The worst decisions in my life, the times my anger has gotten the best of me, and the instances of my greatest regret were all the result of my pride. Pride never helped anything. Pride never improved anything.
I’m not qualified to write about humility, but you’re not either. Therefore, as the chief hypocrite, I’ll take the liberty. Here are seven things about pride and humility that I’ve learned, mostly the hard way.
1. God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble
The most haunting verse in Scripture is found in both James 4:6 and 1 Peter 5:5: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” If we insist on our way, our best, our fame, our glory, our best interest, the living God of the universe will work against us in direct opposition. Our pride puts us in this dreadful position.
2. Humility means knowing your place
Some of the earliest instances of the word "humble" refer to the position a person occupies. The Apostle Paul writes, “I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think” (Rom. 12:3). Do you crave glory, recognition, reward, or attention that is beyond your present station?
3. Everyone is proud, just in different ways
You’re proud. They’re proud. I’m proud. But we’re all proud in different ways. It’s easy to point out pride in others while remaining oblivious to our own blind spots. Some of us think we deserve more money. Some of us think we deserve more respect. Some of us think we deserve more comfort. Before we judge and condemn other people for their pride, we need to ask, “How am I blind to my own?”
4. Humility is a direction, not a destination
None of us can say, “I used to be proud. Glad that’s over!” That would be proud. In his book Humility , C. J. Mahaney describes himself as “a proud man pursuing humility by the grace of God.” The same could be said for all of us. As Christians, we venture in the direction of humility, by the grace of God. The question is not, “Have you arrived?” but rather, “Are you even trying?”
5. Pride is about my glory, humility is about God’s glory
Once the question of glory is settled, everything is settled. Resolve to give God the glory, and you’ll know the answer to the vast majority of the decisions in your life.
If you’re fighting with your spouse, what should you do? Whatever brings God the most glory. If you’re disobeying your parents, what should you do? Whatever brings God the most glory. If you’re disagreeing with leadership, how should you conduct yourself? In a manner that brings God the most glory. If you have aspirations, what should you pursue? Whatever brings God the most glory.
What you do, why you do it, how you do it, when you do it—humility considers every decision by asking, “Who gets the glory?”
6. Pride bends inward, but humility turns out to God and others
Martin Luther described sin as the self bending in on the self. Pride makes it all about “me.” That’s why at Mars Hill we love to say, “It’s all about Jesus.” Humility turns our affections and energies toward God’s glory and others’ good. We start to ask how we can help. We start thinking about ways we could serve or bless other people. We start to forget our own needs. Pride leads us to focus on ourselves. Humility leads us back out to God and others.
7. Pride births death, humility births life
Augustine, the great church father, likened pride to a mother who is pregnant with all other sins. In pride, Satan rebelled against God because he desired to be God. In pride, Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit because they wanted to be like God. In pride, we reject God’s wisdom, will, and Word because we think we know better. All sin comes out of pride—and all virtue, all holiness, and all glory to God are birthed out of humility. Is your heart pregnant with pride, or is it pregnant with humility?
The bad news: we will lose the battle of pride vs. humility every day. The good news: we have perfect humility in Jesus. Unlike Satan, unlike Adam and Eve, and unlike us,
[Jesus] 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. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Jesus was humble, and God glorifies him as a result. Likewise, if we repent of our pride and pursue humility in Jesus instead, by God’s grace we will be glorified with him as well. We war against our pride not by focusing on our humility—which is just another way of focusing on ourselves)—but rather, the humility of Jesus Christ.