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).
17 Lord, You have heard the desire of the humble; You will prepare their heart; You will cause Your ear to hear, 18 To do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, that the man of the earth may oppress no more. (Psalm 10:17–18, NKJV)
Psalms 10 wrestles with the apparent immunity of the wicked from accountability and justice from the judgment seat of God (cf. Hab. 1:1-4). “Why do you stand afar off, O Lord? Why do You hide in times of trouble?” (Psa. 10:1) The proud boast in their greed and renounce the Lord; They could care less about God (10:3-4). The oppressors always appear to prosper as they arrogantly devise evil against the poor (10:5-10). They do not believe God sees their transgressions, nor will He “require an account” (10:11, 13). In weariness of heart, the oppressed cry out for God to see their evil and lift His hand of judgment against them (10:12). God does see the sins of the godless. He is the helper of the fatherless, and the helpless commit themselves to Him and the justice He will bring upon the wicked (10:14-15). His sovereignty secures our confidence that God will right every wrong; He is “King forever and ever” (10:16; 2 Thess. 1:6-10). What began as the psalmist’s perplexity when the wicked appear to escape justice ends in a flourish of praise and adoration of the Lord. Nothing escapes His notice. In His time, God executes justice for the righteous cause of the humble, the powerless, and the oppressed, who prepare their hearts to accept His righteous judgments (Psa. 19:9; 2 Pet. 3:7-10).
But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6, NKJV)
God is willing to forgive us even after we have been unfaithful to Him (Jas. 4:4-5). His intent is not to see us perish, but that we should come to repentance (2 Pet. 3:9). Oh, what love! And yet, we must understand this calls on us to abandon our sins against God and turn to Him for grace. (When we do, He gives it.) This takes humility, which is at the heart of repentance. Indiana Jones famously said, “Only the penitent man will pass.” Harrison Ford’s character also said, “The penitent man is humble before God,” and he “kneels before God.” Indeed, only the humble person repents. Pride prevents us from admitting our sin, changing our heart, and turning to the only One who is willing and able to save us from sin’s pain and punishment (Rom. 6:23). We must understand that God dispenses His grace according to His will, not ours. The “gospel of the grace of God” teaches us to repent and be baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 20:24; 2:38). It teaches Christians to repent and pray God’s forgiveness when we sin (Acts 8:22-24; 1 Jno. 1:9). God’s grace is greater than sin, but we cannot continue to sin and expect grace to abound (Rom. 6:1-2). That is pride, and God resists the proud. To be saved by God’s grace we must have the faith to humbly repent and submit to “the word of His grace” (Eph. 2:8-9; Acts 20:32).
Everyone proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord; Though they join forces, none will go unpunished. (Proverbs 16:5, NKJV)
Pride is a scourge upon the soul. It reshapes our thinking to imagine we are larger, better, worthier, and more deserving than others. It elevates our estimation of ourselves. So convincing is pride that it will persuade us we are the humble ones. “I’m so proud to be so humble” is self-talk promoted by pride, producing self-righteousness (Luke 18:9-14). Solomon reminds us that pride is abhorrent to the Lord, and will be punished by Him. Still, the proud of heart willingly form unholy alliances to achieve common (albeit unholy) objectives. Remember, the agenda of the proud in heart centers upon self. When their unholy alliance accomplishes their mutual goal, they invariably turn on each other. Pride cannot long endure serving someone else’s cause instead of its own. Therefore, Christians are warned, “do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another!” (Galatians 5:13-15) Let us always guard against the sin of pride by being humble servants of one another (1 John 2:15-17; 1 Peter 5:5-7).
4 Keep me, O Lord, from the hands of the wicked; Preserve me from violent men, who have purposed to make my steps stumble. 5 The proud have hidden a snare for me, and cords; They have spread a net by the wayside; They have set traps for me. Selah (Psalm 140:4–5, NKJV)
David had enemies. They devised wicked plans against him, strengthening themselves together to assault him. They spoke lies against him in their attempts to overthrow him (Psalm 140:1-3). Rather than despair and lose hope when evil people lay traps and snares against us, like David we must set our hope on the Lord to deliver us and preserve us (verse 4). The Lord sees the hidden snares of the proud, so remain humble and set your heart on trusting Him fully (verse 5). Do not try to vindicate yourself (Romans 12:17-20). Your spiritual safety and preservation come from the Lord, not from “fighting fire with fire.” Christ challenges you not to be “overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). That is the course David chose, and the Lord delivered him (Psalm 22:19-21). The Lord still preserves those whose minds are set on Him (Isaiah 26:3; Romans 8:31-39; Hebrews 13:5-6).
And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted. (Matthew 23:12, NKJV)
Jesus gave a warning against the prideful religious display of the scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23:1-12. This continues to be a trap into which we can too easily fall. In learning to be humble before God and men, we must be cautious against attitudes and actions that suggest we are so proud to be so humble (Luke 18:9-14). At the very moment we are convinced we have mastered the grace of humility, the sin of pride is lurking in the shadows. Those who take delight in asceticism or self-abasement as evidence of their spirituality have seemingly yielded to this temptation, for twice the Scriptures identify such “false humility” that has “no value against the indulgence of the flesh” (Colossians 2:18, 23). Let us genuinely put on a heart of humility (Colossians 3:12). A heart of humility does not put on a show for others. It is not concerned with such things. Instead, it shows meekness, longsuffering, forbearance and forgiveness toward others as it lives among men and before God (Colossians 3:12-13). Humility serves, while pride expects to be served (1 Peter 5:5-6).
1 There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” (John 3:1–2, NKJV)
Nicodemus had heard the teachings of Jesus, and he had apparently seen some of His miracles (or their effects). From this, Nicodemus rightly concluded that Jesus had come from God, and that God was with him. From the context, we are not amiss to conclude that Nicodemus was an early believer (John 2:23). He was a Pharisee, and a ruler of the Jews (John 7:50). This indicates the influence of Jesus’ words and deeds was already beginning to reach the upper echelons of Jewish power. Although this night visit implies an element of fear on the part of Nicodemus, it also shows him acting on the conclusion he drew from the words and signs of Jesus. He did not withdraw from Jesus, criticize Him, or obstruct His work. This “teacher of Israel” went directly to Jesus to investigate for himself. We must never allow our place in society, our degree of education, or the authority we hold over others to prevent a humble investigation of Christ and His gospel. Pride would have prevented this night visit. Is pride keeping you from going to Jesus, learning from Him, and following His word? Remember, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5).
But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6, NKJV)
There is no virtue in defying God and His word; such is the height of arrogance. The Ad Council campaign, “Love Has No Labels,” while addressing bias as they see it (and indeed, there are sinful biases that call for rebuke, repudiation and repentance), also fights against the word of God in some instances by promoting inclusion of life activities which He excludes from His approval. (See Sword Tips, November 24, 2016, for more.) God does not accept the practice of immorality and religious error under the banner of “love.” Of course, we must treat everyone with kindness, but we do not respect sin. The Bible says, “You who love the Lord, hate evil!” (Psa. 97:10). Sin God hates sin, He does not include those who practice sin into the spiritual blessings that are “in Christ” (Eph. 1:3). Jesus died for sinners because of our sin. God does not overlook, accommodate or otherwise diversity His fellowship for the sake of “inclusion.” God resists the proud, who demand their will over His revealed will, the inspired Scriptures. Humble yourself before God, accept and abide in His word, and He will give you grace. That is His promise, but it is conditional upon your faith in Him and His word, not yourself (Eph. 2:8-9).
4 All the kings of the earth shall praise You, O Lord, when they hear the words of Your mouth. 5 Yes, they shall sing of the ways of the Lord, for great is the glory of the Lord. 6 Though the Lord is on high, yet He regards the lowly; But the proud He knows from afar. (Psalm 138:4–6, NKJV)
Great is the temptation for the rulers of men to unduly exalt themselves. The great Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar dramatically learned that “the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses” (Dan. 4:32, 28-35). Wise rulers bow before Almighty God with reverent acknowledgement and praise. They listen to His word, being guided by divine counsel. Thus, humble kings are regarded on high, but arrogant leaders are not given an audience before God. You and I are not kings, yet most of us have some sphere of responsibility toward others – perhaps as a parent or a business owner, a manager or a teacher, etc. Do not allow your position of authority over others lead you to act out of pride. Remember, you have a Master in heaven (Col. 4:1). Be humble in all your dealings with men, and so be humble before God. He will exalt you in due time (1 Pet. 5:6).
4 The wicked in his proud countenance does not seek God; God is in none of his thoughts…11 He has said in his heart, “God has forgotten; He hides His face; He will never see.” (Psalm 10:4, 11 NKJV)
Is your pride preventing you from seeking God? This verse teaches us pride is a great hindrance to look for and inquiring about God. Of course, just thinking about God does not make one acceptable to God, but it is a place to start. When thinking about God, His presence and His will forms no part of your conscious thought process, then what is right in God’s sight no longer matters. It becomes easy to think, “God doesn’t care, God doesn’t see, God has forgotten me.” But, God never sleeps. He sees everything, including your heart (Heb. 4:13). Humble yourself before Almighty God. Turn your heart toward Him, learn from Him and live for Him. He is ready to save you and shower you with spiritual blessings you. Do not let pride stand in your way.