Sermon on Pride

Worship, , automatically translated , Evangelical Free Church congregation Leichlingen


Interesting film, isn't it?

It has a somewhat experimental character and unfortunately it is not completely finished (there are some missing settings), but Jonas and I wanted to try out using a self-created computer-animated film as an introduction to the sermon. Jonas is now quite good with the 3D-modeler and this is today's result.

Today it is about pride and the main character in the film has already passed the stage from pride to haughtiness and we will take up this theme several times in the sermon.

Stolz comes from the Middle Low German "stolt" and means "splendid, stately".

Is pride good or bad?

If you search the Bible for the word "pride", you will find a negative meaning in over four fifths of all passages. It is often found in connection with arrogance, contempt for others and presumption, e.g. Psalm 73:6-8 (NGÜ):

6 Therefore they wear their pride like a necklace, violence surrounds them like a garment. 7 Their eyes look out from a fat and cowardly face, evil plans spring from their hearts. 8 They mock and oppress others by the wickedness of their words; from on high they speak proudly.

But there are also positive passages, such as Psalm 44:9 (NGÜ).

Every day we proudly praise our God, yes, we want to praise your name forever.

So: It depends on what you are proud of.

But the world is not always so black and white and I would like to read you a quote from Wikipedia (Pride, 9.8.2012) on this subject

Pride is sometimes divided into two forms: a healthy and a sick, i.e. neurotic form .... Neurotic pride is when one is proud of something that one did not create oneself, or another neurotic form is, of course, to have achieved achievements that are directed against people, for example, to be proud of having cheated as many people as possible. Healthy pride, however, is when one has achieved something for oneself (for example, completing a dissertation, graduating from high school) or for the community.

This statement is extracted from some psychological work (as all Wikipedia articles are extracted from external sources) and there is also an interesting discussion in this article about whether this is correct as it is written here.

So according to this article, "healthy" pride is when you have achieved something for yourself or for the community and "sick" or "neurotic" is when you are proud of the achievements of others or when you are proud of something that harms others.

I like such clear statements because they somehow force you to deal with the subject, and that is always valuable, even if you may come to a completely different conclusion in the end. And we will of course also deal with this today on the basis of the Bible.

What do we think when we encounter "pride"?

It starts with toddlers when they manage to go potty for the first time. I could tell a story about our children, but that would be mean. I'll tell that to our grandchildren.

We think pride is kind of cute. In general, pride is cute in children.

But even with adults, we don't always find pride a bad thing. I have a colleague who had a children's book printed at her own expense and managed to get it into bookshops. And because she often has to walk around the whole company for her job anyway, she had her book with her one day and proudly showed it to everyone.

I didn't think that was bad. Last year I wrote an essay about Heinrich von Kleist for a competition and it was published in a real book and of course I showed this book to all kinds of people.

Normally we do not find such pride unpleasant. We can be happy with it if it doesn't reach a certain annoyance factor, or if we are a little envious, then we don't find such pride nice either.

But when someone takes time to boast about their deeds or their skills, it is rather unpleasant. Even if someone is unjustly proud of something in our eyes, we don't like that.

Opinions differ on other forms of pride. If a fan is proud of his team's performance, another fan can probably understand that, while someone who is not a fan can only shrug his shoulders.

It sucks when someone, in their pride, thinks they are better.

But let's get to what the Bible says about pride. Let's start with the negative.

False pride

Be something better

As already mentioned, we often find pride in the Bible in connection with certain negative qualities. As an example of this, I would like to read out the text mentioned earlier in a slightly expanded form (Psalm 73:3-10; NGÜ):

3 For I envied the arrogant; it grieved me to see how well the wicked fare. 4 Until their death they suffer no torment, and their belly is well nourished. 5 The troubles of daily life they know not, and of human cares they are not troubled. 6 Therefore they wear their pride like a necklace, violence surrounds them like a garment. 7 Their eyes look out from a fat and cowardly face, evil plans spring from their hearts. 8 They mock and oppress others by the wickedness of their words; from on high they speak proudly. 9 They open their mouths wide; neither heaven nor earth is spared from their blasphemies. 10 That is why so many people run after them and greedily take up their words like water.

So we have here:

And what is also interesting is that many others follow such people.

Is this description now typical for proud people? Or are these extreme cases here?

If I were to summarise the attitude to life of such people in one sentence, I would come up with the following:

Me great, you nothing! (Like "Me boss, you nothing!").

And if the other is worth nothing in my eyes, then arrogance, ignorance of their concerns, mockery, oppression, violence, etc. is the logical consequence. The other is worth nothing, so why show any consideration.

You realise that pride can be the beginning of such a development. And it doesn't necessarily have to be the apartheid pride of a crude, special origin. It can also be that one exaggerates one's own achievements and thinks that the others can't do anything and are therefore not worth anything.

There is also a classic from the Bible that I would like to read out (Luke 18:9-14):

9 Jesus now turned to some who, in 'false' self-confidence, thought they were righteous 'in God's eyes' and who therefore had only contempt for others. He told them the following example: 10 "Two men went up to the temple to pray; one was a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood confidently and prayed: 'I thank you, God, that I am not like the rest of men - I am not a robber, a cheat or an adulterer, nor am I like that tax collector there. 12 I fast two days a week and tithe all my income.' 13 The tax collector, on the other hand, stood at a great distance and did not even dare to look up. He beat his breast and said, 'God, forgive me sinful man my sin!' 14 I tell you: The tax collector was justified 'in God's eyes' when he went home, but the Pharisee was not. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted."

So in summary: "Me great, you nothing!" It is of course obvious that the Pharisee's attitude to life is wrong. Jesus also emphasises it here.

What would such a Pharisee do for the tax collector? Nothing! He couldn't care less about the tax collector's worries and problems and one can imagine that if the Pharisee had the power, he would go as far as violence and oppression.

But the tax collector is a corrupt official, whereas the Pharisee tries to do everything right and performs properly. Then this pride, this feeling of superiority, is justified, isn't it? You can understand all that.

And also in our lives we find enough reasons why we can feel superior to others.

And if you can't do anything at all, then you can still feel superior to the inhabitants of other countries as a member of one nation.

We can see from what has been said so far a negative component of pride:

Wanting to be better than others.

Of course, this is not about competition, but about being better as a person than other people. And this is not something permanent, as Jesus Christ also emphasises in the Bible text we read earlier (Luke 18:14b; NGÜ):

For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.

To think and present oneself as something better, i.e. to elevate oneself, will fail in the long run.

Pride in own achievements

But what about pride in one's own achievements? We have already thought about this with the help of examples, and in principle there is nothing wrong with it. For the normal development of children, experienced pride is even important so that they learn what they can do and where they stand. And adults are also allowed to be proud once in a while.

After we had built, I showed all the first-time visitors around the house and showed them everything we had done ourselves. Maybe I'm a bit of a show-off here and there, but that still seemed within reason.

But (perhaps justified) pride can easily turn into arrogance or even delusions of grandeur.

In the Old Testament, in 2 Chronicles 26, there is an account of a king named Uzziah, and it is said of him (vv. 4.5; ELB)

4 And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that Amaziah his father had done. 5 And he sought God in the days of Zechariah, who instructed him in the visions of God: and in the days that he sought the LORD, God prospered him.

Then all that he achieved is described and the passage ends with v.15b where it says: And his name went outas far as the hills. For miraculously he was helped until he was very mighty.

That sounds good, but then, unfortunately, it went on like that:

16 And when he had become mighty, his heart became haughty, until he acted corruptly. And he dealt unfaithfully against the LORD his God, and entered into the temple of the LORD to burn incense upon the altar of incense.

Who was allowed to do what was laid down quite precisely in the Old Testament law and the priests were responsible for the actions in the temple. But when you have so much success and power, then you are allowed and can do everything. But God later made it clear that Uzziah was not allowed to do everything and punished him with leprosy, which meant that he was never allowed to enter the temple again.

Thus, success can lead to pride over arrogance to ruin.

We know the proverb that is originally from the Bible (Proverbs 16:18; ELB):

Pride comes before destruction, and arrogance before a fall.

That certainly sounds familiar.

I would like to tell you about an experience of my own. Some of you know that I have my own homepage where I offer my sermons, youth topics, devotions and the like for download. I started doing this in the middle of '96 and soon there was a page called "" where I referred to my sermons under the heading "Sonstiges" (other). Because the internet was still quite new, I had quite a lot of hits on my page and then I also received a handwritten letter where the writer wrote enthusiastically about how much my sermons had helped him.

That's when I really felt the - often quite short - path from pride to arrogance to megalomania. My first thought was not "Praise the Lord", but rather something like "Man, I'm good". I could really feel that arrogance and that scared me a bit at the time.

In Psalm 90:10 the subject is seen quite soberly:

Our life lasts seventy years, and if we still have strength, eighty years. And what seemed so important to us (or: their pride) is ultimately only effort and deceptive security. For our days hurry by as if we were flying away.

In other words: What we are proud of is ultimately only effort and deceptive security. Our lives are fleeting and what we are proud of usually is too. If God uses our - in his eyes - imperfect actions in any way for eternity, then we cannot pin the credit for it on our lapel.

What survives impermanence is described in 1 Corinthians 3:11-15 (NGÜ):

11 The foundation has already been laid, and no one can ever lay another. This foundation is Jesus Christ. 12 But how anyone continues to build on it - whether with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, reeds or straw -, 13 This will not be kept secret; the day of judgement will make it clear to everyone what material he has used. For in the fire of judgement everyone's work will be tested for its quality. 14 If what someone has built on the foundation 'passes the test of fire', 'God' will reward him. 15 But if it burns, he will lose his reward. He himself will be saved, but only as one who is snatched out of the fire at the last moment.

What really has eternal value from what we have achieved in our lives? That would be something to be really proud of. So what is the gold, the silver and the precious stones?

We find an explanation of this in Matthew 25: 31-40 (NGÜ)

31 "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and with him all the angels, he will sit on his throne in royal splendour. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will divide the people into two groups, just as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. 34 Then the king will say to those on his right: 'Come here, you are blessed by my Father! Take possession of the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry, and you gave me food; I was thirsty, and you gave me drink; I was a stranger, and you took me in; 36 I had nothing to wear, and you gave me clothes; I was sick, and you took care of me; I was in prison, and you visited me.' 37 Then the righteous will ask him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and give you food, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 When did we see you as a stranger among us and receive you? Or when did we see you when you had nothing to wear, and gave you clothes? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?' 40 Then the king will answer them, 'I say to you: Whatever you did for one of my brothers, no matter how little he was esteemed, you did for me.'

The people of the first group, the "sheep", took care of the "brothers of Jesus". I believe that here the term "brother" is broader and refers to all those in need, but that is not important for this passage.

The "sheep" had the foundation of Jesus Christ, because they helped without calculation, without expectation of reward, without arrogance and without asking whether the needy person deserved it (certainly not only innocent people in prison were visited). It was natural for them and from this you can see that they had the "new heart" in Christ (e.g. Ezekiel 11:19). Their gifts (food, clothing, time) here are gold, silver and precious stones.

But: One can also accumulate perishable straw in spite of the right foundation, as it says e.g. in Matthew 6, 1-4 (NGÜ):

1 "Beware of displaying your piety before men! Otherwise you will have no reward from your Father in heaven." 2 "For example, when you give to the poor, do not have it announced before you with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to be honoured by the people. I tell you, they have already received their reward with it. 3 When you give to the poor, your left hand shall not know what your right hand is doing. 4 What you give shall be hidden. Then your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you."

"Do good and talk about it" is very useful for advertising, but counterproductive for eternity.

There are other gems: prayer, forgiveness, telling others about Jesus Christ. But here too, the simple formula applies: If you do it to get recognition from people, it is only straw. If you do it because it is brought about by the new nature in Jesus Christ, then it is gold, silver and precious stones.

With these eternal values, there is somehow no room for pride. That does not fit.

But there is something we can be really proud of.

Real pride

Psalm 105, 3; (NGÜ)

Be proud (or: boast) that you know and may call upon His holy name! Let all who seek the Lord rejoice with all their heart.

As Christians we can be proud that we are allowed to know God.

1 Corinthians 1:29-31 (NGÜ)

29 For no one should be able to 'boast to God' about his supposed merits. 30 Is it not the same with you? That you are united with Jesus Christ is not due to yourselves, but to God. He has made his wisdom visible in Christ, a wisdom that benefits us. For Christ is our righteousness, through Christ we belong to God's holy people, and through Christ we are redeemed. 31 "Therefore" - to use the words of Scripture - "if anyone wants to be proud of anything, let him be proud of the Lord."

And for the people who have given their lives to Jesus Christ, I can say: We have a great Lord. Jesus Christ takes care of us, he forgives us, he changes us, he opens up new possibilities for us and he will take us into eternity at some point. To that end, he invites every person to come to him. And we may belong to him, therefore we can be proud of him.