When I was invited by the editors of Tabletalk to write an article on humility, I chuckled a little bit because I realized how easy it would be to say to myself: “Wow! If they are asking me to write on humility, it must be because they know what a humble guy I am.” Then I could pat myself on the back a few times, taking pride in how humble I am.
All sin is deceitful, but pride is especially sneaky. How many times have you been reading some story in the Bible and said to yourself: “What is the matter with them? Why are they doing something so stupid?” It’s so easy to start saying, “Thank You, Father, that I am not like those constantly complaining Israelites.” Or “Thank You, Father, that I am not like that Samson fellow. How gullible can one person possibly be?” Then we get to the New Testament and we catch ourselves saying, “Thank You, Father, that I am not like that self-righteous Pharisee who thanked You for not being like that tax collector.”
All these things were written for our instruction. When we see sinners and fools in Bible stories, we’re looking in a mirror. We cannot mortify the sin of pride until we acknowledge this and understand how desperately sinful we are. This is why Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:3). We have to understand that God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6).
We have to have a true estimation of ourselves, and we cannot have that unless we have a true estimation of the holiness of God. It is only when we see ourselves in the light of God’s infinite holiness that we see how truly poor we are. This is what distinguishes the stories of the proud and the humble in Scripture. Those who are proud have a low view of God and a high view of themselves. They exalt themselves rather than God. This kind of pride is hated by God (Prov. 6:16–17; 8:13).
In the book of Proverbs, the Lord reveals to us that “pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (16:18). We see numerous examples of this throughout Scripture. Of King Uzziah, we read, “But when he was strong, he grew proud, to his destruction” (2 Chron. 26:16). Similarly, we are told regarding King Hezekiah: “But Hezekiah did not make return according to the benefit done to him, for his heart was proud. Therefore wrath came upon him and Judah and Jerusalem” (32:25). Sooner or later, pride will be followed by destruction.
Ezekiel 28 contains an oracle of judgment against the king of Tyre. God promises to send destruction upon him because of his satanic pride. The Lord says to him, “Because your heart is proud, and you have said, ‘I am a god, I sit in the seat of the gods, in the heart of the seas,’ yet you are but a man, and no god, though you make your heart like the heart of a god” (vv. 1–2). The king of Tyre not only exalts himself; he makes himself out to be a god. He has combined pride and blasphemy.