The Root of Pride

Message:  In chapter 4 James is addressing the fighting and wars going on within the church. According to the footnotes in my bible there was jealousy, conflict and division and there were factions within the church. As hard as it is to believe, some had even murdered. James points to the root of it all as pride. Pride elevates our own status and it also is what gives us the audacity to believe we deserve certain things or places of power or authority. I find it interesting that hidden within all of this description we find a very well-known scripture on the back end of verse 2 “you do not have because you do not ask.” We usually put this scripture in the context that we should pray for the things we want but verse 3 continues “you ask but don’t receive because you ask with wrong motives so that you may spend it on your evil desires.” If we keep this all of this in the proper context, we can see that James is really dealing with the root problem that pride causes us to desire things improperly. It might be lustful desires, material desires and it might be power or authority. It might be all of those things depending upon how deeply we are caught up in pride. Pride is selfish and is self-absorbed. It tells us that we are smarter or more deserving. Our pride also devalues other people and blinds us from seeing the gifts and strengths of other people around us. Pride causes us to make selfish decisions that harm ourselves and others, and it minimizes the negative impact those decisions have on others. Verses 4 and 5 take things to another level when he calls the church “adulteresses” because pride and self-centeredness is in direct opposition to God and is an attribute of the world. He tells them that their friendship with the world’s ways is hostility toward God and makes us an enemy of God. As I was writing this I visualized a puffer fish. It literally puffs itself up when it feels threatened. Most animals do this in some way also by trying to appear bigger in response to fear. We laugh when we see something scare our little kitten and his tail puffs out. It’s funny to us because he isn’t any bigger with his tail puffed out and we can clearly see this is a fear response. We respond to fear and threats in the same ways but we usually don’t recognize this within our own behavior. So what is the antidote for this? Verse 7 says “submit to God”. If pride is a submission to ourselves and our own desires, then humility is submission to God and his desires. Verse 7 has another familiar verse tacked onto the back end of it “resist the devil and he will flee from you.” We often hear that half of the scripture quoted alone but if we read the whole thing in context we see that resisting the devil comes by submitting to God. When we submit to God we are humbled and the devil flees. This sounds so opposite of our natural instinct to rise up and stand our ground. If we rise up and try to stand our own ground our pride will try to fight, and the devil is happy to oblige. If we humble ourselves and submit to God the devil recognizes God’s authority and leaves. This is not passive behavior. Humility is a powerful force. It’s not insecure so it doesn’t need to prove itself or puff itself up. It stands in firm submission to God against all opposition and against all of the desires and insecurities of the flesh.  This is a challenge for all of us every day. As we become more and more submitted to God, humility becomes our strength. We will never stop the battle within ourselves entirely, we only keep it at bay by being intentional about it and learn to recognize when we allow our insecurities to puff us up. My challenge to myself is to pay attention to that internal struggle when it rises up in me so that I can submit it to God before it manifests itself outwardly in my attitude and behavior.

Leave a Reply