There is a line in a poem that says; "We love to shine in public and human praise expect." And these words remind us that people are, in the main, naturally selfish and are therefore, generally speaking, prone to be principally occupied with self. They are most articulate when the topic of conversation is centred on themselves. Self can often be their greatest interest.
There are exceptions, of course, because there are times when some do think of others before themselves; inspired perhaps by the words of our Lord that, "Greater love has no man than that he should lay down his life for his friends."
But the exceptions are very definitely NOT the general rule. The proud chant, about their team, of "We're number 1! We're number 1 !" ringing out from football fans is fine perhaps: but when we find that it is ringing out from our hearts, it means that it is all stemming from pride and imagination and we would do well to remember the words of Mary the mother of Jesus, recorded in Luke chapter one and verse fifty-one. "He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts." The proud expect to carry all before them and to have their own self-willed way. But our heavenly Father scatters them in. the imagination of their hearts, destroys their scheming and brings them low. He brings them down, by the very means with which they think to elevate themselves above the rest.
Because Pride can frequently be associated with arrogance, self-esteem and self-importance and often stems from the riches of this world, Timothy was told, in chapter 6 verses 17 - 19 of the first letter written to him, to
"Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life." In other words, as John tells us in chapter 2 of his first letter verses 5-17: "Do not love the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him, because all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passes away, and the lust of it, but he who does the will of God abides forever."
We should live our lives in the way that God wants us to behave: keeping our chin and head up, but our nose very definitely down, because the pride of life is a channel by which Satan tempts us to sin. This does not mean that none of the things of the world should be sought. There is nothing wrong in possessing the things of the world, if they are used for the purposes which God intended - when they are used by his grace and to his glory - but believers must not seek or value them for the purposes by which sin abuses them. The world draws hearts away from God; and the more the love of the world prevails, the more the love of God decays.
John classes the things of the world according to the three ruling inclinations of a depraved nature. There is "The lust of the flesh" - that is of the body - the wrong desires of the heart, the appetite for indulging everything that excites and inflames sensual pleasures. Then, he says, there is "The lust of the eyes." The eyes are delighted by riches and by the value of possessions; they cause covetousness, the urge to own more, even at the expense of others. And lastly there is "The pride of life" - vanity. Being vain causes one to crave for the grandeur and the pomp of an egotistical life. This includes a thirst after Honour and the applause of others. And this self-conceit is an abomination to God, as we are told in Proverbs 16 verse 5, which says that: Everyone proud in heart is hateful to Jehovah. The one that is puffed up by the quantity, the value or the beauty of his possessions or because he is wealthy, is proud in heart: he becomes arrogant in his conduct towards God and towards man. He should know that, although he admires himself, and others fawn over him, in the Lord's eyes he is an abomination.
The things of the world quickly fade and die away; it won't be long before desire itself will fail and cease, but holy affection is not like the lusts that pass away. The love of God will never fail. Many unfruitful efforts have been made to avoid the strength of this passage by limitations, distinctions, or exceptions. Many people have tried to show how far we may be carnally minded, and still love the world. The way we exhibit pride when it is not justified, when we should instead be showing gratitude, and humility, can be seen in the old fictional story of the beggar who sat every day at the gate of a rich man's home. From the rich man's generous hand he received constant gifts which he was always grateful to have. Then one day the rich man needed to send a message as quickly as possible and, since his servants were all busy, he went to the beggar and asked him to deliver the letter for him. Lifting himself up with pride, the beggar astounded his generous benefactor with the amazing words, "I solicit alms, sir, but I do NOT run errands."
How many people treat their heavenly Father in this way! If it were not for Him we would not have the many blessings which come to us from His hands. Then, when He needs someone to go on an errand or to carry a message of Jesus' love to suffering or wayward men, they say, "No, Lord; I solicit your blessings, but I do not run errands." They are like many who call themselves Christians and who proudly claim that they are ready to serve tbeir Heavenly Father but who, in reality, are only prepared to give that service in an advisory capacity, not in humble ministration to the needy. Only doing any service for the Lord when it can be known that they did it or they can boast about what they've done for HIM. They forget, perhaps conveniently, that in Proverbs 6 verse 17 we're told that one of the seven things that God hates is a proud look, and this really means showing self esteem in any form.
In one of his books, C.S. Lewis asked, " How is it that people who are quite obviously eaten up by pride can say that they believe in God and appear, to themselves, to be very religious? I am afraid that it means that they are worshipping an imaginary God. They theoretically admit themselves to be nothing in the presence of this phantom God, but are really, all the time, imagining how He approves of them. This does not come through our animal nature at all. It comes direct from the evil one. It is purely spiritual: consequently it is far more subtle and deadly."
If we are to practice humility rather than show pride we must do something that will seem very hard - we must love our enemies and pray for them. Remembering, as Luke records in chapter 6 verse 32 that our Lord said: "If you love those who love you, what thanks do you have? For sinners also love those who love them."
We must be kind to those from whom we have received injuries. We must not only love our enemies, and bear a good will to them, but we must do good to them: be as ready to do any good for them as for anyone else, if it is necessary, and it is in our power to do it. We must endeavour to show them, by positive action, wherever possible, that we bear them no malice, neither do we seek revenge for what they have done to us.
Matthew 5 v 5 tells us that Jesus said: "Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth."
Meekness is not insensitivity or servility and it doesn't cringe or whine. It is suffering wrong without showing bitterness. It can be seen when we demonstrate the patience and the forbearance that Jesus showed. It is the quality of love that bears all things and results in self-control and refusing to enjoy bouts of self-pity. It turns away from petty revenge and never harms another by word or by deed. It can be seen in the quietness of a still mind that refuses to fume and fret at the passing successes of those who do evil, leaving it all in the care of the Lord for Him to deal with in His own good time.
And when we ask ourselves, Who are the meek? We can not do better than to remember the definition given by a young boy who answered, "Those who give soft answers to rough questions." The one who has Jesus in his head and heart has wisdom and doesn't need to browbeat others. Instead that wisdom causes them to speak softly and persuasively, rather than loudly and forcefully. Through the use of our tongues people will know whether we are wise or not. And they will also know that our humbleness is not weakness.
Pride, which after all is egotism, is something that Jesus very strongly condemns. For instance, a parable which He told to show the consequences of pride and the rewards of humility, is recorded by Luke, in chapter 14 verses 8 to 11, which says: "When you are invited by anyone to a wedding, do not recline in the chief seat, lest a more honourable man than you may be invited by him. And he who invited you and him shall come and say to you, Give place to this man; and then you begin with shame to take the last place. But when you are invited, go and recline in the lowest place, so that when he who invited you comes, he may say to you, Friend, go up higher. Then glory shall be to you before those reclining with you. For whoever exalts himself shall be abased, and he who humbles himself shall be exalted. "
Even in the common actions of life, Christ's eye is upon us, and He takes note of everything that we do - not only in our devotional lives, but in our daily lives as well. He is telling us here that by taking the lowest seat at the table we show that we are not proudly anxious for any distinction or desirous of claiming the Honour which may properly be due to us.
Because we have shown a humble attitude, by choosing to sit at the bottom end of the table, people will treat us with approval when we are invited nearer to the head of the table. But it is a universal trait of the world that "men" will perpetually try to bring down and humiliate those who try to exalt themselves, and it is also the way in which God will deal with people. It is a part of God's regular plan to abase the proud and to bring down the lofty, but to elevate the ones who are humble, and show His favours to those who are poor and needy.
Being a Christian does not mean that we must always act according to the letter of certain rules and regulations - this is the way that the Pharisees thought everyone should behave. Being a Christian means following a living Christ: behaving as he behaved: doing as He did, and imitating His example in everything we do. It is putting our old ways behind us; keeping our eyes firmly fixed on Jesus and allowing the traits and features of His character to be imprinted on our new nature so that they are reproduced in our life and behaviour. We should be trying always to be a reflection of Christ and a witness for our heavenly Father to the world in which we have for the time being to reside. In our leisure or our business lives people should be able to say: "This an example of what GOD can do; a model of what Christian teaching can achieve."
James, in the fourth chapter of his letter verses 4 -7 says; Do you not know that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever desires to be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. Do you think that the Scripture says in vain, The spirit that dwells in us yearns to envy? But He gives more grace. Therefore He says, God resists the proud, but He gives grace to the humble. Therefore submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
James says that there is enmity between God and those that trust in themselves and their own righteousness. The ones who despise others and say, I am holier than you; those that are proud of themselves, their enjoyments, their gifts, their external righteousness, and holiness, and are puffed up with their riches, and their goods, and possessions, thinking they're in need of nothing. These He opposes, He sets himself against them and He thrusts them away from him, he sends them away empty, and scatters them in the imagination of their own hearts; counting as nothing the things of which they are proud. He frustrates all their schemes and, as Psalm 2 says, He sits in the heavens and laughs at them.
James tells us that we should submit to God - to continue to bow to all his decisions, and to all his dispensations. And that we should resist the devil. He cannot conquer us if we continue to resist. Strong as the adversary is, God will never allow him to conquer the one who continues to resist him; Satan cannot force the human will. The one who, in the name of Jesus, opposes the devil, is sure to conquer him, because he trembles when he sees a saint upon his knees. Lucifer flees from the name of Jesus and from his conquering blood.
When we live in this way we become, to the worldly, either the salt that keeps society from corruption or a reflection of the light shining out from a hilltop that illuminates the world with a ray of the glory of heaven. We're told that we must let our light shine so that everyone can see that we are Christ's. To live a Holy life is a good deal better than to talk about it. When we do live a Holy life we are letting our light shine, and if it does, we do not need to tell anyone that it does. The light will be its own witness. Lighthouses do not ring bells or fire cannons to call attention to their shining - they just quietly shine so that all can see.