PRIDE, SELF-ESTEEM, HUMILITY:HOW DO THEY RELATE?
By Pastor Jim Cariker AUGUST 29, 2016
Galatians 6: 1-6
>A young woman asked for an appointment with her pastor to talk with him about a besetting sin about which she was worried. When she saw him, she said, “Pastor, I have become aware of a sin in my life which I cannot control. Every time I am at church I begin to look around at the other women, and I realize that I am the prettiest one in the whole congregation. None of the others can compare with my beauty. What can I do about this sin?”
The pastor replied, “Mary, that’s not a sin, why that’s just a mistake!” (Source Unknown– Sermonillustrations.com )
>Benjamin Franklin, from his autobiography, wrote, “There is perhaps not one of our natural passions so hard to subdue as pride. Beat it down, stifle it, mortify it as much as one pleases, it is still alive. Even if I could conceive that I had completely overcome it, I should probably be proud of my humility.”
In our efforts to confront various struggles that Christians face we must not overlook the Bible’s strong warnings about Pride. There are many scriptures that remind us that Pride is the forerunner of destruction. But what about Self-esteem? Just where is the line between the negative trait of pride and the positive understanding of self-esteem? And just where does humility enter the picture?
Today, let’s wrestle with these questions and see what the Holy Spirit would teach us.
I. Pride—the Negative side.
a. Galatians 6:3 says, “If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves.”
b. Proverbs 16: 18 says, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”
c. A quick review of one of Judah’s great kings illustrates this warning. In 2 Kings 18 we read about King Hezekiah. He ascended to the throne when he was 25 years old and he ruled Judah for 29 years. Verses 5-7 says, “Hezekiah trusted in the LORD, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him. He held fast to the LORD and did not stop following him; he kept the commands the LORD had given Moses.” But in 2 Kings 19 we read how, after God told He would heal Hezekiah from his illness and confirmed His promise by causing the sun’s shadow to move back 10 steps, an envoy from Babylon came to visit the kingdom. 2 Kings 19:13 says, “Hezekiah received the envoys and showed them all that was in his storehouses—the silver, the gold, the spices and the fine olive oil—his armory and everything found among his treasures. There was nothing in his palace or in all his kingdom that Hezekiah did not show them.” The prophet Isaiah confronted him and prophesied the downfall of Judah to the Babylonian empire. But the passage implies that it was Hezekiah’s pride and his display of Judah’s treasures that set up the return of Babylon as a conquering army.
d. His story is just one of several that illustrate the fallacy and folly of being puffed up with pride. We saw it in King Saul’s haughty spirit that led him to offer sacrifices that the Priest and Prophet Samuel was supposed to offer. We saw it in the Giant Goliath when he dared to challenge the army of Israel and then was slain by the shepherd boy David. We saw it in King David when he used his position as king to have Bathsheba brought to him and then to cover his sin by having her husband killed. We saw it in King Nebuchadnezzar when he boasted that he was ruler of all the earth and God took away his sanity for a period of 7 years. And the list goes on and on.
e. How do you define this spirit about which God’s word warns us so strongly? The Thesaurus gives us words like arrogance, conceit, smugness, self-importance. It is the act or attitude of thinking you are of much more importance than you really are. It carries with it the attitude of superiority over others. And it includes placing one’s self in a position that only God should have.In the earliest chapters of Genesis, Eve was tempted by the serpent who told her if she would eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil she would become like God. That is the essence of Pride—making self a god!
f. I think if I were to interview 100 people here in Branson, there would not be a single one who would admit that he or she thought of self as being god. Sinful pride is much more subtle than that. Sinful pride creeps in through jealousy and envy. It causes a person to resent someone else’s successes and to want to get recognition that is not necessarily deserved. It is the kind of thing that causes a person to take credit for something when the credit belongs to someone else. It is what caused NBC anchorman Brian Williams to embellish news stories to make himself look like a hero or Donald Trump to claim he is the only one who can make America great again. (I’m not endorsing a presidential candidate, but regardless of whom you are planning to vote for you have to admit that statement came across as arrogant and prideful. He may be able to make America great again, but surely there are others who could step up if they really desired to do so!
Once, when I was in elementary school one of my friends did something that embarrassed me. I don’t remember exactly what it was, but it had something to do with a show of strength where he out did me. I felt I had been humiliated before my classmates. I was so angry that I knew I had to get even. He and I both got off at the same bus stop, so I told him that as soon as we got off the bus we were going to fight. And as soon as the bus pulled away I tied into him. Fortunately, we were in the yard outside his house and his mother came out and broke up the fight and sent me home before I got beat again! Why did I act that way? Sinful pride said I was better than my friend. He was the one that should have been bested at school, not me!Sinful Pride says, “My way or the highway!” And I’ve know many marriages that failed because of that attitude.
Sinful pride causes a person to think he or she is a little better, a little more superior, a little more deserving than anyone else. And it causes a person to forget that who we are is by the grace of God and that He is the One who truly deserves the praise and credit.
II. Self-esteem: the Positive side of Pride.
a. Galatians 6: 4 says, “Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else.” With that statement we have to recognize there is a type of Pride that is not sinful. It is the kind that is based in reality and in true self assessment of one’s abilities.
b. Several years ago, Dr. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, authored a book entitled “Hide or Seek.” In the online marketing ad for this book there is this statement: “From the moment they are born, children experience an unfortunate value system that reserves respect and esteem for a select few. Those who fail to measure up end up resigning themselves to a lifetime of feeling inadequate and inferior.” Dr. Dobson gave practical advice on how to instill self-esteem into a child. It is so easy to say or do things that destroy a child’s confidence. Words of praise, encouragement, or maybe even a pat on the shoulder can plant that seed of confidence in a child’s psyche!I got into trouble many times when I was in school. I remember sitting in my High School Principal’s office on several occasion waiting to find out what my punishment would be this time. But the thing I really remember about Mr. Martin was his attitude towards me. He never treated me as if I were a bad person. He joked with me oftentimes. He let me know that he thought I was a better person than my actions were indicating. I still remember after He had lined several of us up and given us some swats with a wooden paddle, teasing me about having to walk kind of sideways after that paddling. And I knew that even though he spanked, he still liked me.
c. So, what is right about Self-esteem? Self esteem recognizes abilities and limitations. It doesn’t give me a sense of superiority, but it does give me confidence. Self-esteem is expressed in how I dress, how I talk, and how I act. It causes me to always try to put my best self forward without in any way belittling anyone else. It is recognizing that I am a child of God and I want to let others see Him in me.
d. Romans 12: 3-8 describes what I am trying to communicate: “3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. 4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; 7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach;8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.”
e. Self esteem, positive Pride, seeks to make a person be the best person he or she can be, while still realizing that who we are is a result of God’s grace and that all glory and honor and praise belongs to Him! I enjoyed watching the Olympics last week. And I was pleased to hear several of the athletes in their interviews after receiving a medal, give credit to God. They did their best but recognized it was God who enabled them to be their best!
III. So, where does Humility enter in to this discussion?
a. Humility is the realization that we are simply instruments in God’s hands. He deserves the credit for any successes we may have.
b. Remember the account of David and Goliath? Remember what David said to Goliath just before he slung the stone that brought Goliath down? 1 Samuel 17: 45-47 records that message: 5 David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.46 This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. 47 All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.” David was not speaking from sinful pride. He was speaking with self-esteem because he had learned what God could do through him. And he never took credit for what he was about to do. He humbly said, “The Lord will deliver you into my hands…”
c. Humility is recognizing who we are in light of God’s grace. I sometimes run into people who I believe are guilty of false humility. When they are asked to do some task they make all kinds of excuses about how they are not qualified or how someone else could do a much better job. In some cases that is true, but often it is just an excuse to keep for doing anything!If I were asked to teach high school Calculus, I could honestly say, “You don’t want me for that position. I have not learned Calculus and I have no idea how to teach it to others.” That would be true humility. But if I were asked to preach somewhere, I might know there are others who could do a better job, but I could in all humility say, “I can do that. I will do the best I can with God’s help!”
d. Sometimes the problem with false humility is that the person is not willing to learn or grow in a certain area. Reality is, we are all imperfect. We all have room for improvement. Humility is saying, “I’m willing to try if that is want God is calling me to do!”
e. Humility is knowing that all that we are is because of God. It is being willing to be a servant instead of desiring to be on a pedestal!
Andrew Murray, who wrote The School of Prayer, and many other books about the discipline of prayer, had this to say about humility:
Humility is perfect quietness of heart. It is for me to have no trouble; never to be fretted or vexed or irritated or sore or disappointed. It is to expect nothing, to wonder at nothing that is done to me, to feel nothing done against me. It is to be at rest when nobody praises me and when I am blamed or despised. It is to have a blessed home in the Lord where I can go in and shut the door and kneel to my Father in secret and be at peace as in a deep sea of calmness when all around is trouble. It is the fruit of the Lord Jesus Christ’s redemptive work on Calvary’s cross, manifested in those of His own who are definitely subject to the Holy Spirit.
This morning, don’t think more highly of yourself than you should. Be honest and have a realistic understanding of who you are and what you can do. And remember, “To God be the Glory! He alone is worthy of all Glory, Honor, and Praise!”
Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For each one shall bear his own load.
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