The Snare of Pride

A tribute to basketball star David Robinson highlighted his humble reliance upon Christ.

“Robinson has been named one of the fifty greatest players of all time. He’s won both an NBA scoring title and Most Valuable Player award … In the final game of the series (in which the Spurs won four out of five games) Robinson led his team to victory over New York, 78-77, and helped them claim their first NBA title…

“He also showed how one player’s faith can benefit the whole team. Earlier this year, Robinson was asked to play a supporting role to the Spurs’ young star, Tim Duncan. As their coach Greg Popovich told Sports Illustrated, there are very few superstars who would willingly take a subordinate role for the good of the team. Even fewer would celebrate when that subordinate carried off the Most Valuable Player Award, as Duncan did. Where does Robinson get the strength and humility to do it? As he told Sports Illustrated, ‘I can’t overstate how important my faith has been to me as an athlete and as a person. It’s helped me deal with so many things, including matters of ego and pride.”[1]

The greater someone’s accomplishments and acclaim, the greater the risk of the snare of pride. We recall the allusion to Satan’s original sin as recorded in Isaiah. (This rebuke looks beyond the reference to the King of Babylon.)

“How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!
How you are cut down to the ground,
You who weakened the nations!
For you have said in your heart:
‘I will ascend into heaven,
I will exalt my throne above the stars of God;
I will also sit on the mount of the congregation
On the farthest sides of the north;
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds,
I will be like the Most High.’
Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol,
To the lowest depths of the Pit.” (Isaiah 14:12-15).

Notice how many “I wills” are in this original defiance–five! What a contrast to the Captain of Our Salvation who gained the victory by praying “not my will, but Yours be done”! (Luke 22:42). Paul cautioned Timothy about the danger of pride among church leaders. Regarding the choosing of elders he advised, “not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the [same] condemnation as the devil” (1 Tim. 3:6).

Andrew Murray described how the lure of pride should cause us to give up on our own attempts at gaining humility and depend upon Christ as our life.

“Pride has its root and strength in a terrible spiritual power … as needful as it is that we confess and deplore it as our own, is it [needful] to know its Satanic origin. If this leads us to utter despair of ever conquering or casting it out, it will lead us all the sooner to that supernatural power in which alone our deliverance is to be found–the redemption of the Lamb of God … The utter despair [of resisting pride] will fit us the better for realizing and accepting a power and a life outside of ourselves too, even the humility of heaven as brought down and brought nigh by the Lamb of God, to cast out Satan and his pride.”

God’s remedy for the attitude of self-sufficiency in us is chastisement. As the fabric of our efforts starts to unravel, we are jarred into the awareness that we can’t handle life on our own. Yet, that’s OK; we were never designed to be spiritually independent.

This process of correction was repeatedly revealed in the Old Testament. The prophet Zephaniah predicted God’s discipline of wayward Judah (Zeph. 3:7; compare Rom 15:4). This chastisement would cause them to take refuge in the LORD once again:

“In that day you shall not be shamed for any of your deeds
In which you transgress against Me;
For then I will take away from your midst
Those who rejoice in your pride,
And you shall no longer be haughty In My holy mountain.
I will leave in your midst A meek and humble people,
And they shall trust in the name of the LORD” (Zeph. 3:11,12).

Although believers are not under the Mosaic Law today but under grace, God’s nature and purposes do not change (Rom. 6:14; Heb. 13:8). He still disciplines those He loves, not to punish them for disobedience, but to correct their beliefs and choices (1 Cor. 11:32; Heb. 12:5-11).

A primary lesson in the discipleship agenda is humility. Whether you are a basketball star or miles from the limelight,

“…be clothed with humility, for ‘God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble’.  Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you”( 1 Pet. 5:5-7).

O Lord, we confess that pride is not normal but is actually satanic. We renounce the pride that led Adam and Eve to disobey You and fall into the Enemy’s deception. As we encounter trials, illumine us so that we use them to gain humility, and thereby become receptive to Your sustaining grace. In Your name, amen.

[1] Quoted in Breakpoint Commentary by Chuck Colson, 7/7/99).

[2] Humility, p.19; c.f. Rom 5:10. Still available in print. PDF version is here.

Copyright 1999, revised 2014 by John B. Woodward. Permission is granted to reprint this article for non commercial use if credit is given to the author and Biblical quotations are from the New King James Version (copyright by Thomas Nelson).

Posted in