A Word Study of Pride, Arrogance, and Humility

 

The essence of contemporary American society readily conspires to make life difficult for the Christian with respect to pride and humility. Christians are exposed to incredible diversity, and incredible depravity, which readily summons our natural urge to feelings of superiority. We are increasingly exposed to immense and ever growing amounts of information, learning, tools, and strategies, which tempt us to feelings of mental superiority, dependent in large part on our ability to assimilate all of what is available. We live in the wealthiest time in history.

The essence of contemporary American society readily conspires to make life difficult for the Christian with respect to pride and humility. Christians are exposed to incredible diversity, and incredible depravity, which readily summons our natural urge to feelings of superiority. We are increasingly exposed to immense and ever growing amounts of information, learning, tools, and strategies, which tempt us to feelings of mental superiority, dependent in large part on our ability to assimilate all of what is available. We live in the wealthiest time in history.

Perhaps the most dangerous problem, however, is the combination of the above facets into the "gem" of individuality, also known as "rugged Americanism", pluralism, or just plain independence. Many Christians' political leanings permit them to listen to demagogues who are more concerned with country and political action than with actually teaching the rest of the Word. Mail order, delivery services, and increasingly Internet conversations have created a society in which the great bulk of us could potentially live life with minimal need for and therefore contact with others, and more dangerously, with minimal need for, on the surface anyway, contact with God. Even below the surface, many of the major religions and philosophies have deepened their content and polished their images enough that one could spend a lifetime seeking a cure through study of them, without ever once contacting the real God.

Unlike current demagogues and money seekers, however, the Bible speaks constantly and very plainly to issues of pride, of arrogance, and of humility, offering the Christian insight into the identification of each trait, the costs of each, and in one case the benefits, and their causes. Understanding these insights and heeding their messages is essential if Christians are to remain the salt and the light of this world, are to remain in good standing with God, and not cut themselves off from witnessing opportunities. The Bible speaks to pride, arrogance, or humility in 41 of its 66 books, with a distribution such that every major writer has something to say, and such that every section (law, history, poetry, prophets, etc) has something to add to the pictures which God is using them to paint of these three traits. It is interesting to note, from a scan of the listings, that a significant amount of what God has to say about these traits is said either in the context of prophecy to His people Israel, in their worst states, or by David, in times when he was most, or least concerned about his vertical relationship. Some writers, especially the prophets, concentrate on the effects of one of the negative traits, while others concentrate more on the desirability of humility. One of the most interesting exercises in this study was to take one version's concordance (here the NRSV), and use another version of the Scriptures to study the passages (here the NIV).

In the cases of pride and of arrogance, the only result was that very often, the two words appear simply to have been interchanged in the translation process. Other passages, though, did yield a good definition of arrogance, the first word studied. 2 Cor 12:20 suggests that arrogance is a group vice, or at least aided by groups. The passage also suggests that arrogance is a verbal vice (one sidÉe of its personality). 2 Kings 19:28 finds the NIV translation to be "insolence", and compares the trait with a rage against God. It is a short logical hop from raging against God to simply replacing Him with some other, more easily controlled problem-solver, or to paring Him down and using "our version" to calm our rage. The same translation is found in Isaiah 16:6, where insolence is compared with conceit, a state which the passage says God considers empty. (see also Isa 37:29 and Jer 48:29). Jeremiah 50:29 translates arrogance as "defies the Lord", which seems similar to the rage spoken of in the passages above. The passage also serves to verify the possibility of whole groups being infected by this disease, because the whole city wound up being destroyed. While it is impossible to go into detail here, I am of the opinion that a great many of the social ills from which the US§ is suffering today can be traced back to arrogance. Not to let the US substitute for my own failures, I have discovered, over the past two or so years, that most of my worst shortcomings are in areas in which I exert the most control.

With this vertical rage and horizontal contagion in mind, what does an arrogant person look like? First of all, arrogant folks seem to enjoy openly aggressive and destructive behavior on both a physical and a verbal level, as is seen in Ps 119:85 and Ps 10:2, where the arrogant dig traps and monitor them constantly (wasting time) and in Ps 119:69, where they will set verbal traps (lies) to catch others, usually the righteous. The verbal character flaw carries into other passages, like Proverbs 17:7 and 21:24, where they are characterized as "eloquent", and suggesting one who can talk his way into and out of situations with equal ease. I Sam 2:3 portrays the arrogant as talking proudÃly, speaking with arrogance, and contrasts such a person with God, who knows and weighs deeds, implying that these folks only talk, without really delivering on what they promise, without any real value to society, other than the eloquence they have to spout to keep heads attached to bodies. More generally, this constant speech is contrasted in Ps 119:78 to meditation, and with solid knowledge of precepts, suggesting that so much time is spent talking idly that there is not time to be cognizant of who God really is and what He can and will do. This is precisely the problem which makes arrogance so hard to get rid of: it is self-masking. Psalm 5:5, by suggesting that an arrogant attitude will crumble without knowledge of God, images a person who will be struggling to keep themselves together after marinating too much in arrogance over time. Romans 11:20 contrasts arrogance with a fear of God, with a respect of God and suggests either an ignorance of, or a misunderstanding of God. (see also Psalm 94:4 and Psalm 101:5)

What causes people to ignore and misquote God to such an extent that they rage against Him and go to great extents both verbally, mentally, and physically to destroy others? The answers are both diverse and revealing. I Tim 6:17 suggests that arrogance may stem from an insulation from reality brought on by excess of money and/or power. Personal experience certainly shows me that isolation on any level, both in history and in my life, breeds overconfidence in one's own abilities and person, or one's own race, or abilities, or whatever, very much to one's detriment. Hab 2:5 also suggests an impairment of the brain, in this case by the excess of alcohol. I wonder if this might not also apply to any substance or means humans have invented to dull pain, something dubbed inconvenient in the modern matrix, in which case arrogance sets up a second vicious circle of the kind mentioned above to keep itself from being detected. Deut 8:3 notes thatL God used pain, (hunger) to show the Israelites their needs, then fed them with manna when they indicated they understood. I find it interesting personally that I will refuse aspirin for a headache, in order to let it tell me about something wrong in my diet, or my time management, but will not let the LORD show me pain to diagnose my selfishness.

Less physical causes are mentioned in I Co 4:18-19 in the lack of a good example, in Mark 7:22 and Ps 17:10, where the balance between the heart and the mind and the emotions becomes unstable, as would likely result from the pressure of attempts to live life bereft of God's help and His stabilizing presence. Finally, as implied above, Ps 119:51 suggests that simple failure to "stay with God" will lead to serious arrogance. (How does this last one apply to me, esp. in light of intense study, time management, etc? Remedy?)

Since arrogance ultimately entails rage against or ignorance of God (and one's fellows), one can expect that the consequences will be severe. Ezk 16:49 reminds us that arrogance was the sin of Sodom, likely not only leading to the destruction directly, but serving to hide the other sins which proliferated there. Since this is a sin directly against God, the punishment fits the crime, as God sets Himself up against the arrogant one, as in Isa 13:11 and Jer 50:31-32, to the utter desolation of those taking the punishment. (also see Dan 7:11) Arrogance also prevents God from answering requests (Job 35:12), which makes sense since those who want to be so independent should have no need of God Then again, the punishment may not occur, or at least may not be fully felt, in this life, as Mal 3:15 suggests, but the day of the arrogant is promised. I Kgs 21:29 speaks both to delay of punishment, and to repentance: Ahab would be forgiven, but his son, who was responsible for his own actions in asking forgiveness, would still be held accountable for what he learned from his father. The results therefore, as with the plagues of Egypt spoken of by Jethro in Ex 18:11, may not come down solely on the heads of the perpetrators, but on those ruled or loved by them. There are two valuable lessons here as well, in this age of deferred payment for instant gratification. First, the price of arrogance has effects not just for the "practicer" but those close to him, as demonstrated by Sodom, Egypt, and Israel when she went into exile. Second, even when our "seat-of-our-pants airline" is flying high, there will be a time when we have to come in for fuel. We may be able to call the "air-tanker", but even then, we have to land for parts...

Similar in many ways to arrogance is pride, with Amuch the same characteristics and results. There are, however, associations and warnings in passages on pride which bear emphasis in addition to those statements on pride. In order to set the tone for the balance of our discussion, both of pride, and of humility, we need to recall the above examples of Sodom and Egypt. The issue of pride, over against arrogance, does allow repentance more easily. 2 Chr 32:26 notes that "Hezekiah repented of the pride of his heart, as did the people of Jerusalem; therefore the LORD's wrath did not come upon them during the days of Hezekiah..." (also 1 Kgs 21:29, see below) We are shown, rather tidily, the impact of good leadership and the carry-over of one person's actions, the LORD's view of and dealings with pride, and how readily it, unlike arrogance, can be gotten rid of, and the results of the necessary changes. I find it an ironic lesson for today's nations: those who seek to go their own way will lose, those who "lose" to God will win. And as Hezekiah shows us, what starts with one can spread to all.

One of the most significant differences is pointed up by a translation difference based on Ps 20:7, in which pride is translated "trust" (NIV), and linked not to an open rage against God, but to a trust in things other than God for one's own strength and sustenance. We also find in Job 38:11 and 41:34 that nature is capable of a kind of pride, inferring, perhaps, just how deeply ingrained this trait can be, and how natural its occurrence would seem to be. But Job also hints that there are limits to pride, like the shore for waves, and implies that for some animals, like the famed "Leviathan", being king of the proud is endemic to their nature. It would be wise, therefore, to look further into pride, to see if, and when, it might ever be justified.

In seeking a profile of pride, we find both a good and a bad side. The bad side finds the guilty one deprecating others, (Pr 21:24), possessing a will separate from God's (Isa 10:12), also showing hints of arrogance like insolence and conceit (Isa 16:6), idolizing that which he feels provides strength (Zec 9:6), ridiculing, and possessing (often) what he considers a superior insight and mind (the eyes and the heart of Ps 21:4). More extreme cases will find men declaring themselves gods (Eze 28:2), struggling to hold together failing strength or resources (Eze 30:18), and constantly worried about earthly security (Ob 1:3). But pride also has a good side, in which one's mind is trusting in the proper things, like the future of the soul after death (Ps 47:4). We are also, as Christians," allowed to observe the Lord's pride in His creation (Isa 4:2). Paul provides a good example of good pride in 2 Cor 7:4 and Gal 6:4, where his objectives and his strength are in sync with God's desires for Him.

Although it is suggested above that pride may be deeply rooted in nature (in human nature too), the Bible does mention things which can cause pride to degrade the human state away from trust in God. This is, I think, the key to arrogance, but especially to negotiating the perils of pride: arrogance doesn't necessarily involve using positive gifts too well, but pride can. Where arrogance generally involves living on one's own in simple rebellion, pride is more dangerous in that ability plays a part, and while arrogance generally destroys, pride can either destroy, or build, both to extremes. It is the unattended extremes, unmitigated by prayer, which shall be our undoing. Further parallels to arrogance do exist, as in Ps 73:6, where pride come from unreality and from insulation from the Óreal world. Isaiah says that renown on earth can bring pride (23:9), along with the easy obtaining of large stores of strength, like armies (Eze 32:12 and Amos 6:8), and the power which comes from those stores (2 Chr 26:16), along with wealth, beauty, and general physical strength (Jer 28:5, 28:17; and 30:6). Through the centuries, things other than armies, like art, money and today information, have brought power. I find it all too easy, being blessed with good communications skills, Internet access, and an ease in management, to hold for "ransom" the information I command and communicate. It is all to easy for me to gain personal position or respect by what I know, rather than who I am. Satisfaction and comfort, such as are common for many today, also lead to pride, which in the end time will be rampant, perhaps suggesting the wealth of repositories for trust available today (Hos 13:6 and 2 Tim 3:2).

There are similarities and there are differences between pride and arrogance, when it comes to punishment. Arrogance is generally not correctable [in its severest forms], or at least the Bible makes no attempt to show anything but attempts to crush it. Pride, however, if it is not too bad, will generally bring punishment meant to correct the individual's focus. It can, however, bring God's wrath and bar His blessing from our lives (2 Chron 32:26) lest we get comfortable. The Psalmist points out that sometimes the punishment for pride can seem worse than death, likely because pride blocks out the impetus to seek God, and therefore the failure of the particular idol(s) must be lived with. (Ps 10:4 and 59:2) As I have learned in my own study of our culture, and my own private culture, I have been interested and astounded by the variety and the subtletyÒ of the idols I found, from patriotism to flag worship to creed worship to slavish devotion to morals or to perfection of self or those around. I've also been astounded by the lack of support I receive as I attempt to call an idol and idol, and remove them from my life.

More directly, pride leads to disgrace, quarrels, and goes before destruction (Pr 11:2; 13:10; and 16:18, among many). Many passages speak of the fact that God will "bring low" the proud, a fact also noted below, under discussion of humility. Isaiah notes that pride will lead to ruthlessness, similar in fashion to arrogance. (Isa 13:11) God also promises to bring down the proud despite what they do, as if to imply that if they wished to trust in anything else, they might as well see what else doesn't work, and then finally have even more reason to trust in Him. Ultimately, however, God is willing to destroy all objects of misplaced trust. (Eze 24:21) The longer one insists upon fighting, the more likely life is to become futile, as symbolized by the iron sky and the bronze ground of Leviticus 26:19. Eze 30:18 states that the more obvious the show of pride, the more devastation will be the end of the proud one. All too often, I have, typical of the addict, taken up another idol, another crutch, as the previous one is yanked, kicked, or nudged from my clutching hand. I really think that the last 6-9 months have shown me what God's de-crutching looks like, as I've had job, home, church, education, finances, sleep schedule, eating schedule, and likely more, changed radically and often. Had several close friends not taken the time to help me see God's hand, I may have simply accepted the crushing of my pottery jar of a life.

Since pride seems to be more deeply ingrained (Luke 1:51), and the punishments seem more geared to correct but will still destroy if they are blown, a good look at the suggested course of action for the extermination of pride as stated in Scripture is in order. Second Chronicles says that pride is something to be repented of, (failure to do this basic thing brings death). Heeding the words of God, which include all form his attributes to the salvation He has given, to everything else he gives and requests, will keep a man from pride (Job 33:17). Ecclesiastes suggests that patience is better than pride (7:8), and Paul, in his letter to the Romans, suggests that we need to be thankful rather than being demanding and proud (Ro 11:20). Ultimately, we need to exercise love for God and for others, since love is not proud (I Co 13:4) and we need to actively seek help from others and from God, since the seeking will distract us from our comfort zone and focus our attention properly (2Ch 32:25).

All of this will lead to a form of humility. There are many alternate translations Èfor the word, ranging from the punishment of "brought low" applicable to the proud, (Job 22:29), to the "contrite" of Isa 57:15 and Isa 66:2. Zeph 9:9 and Mt 11:29 both list the word as gentle, and 2 Co 10:1 adds the word meek. 2 Ch 32:26 actually translates humbled (NRSV) and "repented the pride of his heart". Job 30:11 translates the word as "afflicted". (with the psalmist in 119:67), and Ps 69:10 use the words "endure scorn". 2 Co 11:7 speaks of lowering oneself, suggesting a purpose to humility, and Lam 2:1 more violently suggests that splendor can be "hurled down".

All of these different synonyms for humility suggest a fuller definition for the concept, suggesting that there is action in it, rather than just a midget crawling around being kicked and jeered by all manner of passers-by, and there is also strength. Zep 3:12 suggests that the humble are like salt, left by God to insure and encourage humility in the rest of the nations, and Zep 2:3 suggests that they unite quickly (likely with the intent to reach out) before the end of the land. These passages show the basic intent of getting rid of pride and arrogance and putting on, as Col 3:12 and I Peter 5:5 suggest, humility. While humility brings honor to the person, and to God, (Pr 11:2; 15:33; 22:4; and so many other places), there is a much more glorified use for being humble. When we let others have precedence (Php 2:3) , it is our Lord who actually gets served. To the extent that we quit being selfish and self-sufficient, and actually get out of the way (Acts 20:19), God can get proportionately more done. (Dt 8: 2, 16)

There is also a danger to this, just as applicable to today's church as it was in Biblical days. When one person humiliates another, both parties suffer disaster. (I Cor 11:22 and I Ch 19:5) Job 19:5 states clearly that humiliation of other people foèr their errors is none of our business, especially if we don't have a firm understanding of why things exist as they do. Included in this downside are the falsely humble people who often induce this kind of negative reaction, the legalists. (Col 2:23; 2Chr 36:12; Isa 58:3) Coming as I do from a Pennsylvania Dutch, perfectionist, legalist background myself I am well acquainted with the false humility that rides shotgun with a need to be theologically correct in every detail, whether that detail really is Biblical, or simply moral. I am well aware of the pride which can creep in when one is good at something, and the anger that seems to jump out from nowhere when someone different (not better or worse in practice, though) dares cross my path. While I detest seeing it in others, I am constantly catching myself looking askance at others who don't follow my own brand of Christianity.

Thus, we can easily see that pride and arrogance are very dangerous things to play with. Repentance is key, and repentance can only be found in letting go of all of our man-made support structures. It is only when we seek God with all of our emotions, all of our minds, and in all other aspects of our lives, and surrender all of these areas to Him that we can get our of His way, and into His Way, allowing Him to mold us, and to let us do His work.
Perhaps the most dangerous problem, however, is the combination of the above facets into the "gem" of individuality, also known as "rugged Americanism", pluralism, or just plain independence. Many Christians' political leanings permit them to listen to demagogues who are more concerned with country and political action than with actually teaching the rest of the Word. Mail order, delivery services, and increasingly Internet conversations have created a society in which the great bulk of us could potentially live life with minimal need for and therefore contact with others, and more dangerously, with minimal need for, on the surface anyway, contact with God. Even below the surface, many of the major religions and philosophies have deepened their content and polished their images enough that one could spend a lifetime seeking a cure through study of them, without ever once contacting the real God.

Unlike current demagogues and money seekers, however, the Bible speaks constantly and very plainly to issues of pride, of arrogance, and of humility, offering the Christian insight into the identification of each trait, the costs of each, and in one case the benefits, and their causes. Understanding these insights and heeding their messages is essential if Christians are to remain the salt and the light of this world, are to remain in good standing with God, and not cut themselves off from witnessing opportunities. The Bible speaks to pride, arrogance, or humility in 41 of its 66 books, with a distribution such that every major writer has something to say, and such that every section (law, history, poetry, prophets, etc) has something to add to the pictures which God is using them to paint of these three traits. It is interesting to note, from a scan of the listings, that a significant amount of what God has to say about these traits is said either in the context of prophecy to His people Israel, in their worst states, or by David, in times when he was most, or least concerned about his vertical relationship. Some writers, especially the prophets, concentrate on the effects of one of the negative traits, while others concentrate more on the desirability of humility. One of the most interesting exercises in this study was to take one version's concordance (here the NRSV), and use another version of the Scriptures to study the passages (here the NIV).

In the cases of pride and of arrogance, the only result was that very often, the two words appear simply to have been interchanged in the translation process. Other passages, though, did yield a good definition of arrogance, the first word studied. 2 Cor 12:20 suggests that arrogance is a group vice, or at least aided by groups. The passage also suggests that arrogance is a verbal vice (one sidÉe of its personality). 2 Kings 19:28 finds the NIV translation to be "insolence", and compares the trait with a rage against God. It is a short logical hop from raging against God to simply replacing Him with some other, more easily controlled problem-solver, or to paring Him down and using "our version" to calm our rage. The same translation is found in Isaiah 16:6, where insolence is compared with conceit, a state which the passage says God considers empty. (see also Isa 37:29 and Jer 48:29). Jeremiah 50:29 translates arrogance as "defies the Lord", which seems similar to the rage spoken of in the passages above. The passage also serves to verify the possibility of whole groups being infected by this disease, because the whole city wound up being destroyed. While it is impossible to go into detail here, I am of the opinion that a great many of the social ills from which the US§ is suffering today can be traced back to arrogance. Not to let the US substitute for my own failures, I have discovered, over the past two or so years, that most of my worst shortcomings are in areas in which I exert the most control.

With this vertical rage and horizontal contagion in mind, what does an arrogant person look like? First of all, arrogant folks seem to enjoy openly aggressive and destructive behavior on both a physical and a verbal level, as is seen in Ps 119:85 and Ps 10:2, where the arrogant dig traps and monitor them constantly (wasting time) and in Ps 119:69, where they will set verbal traps (lies) to catch others, usually the righteous. The verbal character flaw carries into other passages, like Proverbs 17:7 and 21:24, where they are characterized as "eloquent", and suggesting one who can talk his way into and out of situations with equal ease. I Sam 2:3 portrays the arrogant as talking proudÃly, speaking with arrogance, and contrasts such a person with God, who knows and weighs deeds, implying that these folks only talk, without really delivering on what they promise, without any real value to society, other than the eloquence they have to spout to keep heads attached to bodies. More generally, this constant speech is contrasted in Ps 119:78 to meditation, and with solid knowledge of precepts, suggesting that so much time is spent talking idly that there is not time to be cognizant of who God really is and what He can and will do. This is precisely the problem which makes arrogance so hard to get rid of: it is self-masking. Psalm 5:5, by suggesting that an arrogant attitude will crumble without knowledge of God, images a person who will be struggling to keep themselves together after marinating too much in arrogance over time. Romans 11:20 contrasts arrogance with a fear of God, with a respect of God and suggests either an ignorance of, or a misunderstanding of God. (see also Psalm 94:4 and Psalm 101:5)

What causes people to ignore and misquote God to such an extent that they rage against Him and go to great extents both verbally, mentally, and physically to destroy others? The answers are both diverse and revealing. I Tim 6:17 suggests that arrogance may stem from an insulation from reality brought on by excess of money and/or power. Personal experience certainly shows me that isolation on any level, both in history and in my life, breeds overconfidence in one's own abilities and person, or one's own race, or abilities, or whatever, very much to one's detriment. Hab 2:5 also suggests an impairment of the brain, in this case by the excess of alcohol. I wonder if this might not also apply to any substance or means humans have invented to dull pain, something dubbed inconvenient in the modern matrix, in which case arrogance sets up a second vicious circle of the kind mentioned above to keep itself from being detected. Deut 8:3 notes thatL God used pain, (hunger) to show the Israelites their needs, then fed them with manna when they indicated they understood. I find it interesting personally that I will refuse aspirin for a headache, in order to let it tell me about something wrong in my diet, or my time management, but will not let the LORD show me pain to diagnose my selfishness.

Less physical causes are mentioned in I Co 4:18-19 in the lack of a good example, in Mark 7:22 and Ps 17:10, where the balance between the heart and the mind and the emotions becomes unstable, as would likely result from the pressure of attempts to live life bereft of God's help and His stabilizing presence. Finally, as implied above, Ps 119:51 suggests that simple failure to "stay with God" will lead to serious arrogance. (How does this last one apply to me, esp. in light of intense study, time management, etc? Remedy?)

Since arrogance ultimately entails rage against or ignorance of God (and one's fellows), one can expect that the consequences will be severe. Ezk 16:49 reminds us that arrogance was the sin of Sodom, likely not only leading to the destruction directly, but serving to hide the other sins which proliferated there. Since this is a sin directly against God, the punishment fits the crime, as God sets Himself up against the arrogant one, as in Isa 13:11 and Jer 50:31-32, to the utter desolation of those taking the punishment. (also see Dan 7:11) Arrogance also prevents God from answering requests (Job 35:12), which makes sense since those who want to be so independent should have no need of God Then again, the punishment may not occur, or at least may not be fully felt, in this life, as Mal 3:15 suggests, but the day of the arrogant is promised. I Kgs 21:29 speaks both to delay of punishment, and to repentance: Ahab would be forgiven, but his son, who was responsible for his own actions in asking forgiveness, would still be held accountable for what he learned from his father. The results therefore, as with the plagues of Egypt spoken of by Jethro in Ex 18:11, may not come down solely on the heads of the perpetrators, but on those ruled or loved by them. There are two valuable lessons here as well, in this age of deferred payment for instant gratification. First, the price of arrogance has effects not just for the "practicer" but those close to him, as demonstrated by Sodom, Egypt, and Israel when she went into exile. Second, even when our "seat-of-our-pants airline" is flying high, there will be a time when we have to come in for fuel. We may be able to call the "air-tanker", but even then, we have to land for parts...

Similar in many ways to arrogance is pride, with Amuch the same characteristics and results. There are, however, associations and warnings in passages on pride which bear emphasis in addition to those statements on pride. In order to set the tone for the balance of our discussion, both of pride, and of humility, we need to recall the above examples of Sodom and Egypt. The issue of pride, over against arrogance, does allow repentance more easily. 2 Chr 32:26 notes that "Hezekiah repented of the pride of his heart, as did the people of Jerusalem; therefore the LORD's wrath did not come upon them during the days of Hezekiah..." (also 1 Kgs 21:29, see below) We are shown, rather tidily, the impact of good leadership and the carry-over of one person's actions, the LORD's view of and dealings with pride, and how readily it, unlike arrogance, can be gotten rid of, and the results of the necessary changes. I find it an ironic lesson for today's nations: those who seek to go their own way will lose, those who "lose" to God will win. And as Hezekiah shows us, what starts with one can spread to all.

One of the most significant differences is pointed up by a translation difference based on Ps 20:7, in which pride is translated "trust" (NIV), and linked not to an open rage against God, but to a trust in things other than God for one's own strength and sustenance. We also find in Job 38:11 and 41:34 that nature is capable of a kind of pride, inferring, perhaps, just how deeply ingrained this trait can be, and how natural its occurrence would seem to be. But Job also hints that there are limits to pride, like the shore for waves, and implies that for some animals, like the famed "Leviathan", being king of the proud is endemic to their nature. It would be wise, therefore, to look further into pride, to see if, and when, it might ever be justified.

In seeking a profile of pride, we find both a good and a bad side. The bad side finds the guilty one deprecating others, (Pr 21:24), possessing a will separate from God's (Isa 10:12), also showing hints of arrogance like insolence and conceit (Isa 16:6), idolizing that which he feels provides strength (Zec 9:6), ridiculing, and possessing (often) what he considers a superior insight and mind (the eyes and the heart of Ps 21:4). More extreme cases will find men declaring themselves gods (Eze 28:2), struggling to hold together failing strength or resources (Eze 30:18), and constantly worried about earthly security (Ob 1:3). But pride also has a good side, in which one's mind is trusting in the proper things, like the future of the soul after death (Ps 47:4). We are also, as Christians," allowed to observe the Lord's pride in His creation (Isa 4:2). Paul provides a good example of good pride in 2 Cor 7:4 and Gal 6:4, where his objectives and his strength are in sync with God's desires for Him.

Although it is suggested above that pride may be deeply rooted in nature (in human nature too), the Bible does mention things which can cause pride to degrade the human state away from trust in God. This is, I think, the key to arrogance, but especially to negotiating the perils of pride: arrogance doesn't necessarily involve using positive gifts too well, but pride can. Where arrogance generally involves living on one's own in simple rebellion, pride is more dangerous in that ability plays a part, and while arrogance generally destroys, pride can either destroy, or build, both to extremes. It is the unattended extremes, unmitigated by prayer, which shall be our undoing. Further parallels to arrogance do exist, as in Ps 73:6, where pride come from unreality and from insulation from the Óreal world. Isaiah says that renown on earth can bring pride (23:9), along with the easy obtaining of large stores of strength, like armies (Eze 32:12 and Amos 6:8), and the power which comes from those stores (2 Chr 26:16), along with wealth, beauty, and general physical strength (Jer 28:5, 28:17; and 30:6). Through the centuries, things other than armies, like art, money and today information, have brought power. I find it all too easy, being blessed with good communications skills, Internet access, and an ease in management, to hold for "ransom" the information I command and communicate. It is all to easy for me to gain personal position or respect by what I know, rather than who I am. Satisfaction and comfort, such as are common for many today, also lead to pride, which in the end time will be rampant, perhaps suggesting the wealth of repositories for trust available today (Hos 13:6 and 2 Tim 3:2).

There are similarities and there are differences between pride and arrogance, when it comes to punishment. Arrogance is generally not correctable [in its severest forms], or at least the Bible makes no attempt to show anything but attempts to crush it. Pride, however, if it is not too bad, will generally bring punishment meant to correct the individual's focus. It can, however, bring God's wrath and bar His blessing from our lives (2 Chron 32:26) lest we get comfortable. The Psalmist points out that sometimes the punishment for pride can seem worse than death, likely because pride blocks out the impetus to seek God, and therefore the failure of the particular idol(s) must be lived with. (Ps 10:4 and 59:2) As I have learned in my own study of our culture, and my own private culture, I have been interested and astounded by the variety and the subtletyÒ of the idols I found, from patriotism to flag worship to creed worship to slavish devotion to morals or to perfection of self or those around. I've also been astounded by the lack of support I receive as I attempt to call an idol and idol, and remove them from my life.

More directly, pride leads to disgrace, quarrels, and goes before destruction (Pr 11:2; 13:10; and 16:18, among many). Many passages speak of the fact that God will "bring low" the proud, a fact also noted below, under discussion of humility. Isaiah notes that pride will lead to ruthlessness, similar in fashion to arrogance. (Isa 13:11) God also promises to bring down the proud despite what they do, as if to imply that if they wished to trust in anything else, they might as well see what else doesn't work, and then finally have even more reason to trust in Him. Ultimately, however, God is willing to destroy all objects of misplaced trust. (Eze 24:21) The longer one insists upon fighting, the more likely life is to become futile, as symbolized by the iron sky and the bronze ground of Leviticus 26:19. Eze 30:18 states that the more obvious the show of pride, the more devastation will be the end of the proud one. All too often, I have, typical of the addict, taken up another idol, another crutch, as the previous one is yanked, kicked, or nudged from my clutching hand. I really think that the last 6-9 months have shown me what God's de-crutching looks like, as I've had job, home, church, education, finances, sleep schedule, eating schedule, and likely more, changed radically and often. Had several close friends not taken the time to help me see God's hand, I may have simply accepted the crushing of my pottery jar of a life.

Since pride seems to be more deeply ingrained (Luke 1:51), and the punishments seem more geared to correct but will still destroy if they are blown, a good look at the suggested course of action for the extermination of pride as stated in Scripture is in order. Second Chronicles says that pride is something to be repented of, (failure to do this basic thing brings death). Heeding the words of God, which include all form his attributes to the salvation He has given, to everything else he gives and requests, will keep a man from pride (Job 33:17). Ecclesiastes suggests that patience is better than pride (7:8), and Paul, in his letter to the Romans, suggests that we need to be thankful rather than being demanding and proud (Ro 11:20). Ultimately, we need to exercise love for God and for others, since love is not proud (I Co 13:4) and we need to actively seek help from others and from God, since the seeking will distract us from our comfort zone and focus our attention properly (2Ch 32:25).

All of this will lead to a form of humility. There are many alternate translations Èfor the word, ranging from the punishment of "brought low" applicable to the proud, (Job 22:29), to the "contrite" of Isa 57:15 and Isa 66:2. Zeph 9:9 and Mt 11:29 both list the word as gentle, and 2 Co 10:1 adds the word meek. 2 Ch 32:26 actually translates humbled (NRSV) and "repented the pride of his heart". Job 30:11 translates the word as "afflicted". (with the psalmist in 119:67), and Ps 69:10 use the words "endure scorn". 2 Co 11:7 speaks of lowering oneself, suggesting a purpose to humility, and Lam 2:1 more violently suggests that splendor can be "hurled down".

All of these different synonyms for humility suggest a fuller definition for the concept, suggesting that there is action in it, rather than just a midget crawling around being kicked and jeered by all manner of passers-by, and there is also strength. Zep 3:12 suggests that the humble are like salt, left by God to insure and encourage humility in the rest of the nations, and Zep 2:3 suggests that they unite quickly (likely with the intent to reach out) before the end of the land. These passages show the basic intent of getting rid of pride and arrogance and putting on, as Col 3:12 and I Peter 5:5 suggest, humility. While humility brings honor to the person, and to God, (Pr 11:2; 15:33; 22:4; and so many other places), there is a much more glorified use for being humble. When we let others have precedence (Php 2:3) , it is our Lord who actually gets served. To the extent that we quit being selfish and self-sufficient, and actually get out of the way (Acts 20:19), God can get proportionately more done. (Dt 8: 2, 16)

There is also a danger to this, just as applicable to today's church as it was in Biblical days. When one person humiliates another, both parties suffer disaster. (I Cor 11:22 and I Ch 19:5) Job 19:5 states clearly that humiliation of other people foèr their errors is none of our business, especially if we don't have a firm understanding of why things exist as they do. Included in this downside are the falsely humble people who often induce this kind of negative reaction, the legalists. (Col 2:23; 2Chr 36:12; Isa 58:3) Coming as I do from a Pennsylvania Dutch, perfectionist, legalist background myself I am well acquainted with the false humility that rides shotgun with a need to be theologically correct in every detail, whether that detail really is Biblical, or simply moral. I am well aware of the pride which can creep in when one is good at something, and the anger that seems to jump out from nowhere when someone different (not better or worse in practice, though) dares cross my path. While I detest seeing it in others, I am constantly catching myself looking askance at others who don't follow my own brand of Christianity.

Thus, we can easily see that pride and arrogance are very dangerous things to play with. Repentance is key, and repentance can only be found in letting go of all of our man-made support structures. It is only when we seek God with all of our emotions, all of our minds, and in all other aspects of our lives, and surrender all of these areas to Him that we can get our of His way, and into His Way, allowing Him to mold us, and to let us do His work.


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