One of our greatest challenges in growing in Christlike character is overcoming our enormous sense of pride. Before you balk at this statement, thinking, I’m not pompous. I don’t put on airs. I don’t possess things or accomplishments that others would envy. How can you say I’m full of pride? Let me explain.
Pride tells us that anything we produce by the work of our hands is due to our own ingenuity. Pride blocks us from accepting the idea that all we have or have accomplished is by God’s grace. But pride doesn’t stop there. Pride insists on claiming to understand all the mysteries of life, and in so doing will choose to pass blame onto God for any hardship or tragedy that has no ready explanation.
The Bible is full of examples of individuals whom God chose to bless, but who eventually forsook God, crediting themselves with the peace and prosperity they enjoyed. (Think King Saul, King Solomon, and many other kings of Israel.) And one need only turn to the Book of Job to read a treatise on blaming God for every calamity that befalls mankind. Yet we cannot have it both ways. Job himself said, “Shall we accept good from God and not accept adversity?” (Job 2:10) Perhaps the apt question for today is, “Shall we blame all adversity on God without accepting that the good comes from his hand?”
Scripture is not the only place we see these twin patterns of pride. My husband and I have been watching the BBC drama, Poldark, about an 18thcentury family from Cornwall, UK. In one scene around the dinner table, as the family is awaiting news of their friends’ fate in a recent naval battle, the leading figure, Ross Poldark, is reminded by his brothers-in-law to give thanks to God for all his blessings. The hero is proud of his hard work and industrious nature, and so he recoils at the idea of giving credit to anyone other than himself for the work of his hands. He coolly denies God has any role in his successes, but is quick to blame God for causing his friends’ presumed death at sea.
Isn’t that so like us? We discount God’s grace in providing the good things in our lives, wanting to take credit for ourselves. And yet we so easily blame God for every misfortune that befalls us or our loved ones. That’s pride.
Pride is sneaky. Pride is wedded to a hardworking, industrious spirit. Pride insists on explaining every mystery of life. And pride can even masquerade as humility.
Only a heart wedded to God, with a desire to follow him, can overcome this kind of pride. As our hearts begin to attach themselves to God, our eyes are opened to his immeasurable grace and providence on our lives. We begin to understand that even our ingenuity itself is bound to his grace. As we begin to truly know God and entrust ourselves to his love, we find we are no longer threatened by Jesus’ words, “apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) Instead, those words become a balm to us, soothing our prideful hearts, and reminding us that we are connected to him in the most intimate of ways.
As we come to know him, we grow in our love and trust for him. Only then can we declare with honesty and joy, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away; blessed be the name of the Lord!” (Job 1:21)