Love is Not Prideful

Title: Love is Not Prideful

Text: 1 Corinthians 13:4

Time: February 25th, 2007

Today we continue in the sermon series on love from 1 Corinthians 13; we come to the third contrasting characteristic in the Apostle Paul’s list – Love isn’t prideful. Normally, Paul lists a positive characteristic of love, but starting in verse four he begins mixing both positive and negative characteristics. Or in other words, Paul contrasts what love is with what love isn’t, what love does with what love doesn’t do. Today, we’ll again be looking at what love doesn’t do, that is, love isn’t prideful. With pride we come to the worst sin of all, the greatest sin of all sins, the sin of Satan, the first and worst of all sins. Some people think that sexual immorality is the worst kind of sin, but it really isn’t, not even close. Some consider theft or lying or hate as the worst sin, but again, these sins, as bad as they are, are not the worst. According to the Bible the worst sin is the sin of pride. Webster’s Dictionary defines pride as “inordinate self-esteem;” it defines proud as “having or displaying excessive self-esteem, exultant, showing or feeling superiority towards others;” it lists some synonyms: arrogant, haughty, insolent, overbearing, disdainful. Other synonyms might be: conceited, puffed up, over inflated ego, pompous, vain. Pride is basically a superior attitude toward others, a feeling of resentment, disdain or contempt towards others based on my own feelings of superiority, a despising and looking down upon others. I was thinking of a good example of this, one we might all know, and what came to mind was the movie Titanic and the people who were passengers on board – the so-called upper class passengers. If you remember the movie, the upper class people looked down upon the other passengers as low class. Everything on the ship was divided to keep the upper crust of society from having to associate with the lower class. There was definitely class pride being displayed all throughout the movie, especially by one of the main character’s mother, who always had her nose up literally and always talked down to anyone she thought wasn’t her equal in class. But the whole movie was really about the consequences of the sin of pride, because the whole theme of the ship Titanic was that it was unsinkable, or as one prideful man put it, “Even God himself couldn’t sink the Titanic.” In the end, the pride of the Titanic and all her proud upper class passengers came to an end, as the Bible promises pride will: “Pride cometh before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall,” says Proverbs. Now those characters in the movie Titanic were probably exaggerated in order to make a point, but pride, the sin of pride, cannot be over-exaggerated. It is bad, real bad. There’s no excuse for it, especially because the Bible warns against it again and again. So Paul reminds us again in 1 Corinthians 13:4 against pride. If you’ve got it, get rid of it. If you don’t have it, don’t ever get it. Love is not proud and anyone who seeks to be a loving person must never fall into the sin of pride. Let’s look at three things we should avoid with pride.

First, Love is not proud in attitude. 1 Corinthians 13:4, “Love is not prideful.” Pride starts first with an attitude not an act. Take for example the very first sin, the sin of Satan before the creation of man. We think of Adam and Eve committing the original sin, but the very first original sin was committed by the angel Lucifer long before the sin in the Garden of Eden. The classic description of Satan’s prideful fall comes in Ezekiel 28:12, 14-17, “You were the model of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. . . . You were anointed as a guardian cherub, for so I ordained you. You were on the holy mount of God; you walked among the fiery stones. You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness was found in you. Through your widespread trade you were filled with violence, and you sinned. So I drove you in disgrace from the mount of God, and I expelled you, O guardian cherub, from among the fiery stones. Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor. So I threw you to the earth; I made a spectacle of you before kings.” This was Satan’s fall – pride, inner arrogance and vanity. It wasn’t so much an outer act that led to the fall of Satan; it was an inner attitude. That’s what we have to watch out for, an inner attitude that can creep into our lives and lead us to pride of heart and mind. It can start with anything, anything over which you can take an attitude of superiority with, anything you can use to look down on others. It might be something you possess, it might be something you achieve, it might be something big or small, but whatever it is it can be used to plant the seed of pride in you. Now those upper class folk on the Titanic probably didn’t start thinking to themselves, “I think I’ll start acting haughty, proud, and vain today.” No. They probably started out comparing themselves with other people and found that they had a little more money than some, a little more property or possessions than others, and then took it further and began to think of themselves and people like them as a little better than others. They began to hold an attitude of superiority towards other people who didn’t have money. Pretty soon they looked down on almost everyone. That’s how pride starts and finishes. It starts with something that we can feel proud about ourselves for, and then it begins to take that attitude that we are better than other people. Now the really scary thing about proud is it’s mostly an attitude or an inner state, so it can be hidden within our hearts even if we don’t act proud. C.S. Lewis once said that the really proud people, the ones who really think they are better than everyone else, they don’t necessarily come across as proud because to show pride would be wrong or vain, so they work hard at keeping it to themselves so that they aren’t accused of being vain. That’s scary, that we can be proud yet not show it. We need to ask God to search our hearts and keep us from the sin of pride. We need to beg God that He keeps this sin far away from us.

Second, Love is not proud in speech. 1 Corinthians 13:4, “Love is not prideful.” Now if pride starts in the heart it usually spreads first to the way we talk. We talked about bragging and boasting last week, well that’s usually where pride comes out first. The sin of pride starts in the heart and in the mind, where we start thinking we are better or superior to others, and then it spreads first to the way we talk about ourselves. We see an example of this in the Bible with the ancient King Nebuchadnezzar, “As the king was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, he said, ‘Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?’ The words were still on his lips when a voice came from heaven, ‘This is what is decreed for you, King Nebuchadnezzar: Your royal authority has been taken from you. You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like cattle. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdom of men and gives them to anyone he wishes,’” Daniel 4:29-32. First, the king had pride in his heart, then he spoke it. Now while a prideful person can hide his or her pride, usually it comes out in the way they talk about themselves. Prideful people love to talk about themselves because it makes them feel superior. Prideful people love to boast and brag about themselves in front of others. Now I talked about boasting and bragging last week, and how as Christians we need to go to God in prayer to get encouragement and self-esteem, not try to build ourselves up in front of others in order to feel important about ourselves. Let’s ask ourselves this question: do we spend time trying to make ourselves look better in front of others by boasting or bragging about something we have or something we’ve done that’s noteworthy? Let’s get rid of all that prideful speech in our lives. Now the question remains, isn’t it ok to have self-esteem? Isn’t it ok to feel confident about ourselves? Shouldn’t we have some self-pride or pride in ourselves? Yes, but we shouldn’t let a healthy confidence or a healthy self-esteem turn into an attitude of superiority. The Bible teaches us: “Don’t think more highly of yourself than you ought.” It doesn’t teach, “Don’t think anything of yourself; put yourself down; criticize yourself so that you have no confidence.” No. God wants us to have a balanced and healthy outlook about ourselves; not a proud view of ourselves — nor an excessively low view of ourselves either. That’s why we have to continually go to God in prayer and continually learn from the Bible and church about what is a proper attitude to have towards others and ourselves. We need God’s power operating in our lives in order to get it right. We need God’s help in order to love others properly as well as love ourselves properly. Jesus taught us to “love our neighbor as we love ourselves.” We can’t do that if we are talking down to them in pride.

Third, Love is not proud in behavior. 1 Corinthians 13:4, “Love is not prideful.” Here’s how some of the different Bibles translate this passage: King James Bible, “is not puffed up,” RSV, “isn’t arrogant,” JB, “is never conceited,” Phillips Version, “doesn’t cherish inflated ideas of its own importance.” You get the picture. Pride starts as a heart attitude, spreads most easily to our speech, and then ultimately ends up in our actions. We start acting proud. The upper class passengers on the Titanic acted proud. I remember the most prideful acting one, again, the mother of the girl who starred in the movie, was told to after the crash that passengers would be put aboard life boats and this woman asked, “Will we be seated by class?” The boat is going down, people are drowning and she’s asking if the lifeboats will seat people by their social class! How arrogant! How stuffed full of pride this woman acted. She thought she was so much better than the other passengers that she couldn’t, she wouldn’t, sit with them even in the rescue boat! That is so stupid, but that’s where pride leads people. I think we all face the temptation of pride in our life at certain times. I’ve found that I’m tempted most to pride after I’ve done something or acquired something important. It’s almost as if we are all just waiting for some excuse to exalt ourselves above others and we use almost any excuse to do it. I don’t like that about myself, I hope you don’t like pride when it rises up in you. Pride can come when you know something somebody else doesn’t, or get something somebody else doesn’t get. It can be something big or small, but all it takes for pride to surface is something to our advantage and us using that advantage to exalt ourselves over others. One of the best cures for a case of pride is to remember that we are but dust, “ashes to ashes, dust to dust.” This last Wednesday was the ancient church remembrance of Lent. This used to be widely recognized and observed, but today it isn’t. But Lent is a day out of the year when people are supposed to search their soul and confess their sins and repent of anything they’ve been holding on to that is sin. In traditional churches the people go forward, have prayer, and then are given a mark on their forehead made with ashes to remind them that they are but dust as a sign of humility. I try to attend some traditional church service every year to help me remember that I am but dust and that the only thing that makes me worth anything is God’s Spirit in me. I think if we keep in mind that we are but dust and to dust we will return, and that only by God’s grace are we anything now or in the future. Let’s spend our lives loving God and loving people and not trying to puff ourselves up with pride and bragging. Let’s confess and repent of our sins daily and recommit our lives to Jesus and put away any proud or vain thoughts that might pop into our heads. Love is not prideful.

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