Tuesday, August 26, 2014


Part 3 of Wise Steps, a series on Proverbs

Text: Proverbs 29:23

You can listen to this sermon here.

One’s pride will bring him low, but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor (Prov. 29:23).

The Irony of Pride and Humility 

When I was a kid, one of my favourite stories was Yertle the Turtle by Dr. Seuss. Yertle said to himself, “If I could sit high, how much greater I’d be! What a king! I’d be ruler of all that I see!” Yertle lifted himself up (on a stack of hundreds of other turtles), but eventually he had a big fall.

The irony of pride and humility is seen in Proverbs 29:23, which says, “One’s pride will bring him low, but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor.” When a person is arrogant, people want to see that person, but when a person is humble, they want to see that person honoured.

Pride lowers us, and humility lifts us up. 

Ray Ortlund puts it this way: “Pride humiliates us, and humility honors us.” [1] This is a theme found in Proverbs and throughout the rest of Scripture. “Toward the scorners he is scornful, but to the humble he gives favor” (Prov. 3:34; cf. James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5). “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom” (Prov. 11:2). “The fear of the LORD is instruction in wisdom, and humility comes before honor” (Prov. 15:33). “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Prov. 16:18). “Before destruction a man’s heart is haughty, but humility comes before honor” (Prov. 18:12). “The reward for humility and fear of the LORD is riches and honor and life” (Prov. 22:4).

Bruce Waltke describes humility as “the renunciation of human sufficiency.” [2] In the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector (Luke 18:9-14), the tax collector renounced his human sufficiency (“God, be merciful to me, a sinner!,” v. 13). But the Pharisee did not (“God, I thank you that I am not like other men,” v. 11). Jesus concluded the parable by saying, “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted” (v. 14; cf. Luke 14:11). We can’t be “justified” (v. 14) unless we humbly confess our sin and our need of a Savior. And those whom God justifies will also be “glorified” (Rom. 8:30).

Acknowledging Our Pride

C. S. Lewis wrote, “Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind.” [3] This is seen in Genesis 3’s account of the first sin. Adam and Eve wanted to “be like God” (v. 5).

Pride is difficult to see in ourselves, but it’s easy to see in others. We all struggle with pride, and pride leads to the following sins: boasting, looking down on others, living for the praise of others, ungratefulness, not listening to advice or correction, and refusing to repent.

Of course, you can be proud of someone or something without sinning. It's good to be proud of your child. But if you say to yourself, "Look at how good my son is. I'm a much better father/mother than the other parents I know," that's sinful pride.

Becoming More Humble

Humility is very elusive. Many people who think they’re humble are actually proud of their “humility.” We are not naturally humble. How can we become more humble?

1. We must remind ourselves that every good thing we have we owe to God's grace. 

Most prominent among God’s blessings is our salvation. To the Ephesian believers, the apostle Paul wrote, “By grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph. 2:8-9). But we should boast about what Christ has done for us: “Far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal. 6:14).

Paul wrote to the church at Rome, “I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think” (Rom. 12:3). Pride is thinking too highly of ourselves. But being humble isn’t saying, “I’m a nobody.” It’s saying, “I’m a somebody because of God’s grace.” As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 1:31, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord” (cf. Jer. 9:23-24; 2 Cor. 10:17).

2. We must remind ourselves of the astonishing humility of our Lord. 

The apostle Paul wrote to the church at Philippi, “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (Phil. 2:3). He encouraged them to be humble by reminding them that Jesus, the God-man, “humbled himself” (Phil. 2:8). From beginning to end—from the manger to the cross—his earthly life was one of humility. Jesus said, “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28).

On the night that Jesus was betrayed and arrested, he washed his disciples’ feet (John 13:5). He told them, “I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you” (v. 15). During that same meal, “A dispute also arose among [the disciples], as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest” (Luke 22:24). Jesus rebuked them by saying, “Who is greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves” (v. 27).

We are quick to condemn the disciples for their pride, but don’t we often act the same? When we think about the humility of Jesus, doesn’t our pride seem so foolish, so awful, so out of place?

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