The Absurdity of Pride

This article is by Ed Welch and published by CCEF


Pride might help us feel strong and attractive in our own eyes, at least for a moment. But in reality, it is a gross violation of our created design. When seen accurately it is ugly, destructive, and utterly absurd. It is the absurdity and ridiculousness of pride that I want to consider.

A child hits his younger brother. His wrongdoing is obvious and his mother tells him that he must ask for forgiveness. Asking forgiveness—what could be more natural? But the words simply will not come out of his mouth. His pride will accept any other discipline than saying, “Will you forgive me?” Four words—why won’t he just say them? Because his pride hates the idea. It has an irrational loathing of humility. And you can see all humanity in this child. How many adults have done something blatantly wrong and simply cannot apologize? How many adults have never even said, “I’m sorry”—a very small step—let alone “Will you forgive me?” It is truly odd given the truth about us.

A teenager wants independence because he or she knows what is best. Of course, that teenager is also quite dependent on his or her family to survive. The bemused parent cannot even think of words that would bring sense to the teen.

A husband and wife quarrel about who is right, or at least right-er. You can tell they are getting tired of the battle, but each wants the last word. Gradually, they regress to schoolyard talk. “You don’t even know what clothes to wear.” “Oh yeah? Well, you’re so dumb….” Then they regress to the barely verbal. “Hrmmph.” “Argh.” “Grrr…”

And how often am I critical of other people because they drove their car too close to me, or didn’t do something as I would do it? “How dare they,” I say from my throne. Meanwhile, my wife sees how I do the very same things, yet I act as though I have diplomatic immunity. At that moment, I certainly do not look attractive to her, or even human.

Pride is one of the foremost ways of describing sin. It is wrong. It is against God and other people. And it is bizarre and incongruous because human beings are, by nature, dependent and have accomplished nothing in themselves that justifies enthronement. We live only by the “immeasurable riches of his grace” (Ephes 2:7). Our resumes are essentially empty, yet we believe we have earned the right to look down on others. It can feel right, but when you look in the mirror of Scripture you see something that looks more like Dr. Seuss’s Yertle the Turtle.[1] It is strange, given that we are created and not the creator. If we are not appalled by our pride, we will be less compelled to cast it aside.

“Heaven rules” is fundamental to our humanity (Dan 4:26). Human beings are royalty but we live under the King and are stewards of his kingdom. What should be natural to a human king are the humble words of Solomon. When authorized to build the Lord’s temple, he said, “Who am I to build a house for him, except as a place to make offerings before him?” (2 Chron 2:6). Indeed, who would be worthy to oversee the building of God’s house on earth? Then Solomon confessed his childlike inability to discern well, so he asked for wisdom. There it is again—humility. It is the natural and most becoming garb for us. Later, Solomon, too, became less than human in his pride, but he gave a brief glimpse of true humanity.

So we look to the only truly human being: Jesus. Though he was the victim of arrogant condescension by many people he met, he was never angry because of this mistreatment. (Anger is usually a sure sign of pride.) Instead, he seemed to keep going lower rather than higher. Before his final descent into death on a cross, he etched the image of a servant into the hearts of the disciples (John 13). Paul described it this way:

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Phil 2:3-8)

A few verses later. Paul used this template to tell of his own biography and renewed aspirations (Phil 3:4-11).

As followers of Jesus, we have insight into how our pride is out of place and odd. Human beings are the crown of creation but it is because God made it so. From that high place, we take our cues from our King who gave up his rights, knowing that his place with the Father was secure. So we put on humility which, in contrast to pride, turns out to be wonderfully human—quite attractive and surprisingly powerful.

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