Volume 13, Issue 1: Doctrine 101
Proud in Heart
The Bible provides us with an abundance of examples of man's foolish pride. One of those examples is Manasseh, the son of Hezekiah, who reigned over Judah after his father died. Manasseh began to reign when he was 12 years old (2 Kgs. 21:1), and Scripture tells us he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, practicing worse abominations than the heathen nations who dwelled in the land of Canaan before the Hebrew people (2 Kgs. 21:9).
In what way was Manasseh arrogant? Consider the following abbreviated list of some of his many shameful accomplishments: (1) he built up the high places which Hezekiah his father had destroyed; (2) he reared up altars for Baal; (3) he worshiped all the host of heaven, and served them; (4) he built altars for all the host of heaven in the house of the LORD; (5) he made his son pass through the fire; (6) he practiced sorcery; and (7) he set a graven image he had made in the house of the Lord (2 Kgs. 21:3-7).
Now someone may wonder, "How is this arrogant? He just seems wicked. Maybe he was a really humble person who was just misguided." Well, for the sake of argument, let's say Manasseh was a soft-spoken, sincere, personable fellow, with a great sense of humor, but seriously misdirected in his beliefs (even though the text only allows us to draw the last conclusion). Would such a characterization still mean Manasseh was prideful? Emphatically, yes!
The Bible tells us, "The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts" (Ps. 10:4). The issue, then, is not how a man comes across (soft-spoken, gracious, sincere), but rather, the condition of his heart toward God. Manasseh may have had the outward personal characteristics that would have made him a great Santa at Macey's, but if he didn't seek after the God of the Bible, he was self-exalted in his own arrogant and boastful pride. Pride seeks its own glory from men, not the glory of God. In the words of that sea-going bastion of worldly wisdom Popeye, "I yam what I yam!" Pride foolishly looks to man as the center of all things.
Scripture also tells us, "Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall" (Prov. 16:18). God hates the pride of men, and He also hates those men who possess it: "The foolish shall not stand in thy sight: thou hatest all workers of iniquity" (Ps 5:5). Those workers of iniquity are the same prideful men who reject God: "The fool hath said in his heart,'There is no God.'...Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge?" (Ps. 14:1,4). And also, "Every one that is proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD. . . . he shall not be unpunished" (Prov 16:5).
As for those who are humble in heart before God, God has promised to bless them. "Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth" (Matt. 5:5). God has promised to remove the prideful from power and to establish the meek as the inhabitants and regents of earth. He will do this throughout the course of many generations and by the faithful and fruitful proclamation of the gospel (Gal. 3:8).
However, the human heart is deceitful and desperately wicked, even among those whom Christ has saved. The humble for whom Christ died are subject to the sin of worldly pride, and thus may thwart the blessing of God. John wrote to warn us against this temptation, "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For 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" (1 John 2:15-16). Peter also warns believers of God's condemnation against being prideful, "Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble" (1 Pet. 5:5).
"How," some may ask, "do Christians act pridefully?" One of the most prevalent and pernicious ways is when men believe they had a part in their own salvation. In this they are exercising the same godless arrogance as do unbelievers. God would have all of the glory for His works (Isa. 42:8). Yet when Christians willfully assert that they were saved because of something they did, they rob God of His just glory and lay credit at their own feet. This is being proud in heart, which is rank arrogance against the very God who saved them.
But this is not the only form of arrogance among believers. Among those Christians who recognize their salvation as entirely a work of God's grace and through no effort of their own, there are some who would exalt themselves as being "truly" conformed to biblical faith while condemning those whom they consider to be "barely" conformed. This is spiritual pride and equally deserving of God's condemnation.Greater condemnation awaits those who know better (Jas. 3:1).
Our example in all of these things is Christ Jesus, "who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross" (Phil 2:6-7). Christ humbled Himself, dying to save sinners. As sinners saved by Him alone, we should humbly acknowledge this truth and give Him all of the glory. We should also recognize, as did Paul, that we have not already attained glory (Phil 3:12), and as such, are in no position to look condescendingly on our brothers in Christ. Otherwise, God will abase us as He did Manasseh.