PRIDE AND HUMILITY
Keys to True Christian Spirituality
by Clive Corfield
I was quite alarmed when I read in James 4:6 that God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. I knew that God didn't like pride and that it was a sin, but I hadn't fully realised that He actively resists pride.
"Humility will always lead us to the foot of the Cross, to a place of brokenness where we can acknowledge our need."
He is opposed to the proud. Therefore He doesn't excuse it, ignore it or overlook it. He opposes the proud in heart and gives grace to those of a humble heart.
For years I was confused about what true humility was. I thought humility was always to go without, to be the least, the weakest, walked over.
Then I looked at Jesus: He was truly the greatest man who ever walked this earth yet He was able to be humble. Therefore it is not so much whether we are great or otherwise that marks our level of humility. Rather, pride and humility are conditions of the heart. Often we may be limited in being released into all that God has for us because of the condition of our heart.
We may draw near to God with sincere intent, but He will not draw near if our hearts are full of pride. The Scripture says: "Who can ascend to the mountain of the Lord? He that has clean hands and a pure heart" (Ps.24:3-4). There it is again, the condition of the heart.
I believe we will never truly know God with a heart full of pride, even though we long to know Him. His Word declares that He will always be resisting and opposing those who are proud of heart and only draws near to the humble.
What is God's position and attitude towards pride? Here are a few verses to give us some insight.
First of all in Proverbs 8:13: "The fear of the Lord is to hate all evil. I hate pride and arrogance, evil behaviour and perverse speech." God actively hates pride and arrogance.
In Proverbs 13:10 we read: "Pride only breeds quarrels." This would be a good verse to remember the next time we enter into a church business meeting. Pride is the source of quarrels.
"The Lord tears the proud man's house down" (Prov.15:25). We are also told that "Unless the Lord builds the house those who labour in vain." We need God's power in the Holy Spirit to build His house, but we also need the fruit of the Spirit manifest in our lives so that what we are building in His Name is not pulled down because of the sin of pride in our hearts.
We are encouraged in 1 Peter 5:6 to humble ourselves under God's mighty hand, that He might lift us up. It is not so much God who humbles us, rather we have the power of choice under His mighty hand. God does not do it for us.
It means, therefore, that I cannot blame God for not making me humble, the devil for making me proud, or my generational curse of pride because the actual sin of pride is resident within me and the attitude of heart is mine, no matter how it got there.
That means I have to take responsibility for it and humble myself under God's mighty hand. I know this will be difficult because pride is so ingrained into my nature.
However, I know that as I actively seek to deal with my pride God's grace is sufficient, for He says: "I give grace to the humble." As I turn from pride I am actively walking into humility. God's grace will be with me and His anointing will be there to assist me.
Something dangerous I have noticed about humility is that you have to be honest about yourself and where you are. Pride will cause us to pretend to be what we are not, while covering up what we actually are.
Have you ever heard of the term "keeping up appearances"? So often what this really means is "let's pretend to be what we are actually not".
To be able to see pride for what it is in our own lives and to be able to experience the character of humility we need a revelation from God to show us the issues of our own hearts so that we can be set free.
Humility will always lead us to the foot of the Cross, to a place of brokenness where we can acknowledge our need. Jesus said: "Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of God." Humility loves to serve others, desiring their best, acknowledging their intrinsic value before God and choosing to bless them rather than being threatened by them.
A humble heart will tend to be grateful and acknowledge blessings and the good things that come its way. It will cause us to go out of our way to forgive and to insist on reconciliation. Humility accepts people where they are in their spiritual development.
Humility is discerning. It will see the faults and the weaknesses in other people, and will love to help and desire to be an instrument in God's grace into needy lives.
Humility is always happy when other people are happy and hurts when others are hurting, because the humble-hearted are able to identify with the condition of another brother or sister in Christ.
A humble person is more willing to accept correction, or at least be willing to listen to what a person has to say in bringing correction. The humble heart will be able to pray the issue through and make a right adjustment if necessary in their lives.
Humility always commands the respect of other people because it exposes the pride and need in the observers' lives. It is always so disarming.
Humility will always produce a sense of freedom within the human heart, not having the need to cover up, live with masks or pretend any more. The need to live with the pressure of keeping up appearances is eliminated. Humility will always give the glory to God for success and the credit for what the Holy Spirit has done in and through us.
The humble heart tends to be generous and releasing: "You can have it. I want you to be blessed." It can also say: "I was wrong, I'm sorry, please forgive me."
There is only one place for true unity in the body of Christ and that is at the foot of the Cross. It reduces us all to the same level, on our knees before a crucified Saviour, realising that we are all brothers and sisters bought with the same blood that was shed upon Calvary. From this position alone can we have true Christ-like humility within our lives.
Humility always wants to please God and is not so impressed with human flattery. The humble heart can reach out to other brothers and sisters in Christ with difference of emphasis and say: "I want to learn from you and I can recognise that there is value in you."
Humility will see what God is doing in other peoples' lives and instead of criticising them will seek to co-operate with God and seek to be a source of encouragement and blessing.
Pride always hides and covers things up. It is often subtle and deceptive. Pride often comes camouflaged with different terms such as "gifting", "calling", "position", "rights".
Pride is destructive in its very nature in that it seeks to put down others to elevate self. We miss out on the still small voice of the Spirit speaking into our hearts because our voice is often far too loud.
Pride, deceptively, makes us feel more special than other people. It gives us a sense of importance which demands that we are treated in a particular way. Pride can make us look down upon other people.
Pride is the root of all sin. Isaiah 14 clearly speaks of how Satan demanded, because of the pride in his own heart, that he would be exalted above the stars of God. He wanted to sit on the heights of the sacred mountain. He wanted to ascend above and make himself the Most High. This is the very nature of our enemy, pride.
Pride will destroy true unity at the foot of the Cross and lead us to find it in other places, such as in experience, doctrine or methodology. Often pride will prop up our own insecurity and low self-esteem. We can give a veneer of competence that draws the praise of others, but inside we are full of insecurity and fear.
Pride hates to serve other people but loves and demands to be served. It is invariably ungrateful and demands more and better. Pride always focuses on what we don't have. Pride envies and says: "I should have that too. Why should I go without?"
Pride is rarely forgiving because a person with a proud heart will always know that they are right. If they find themselves wrong it is because of mitigating circumstances. Pride is judgmental and prejudicial. It writes people off.
Pride causes us to rejoice when seeing other people hurt, but hurts when other people are rejoicing. Pride gloats when somebody falls because it puts them down and lifts us up in our own eyes.
The proud heart is introverted and self-centred, always focusing on me, myself, my self-justification, my self-consciousness. This of course produces a fear of people: "What will people think of me?" Even our shyness can have its roots in pride, living with the fear of man to the point where their opinions and attitudes of us are more important than God's view of us.
At attitude of pride will always take credit for what God has done and say, "I prayed for that person and they were healed," with the emphasis on the "I".
Pride hates correction. It is defensive and will always make excuses. It will often attack when threatened. It causes us to be critical of other people. It seeks attention and fame. "Look what I've done, how much I've suffered, the hours that I work."
Pride has a damaging, destructive humour through sarcasm and cynicism. It will often attack a person rather than the issues; mocking, demeaning, ridiculing and causing pain as flaws in others are highlighted.
A proud heart will be an independent heart, saying "I have no need of other people. They have great need of me." This can often lead to rebellion, even subtly thinking that we could do better than those the Lord has placed over us in leadership. This can lead to disloyalty and outright rebellion.
With the condition of the human heart, it is no wonder that we are saved by grace alone. Without the Lord building His Church, we don't stand a chance.
When the Holy Spirit comes He always comes with holiness, for He is the Holy Spirit. He never divorces Himself from God's character.
Part of God's working holiness into the church is perhaps to bring us to face the pride in our own hearts. So we may repent and experience cleansing through the blood of Jesus and not give the devil a foothold to use as instruments in his hand to damage ourselves and others.
Proverbs 16:18 says, x"Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall." It is vital we do not destroy, through the sin in our hearts, what the Holy Spirit is seeking to build.
Perhaps this is a good day to say sorry to God for the pride in our hearts and begin to put right those things that our pride has caused, and begin to clothe ourselves with humility and live a Christ-like life.
Maybe then we can begin to see the kingdom really being built up in our lives and not torn down through our pride.
This page was created on 7 April 1998
Last updated on 7 April 1998