Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall (Proverbs 16:18 NLT). Now, there’s a scripture we don’t put to music too often. Imagine singing a lively chorus of that followed by “As a dog returns to his vomit” (Proverbs 26:11). Hardly! Some scriptures are not meant to be sung; they are intended to pierce the heart and cut through sin. Hebrews 4:12-13 (ESV) says For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
The Apostle John warned us of the dangers that lurk in the world to entice us into sin and draw us away from the Lord. He knew that one of three traps would appear in life to tarnish a pure walk with Jesus. Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — is not of the Father but is of the world (1 John 2:15-16 NKJV). The pride of life refers to anything that is “of the world,” or that leads to arrogance, pride in self, presumption, unnecessary showiness to attract attention, and boasting.
There’s no nice way to say it: God hates pride. He resists the proud but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6 NKJV), and there’s almost no greater stench in His nostrils than pride. Haughty eyes are one of the seven abominations to God listed in Proverbs 6:16-19 (ESV), and when we trip and fall from grace, there is almost always a nasty root of pride in the heart, stirring us to do and say things from a self-centered place of haughtiness. First pride, then the crash — the bigger the ego, the harder the fall, The Message translation declares in Proverbs 16:18.
A synonym for haughty is arrogant. The Hebrew word for arrogant is “yahir,” translated as “to construct a wall high” or “to raise the soul of someone.” Synonyms for “yahir” are “high, exalted, and exalted above.” A haughty person looks down on others, putting himself above them. Pride closes his eyes to his faults and constructs a high wall against others who may try to confront him. Dr. Roger Barrier, founder of Preach It, Teach It, notes that Pastor and Theologian Charles Finney described pride as “a disposition to exalt self, to get above others, to hide our defects, and to pass for more than we are.” Thinking more highly of ourselves and placing our wants and desires at the top of the list is what pride looks like. Barrier defines pride as “being over-concerned with myself.” Ouch.
“Hiding our defects and trying to pass for more than we are” reminds me of an incident from my youth that drove home the unpleasant results of pride. It’s humorous now, but it wasn’t 50-some years ago…
Soon after I passed my driver’s test, my father let me take the family car to a nearby town one afternoon. I felt very empowered and knew I was lookin’ good on that fateful day. I parallel-parked the car superbly and headed to Grant’s variety store, where there was a soda fountain with individual bar stools at the counter. Feeling suave, sophisticated, and incredibly cool, I headed to the soda fountain to celebrate my independence, maturity, and coolness with a glass of Coca-Cola. I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar (Helen Reddy, 1971) hadn’t been written yet, but I was feeling it.
I haven’t mentioned the extremely handsome prince of a guy sitting two stools away from me, have I? Elvis, Troy Donahue, and Paul McCartney in one young man, and I very smoothly sat down with only a bar stool between us. He would have to notice me. EVERYONE would surely notice this country girl in the big city! I wondered when and how our conversation would start, confident it would.
First pride, then the crash—the bigger the ego, the harder the fall. The waitress put an ice-cold Coca-Cola on the counter, and after placing the straw in it, I started sipping the bubbly sweetness while maintaining an air of poise and coolness. I probably batted my eyelashes, but everything was abruptly blocked from my memory of the Soda Fountain Dream Date with an Unknown Prince as I began choking on my Coke! Ohhhhh, the humiliation as my face turned beet red and I gasped for air, coughing and gagging uncontrollably as I turned my head away from the prince and watched my chest convulse in spasms like those of a dying cowboy flopping to the ground in surrender to a fatal bullet! This was when my mom or sisters would have slapped me on the back or shoved a glass of water in my face… or laughed.
It. Was. Mortifying. Somehow, I staggered out of the store to my car, and after a lengthy time of coughing, burping, snorting, and wheezing, I regained composure. I did not make eye contact with a soul, and I have no idea what happened to the prince, who made no effort to rescue a damsel clearly in distress. I quickly pulled my superbly parked car onto the road and high-tailed it home.
If I had planned a way to humble myself, I could not have devised a more unpleasant one. I have since learned to be very cautious about becoming full of myself. First pride, then the crash. The crash is not gentle. Although I was not closely walking with the Lord, He opposed my Soda Fountain Dream Date with an Unknown Prince! Lesson learned.
Regarding pride, the Apostle Paul says in Philippians 2:3, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” Furthermore, he instructs us, in Romans 12:16, “Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty but associate with the lowly. NEVER be wise in your own sight.”
Pride goes before destruction—the word “destruction” means “a breaking, fracture, crushing, crash.” The responsibility of not becoming full of ourselves and prideful is ours. The Lord doesn’t wave a magic wand and POOF, we’re humble. We must keep a check on our hearts and minds to walk humbly before God and man.
What about legitimate compliments and acclamations from others? How do we stay humble? In closing, I learned wise advice from Rev. Bob Mumford, a beloved teacher in the Body of Christ. We should receive compliments graciously, and at the end of the day, as we lay our heads on our pillows, give all the praise and glory back to God. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up in honor (James 4:10 NLT). Soda fountain fiascoes don’t have to be a part of life.
© 2023, Chris Custer Werre