches are temporary, and “perish through misfortune” (Eccl. 5:14). Pride in material abundance can lead to neglecting eternal riches (Lk. 12:15-21). By contrast, we can “understand and know” the Lord (Jer. 9:24). We understand He is sovereign (Lord), and accomplishes what is gracious, just, and righteous in the earth. Humility glories in God’s accomplishments, not ours. By doing so, God assures us of His favor (delight).
13 “And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:13–14, NKJV)
This man knew his sins and what they had done to his spiritual condition before God. He was not bold to move close to the presence of God at the temple. Standing “afar off” from the sanctuary in the court of the men, he recognized his unworthiness before God. With lowered eyes of contrition, he beat his chest in shameful sorrow for his sins. His only hope was in God. He believed God to be a merciful God, ready to forgive a sinner like him. And so he pleaded for mercy, and God heard his prayer. Jesus declared the man’s humility before God resulted in gracious exaltation. The contrast is profound between the tax collector and the Pharisee, whose self-righteous pride prevented mercy from the throne of God (Lk. 18:9-12). Both were sinners, but only the humble was justified. We must confront our sins with honest humility when we approach God for mercy. By doing so, we will find His mercy and grace (Heb. 4:16).
Cast out the scoffer, and contention will leave; Yes, strife and reproach will cease. (Proverbs 22:10, NKJV)
The scoffer introduces and produces contention and strife in relationships where there should be peace (for example, marriages, neighborhoods, churches). The scoffer mocks truth and refuses the correction wisdom offers, “A scoffer does not love one who corrects him, nor will he go to the wise” (Prov. 15:12). Pride is the trademark of the scoffer: “A proud and haughty man—‘Scoffer’ is his name; He acts with arrogant pride” (Prov. 21:24). Driven by the pride of self-righteousness, scoffers ridicule their spouse, their neighbor, their coworker, and their brethren in Christ – disrupting harmony with their poisonous disdain. The scoffer makes fun of others while satisfying ungodly lusts instead of doing the will of God (2 Pet. 3:3; Jude 18). The scoffer undermines peace and reconciliation by refusing to show mercy and forgiveness. Overconfidence, instead of compassion, denotes the scoffer (Eph. 4:31-32). To avoid this dreadful destroyer of peace, let us hear this warning and promise from God concerning the scoffer: “The curse of the Lord is on the house of the wicked, but He blesses the home of the just. Surely He scorns the scornful, but gives grace to the humble” (Prov. 3:33-34).
4 Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires. 5 Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! (James 3:4–5, NKJV)
Words are powerful. A fellow-Christian recently reminded me that one way God made us in His image is in our ability to communicate, to use words. God’s word is powerful, and so are our words. Small rudders maneuver great ships at the helmsman’s desire. A spark can engulf a forest in flames. Learning to control our tongues is about learning to control our hearts. Pride promotes the lust for power over others, and words are often the vehicle used to exert that power. “There is a generation—oh, how lofty are their eyes! And their eyelids are lifted up. There is a generation whose teeth are like swords, and whose fangs are like knives, to devour the poor from off the earth, and the needy from among men” (Prov. 30:13-14). Our words have great power and potential for both good and evil (Eph. 4:29-32). Pride prompts the destructive use of words (like gossip, profanity, and strife, Jas. 3:14-16). Just as surely as pride is the spark that kindles much self-seeking strife, humble purity of heart helps steer our words and our lives toward peaceful shores (Jas. 3:17-18).
11 “For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” 12 Then He also said to him who invited Him, “When you give a dinner or a supper, do not ask your friends, your brothers, your relatives, nor rich neighbors, lest they also invite you back, and you be repaid. 13 But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind. 14 And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” (Luke 14:11–14, NKJV)
Jesus, the Son of God, was humble. He lowered Himself, humbled Himself, to help the helpless, to save His enemies – sinners, like you and me. We are not humble when we only bless those who can repay us. Such conceit arrogantly judges others as it says, “I will only treat you nicely because I expect you to be nice to me in return.” That is not loving, merciful, or the attitude of God (Matt. 5:43-48). Reciprocity is not the Christian’s motivation for being kind and pleasant. The gospel goes out to all, and we must try to bless all with whom we have contact, trying to save some (Rom. 12:17-21). So, keep and show godly attitudes, even toward those who mistreat you (Matt. 5:10-12). Always treat others kindly, even when they are not kind toward you (Matt. 7:12). The Lord will repay you at the resurrection (Jno. 5:28-29). That will be enough.