Seven Deadly Sins-Pride versus Humility

The Seven Deadly Sins—and their corresponding virtues   2/18/18

The first and most “deadly” or serious of the seven deadly sins is pride.

Our text shows us an example of King Nebuchadnezzar, king of the Chaldean Empire.  He was religious in that he worshipped the god of the Chaldeans, and also set up a huge gold statue of himself and commanded all his people to bow down and worship the image—emperor worship.  Chapter four shows how he came to acknowledge and worship Daniel’s God—the God of heaven and earth.  That story records his journey from pride and arrogance to being humble.

King Nebuchadnezzar erects a gold statue 180 feet tall and 18 feet wide, commanding all to fall down and worship it when the king’s orchestra plays music.  Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, three of Daniel’s associates refuse to do so.  They will only worship the true God of heaven and earth.

King Nebuchadnezzar is furious and commands that they be thrown into a fiery furnace.  The fire is stoked to the point that the guard who took and threw Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego into the furnace were killed by the intense heat.

As Nebuchadnezzar and his officials watched, they were astonished because inside the intense heat and flames of the furnace they see these three men walking about unharmed, with a fourth figure with them that appeared to be supernatural—like a god.

The king called the men out and examined them.  They were completely unharmed; not even having the smell of fire or smoke on them or their clothing.  King Nebuchadnezzar was convinced—at least for a time of the wonder and power of the God of heaven and earth that the Hebrews worshipped.

He was an arrogant, narcissistic ruler who had an incredible amount of authority and power over his people.  And…it all went to his head.  God warned him in a dream that is recorded in Daniel 4 to change his prideful, self-centered and abusive ways.  The warning went unheeded for a year, then God brought the warning told about in the dream about.  Nebuchadnezzar became insane and lived like a wild man out in the open for seven years.  After that time Nebuchadnezzar was willing to be humble and acknowledge that God is the One who puts people in positions of power and authority and is able to humble them as well.  Nebuchadnezzar became what I would call a “convert” to the Hebrew faith—a believer and worshipper of the God of heaven and earth.

Learning how to be humble is one of the most important lessons any one of us can learn.

Humility is one of the most important, if not THE MOST important of virtues.  But before we talk about that, let’s look at some definitions.

Pride is excessive belief in our own abilities.

We can think too highly of ourselves and our ability, thinking we are smarter and better then we really are.  The converse of this is that we can have false humility—putting ourselves down because we think we should be better than we are.  Both of these interfere  with our understanding and appreciating the grace of God in Jesus.

Pride has been called the sin from which all others arise. Pride is also known as Vanity.

Wikipedia tells us that the negative connotation of pride refers to a foolishly corrupt sense of one’s personal value, status or accomplishments.  This type of pride is referred to as “hubris.”

Negative pride can be having deep pleasure or a elevated feeling of worth from one’s own accomplishments, achievements, status, possessions, looks, etc.  The dangerous aspect of this type of pride, or hubris as Aristotle called it, is it can cause us to attack or belittle others in order to make ourselves appear or feel better about who we are and our accomplishments.  Hubris, or negative pride, is destructive and closes our hearts to others and to God.  It blinds us.  It shrinks our world and makes us very small indeed!  Narcissism, self-focused, egotistical—all are synonyms of destructive pride.  We become the center of our small universe and then others are invisible, insignificant, unimportant.

This destructive pride is addressed in numerous passages throughout the Bible.  Here are a few examples:

Psalm 10:4 In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek God.  All his thoughts are, “there is no God.”

Proverbs 8:13 The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil.  Pride and arrogance and the

way of evil and perverted speech I hate.

Proverbs 11:2 When pride comes then comes disgrace, but wisdom is with the

humble.

Proverbs 16:18 Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall.

Proverbs 29:23 One’s pride will being him low, but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor.

Positive pride refers to a humble and content sense of attachment toward one’s own or another’s choices and actions, or toward a whole group of people.  Positive pride can be reflected in phrases like:

take pride in your appearance…

in the military we would encourage individuals to take pride in their uniform, appearance and work.

take pride in who you are (and are becoming)

learning to be at home—comfortable—in your own skin…self acceptance.

to have some self respect.

The modern phrase “gay pride” has this connotation to it.  Where individuals with a different sexual orientation have support and strength in learning how to accept themselves even when they are different from the societal norm.  “Gay Pride” is a rallying cry for the LGBT community to help individuals find solidarity and support in a culture that is often antagonistic towards anyone different from the norm!

So lets look at the term “humility.”

Psalm 25:9

He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way.

Psalm 34:2-6  

My soul makes its boast in the Lord;

let the humble hear and be glad.

Oh, magnify the Lord with me,

and let us exalt his name together!

I sought the Lord, and he answered me

and delivered me from all my fears.

Those who look to him are radiant,

and their faces shall never be ashamed.

This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him

and saved him out of all his troubles.

James 4:6-10

But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

How might we define humble, the attitude of humility?  A good example of that is the story Jesus told of a Pharisee and a tax collector praying.  You might recall it.  The Pharisee thanks God that he in not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, sinners!  Even like this tax collector!  This Pharisee was proud of how good and noble he was.  The tax collector on the other hand knew his sin and need for forgiveness.  Do you remember his prayer?  He didn’t even lift up his eyes toward heaven, he looked down, hit his chest and said God have mercy on me, a sinner!  Jesus states that the tax collector went home forgiven, not the Pharisee.  “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted (Luke 18).

Humility is an essential attitude of the heart, a posture of the soul that kneels and prostrates itself before God.

God grant unto us the gift of humility.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.