Did you know that God opposes some people? Did you know that all it takes to warrant God’s opposition in your life is pride?
But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
– James 4.6
Pride is one of the most difficult sins to fight, let alone conquer. Scripture lists sins exhaustively, and to study those things that dishonor God is a good task. It is our sin that separates us from God, that merits our physical death and eternal damnation apart from His saving grace. We must understand not only that we are sinners, but we must examine ourselves and fight the battle against sin in our lives. And while there are various lists throughout Scripture that define sin, even a list of seven sins that God abhors, there is only one sin against which God declares open opposition, and that is pride. (Yes, pride is in the list of seven sins that God detests as well: Prov 6.16-19)
We see a few examples of how God dramatically dealt with pride in Scripture. King Nebuchadnezzar was the king of Babylon that took Israel – along with Daniel – into captivity. Daniel was serving him when Nebuchadnezzar had a prophetic dream of his rise and fall. Daniel interpreted the dream for him, warning him to repent of his sin of pride and to act righteously or else he would be destroyed, but Nebuchadnezzar could not (or would not) turn the glory to God. He one day, in pride, looked over the kingdom and said to Himself,
“Is this not Babylon the great, which I myself have built as a royal residence by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty?”
– Dan 4.30
And immediately God cursed him – he began living like an animal, eating grass, sleeping outside, not caring for himself and his hair and nails grew long. He lived this way for seven years until he was finally humbled and gave the glory and honor to God.
Now, lest we consider this an Old Covenant phenomenon, let us consider Herod. He was the king after Jesus had returned to Heaven and the apostles were taking the Gospel to the world. He killed James, and he would have killed Peter had God not sent the angel to release him from jail. He was very proud, and when he was addressing the people, their outcry was,
“The voice of a god and not of a man!”
– Acts 12.22
Herod did not turn the praise to God, but received it himself. God’s response?
“And immediately an angel of the Lord struck him because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and died.”
– Acts 12.23
God sent his angel to infest Herod’s body with worms, and he died.
Do you ever sit and look at all of your possessions, your salary, your achievements, and pat yourself on the back for what you have accomplished? Do you set goals for yourself by which you consider yourself successful?
“For who regards you as superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?”
– 1 Cor 4.7
Psychologists tell us that depression and self-pity is also a form of pride. It is, at the core, an unhealthy focus on self and often defines the self as a victim and not receiving what one deserves. Humility is not thinking lowly of one’s self, it is thinking highly of God, giving Him the praise, and putting one another before one’s self. It is giving the seat of honor to another. It is considering one another more highly than one’s self.
“You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
– 1 Peter 5.5
Peter quotes the same proverb in his exhortation to elders to serve humbly and to the young men to submit to the elders. Everyone is commanded to submit to a variety of people. We all must submit first and foremost to God. We all must also submit to the government and political authority which is in place over us – provided it does not command us to sin or disobey God. We all must also submit to the Spiritual leaders God has put in place over us, and we also must all submit to one another. We must put one another before ourselves, consider one another more highly than ourselves, and “outdo” one another in showing honor and service (Phil 2.3, Rom 12.10). This is a humble person, and the one to whom God shows grace.
Now, lest we fall into the temptation of legalism and earning our salvation, we must clarify that humility is not the deed one performs in order to obtain God’s grace. Rather, humility is the mindset, the understanding and the confession that I cannot cleanse myself of my sin, I cannot ever be good enough to earn God’s forgiveness and salvation, and I cannot do anything on my own. This is the confession that God honors, and upon which God gives grace. We cannot be saved, we cannot find God’s salvation until we realize our sinful state and our utter helplessness apart from God. And when we realize our depravity we understand that we do not have anything except that which has been given us by God, and we turn all of the praise and glory and honor back to Him. Pride prevents us from doing that. We cannot be a saved people and a proud people, the two are diametrically opposed.
So let us examine ourselves today. There is nothing more terrible in the universe than having God opposed to you, and all it takes to be found in that position is pride. Are you proud today? Are you boasting in anything other than Jesus? Are you self-confident and self-sufficient? Or are you depressed and anxious, the negative representations of pride? Turn to Jesus. Humble yourself. Put Him first, and your brothers and sisters second. Let us be a humble people, for Jesus said,
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
– Matt 5.3