Intro: All too often the religious are known more for their pride than their piety. The charge of self-righteousness is not always warranted. Many times it is used as a excuse by those who do not desire to submit to God, or His words. It is easy to malign those who are striving to do good and teach morality.
But many times this accusation is accurate. Religious people have a strong tendency to glory in reputation, size of the organization, good works, or knowledge of the Scripture. We become the center of our faith.
I. To those who trusted in themselves… Luke 18:9-14 – 9 Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men — extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ 13 And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” There are many ironies in this parable – by design.
• Although it would not be unusual to see a Pharisee praying in the temple (they loved to do it in front of others), the appearance of a tax-collector would have been an anomaly.
• Jesus pronounces justification on the tax-collector, instead of the Pharisee.
• A lesson against pride and presumption in the context of prayer – could one display arrogance while talking to God?
A. This Pharisee was a prime example of the religiously arrogant of Jesus’ day. He was a spiritual blue blood.He was right at home in the religious surroundings of the Temple. Although he was successful in gaining the applause of men, Jesus never commended the religiously proud.
1. Jesus’ lesson in this parable formed a constitutional truth of His kingdom, that set it apart from the institutions of men. “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted”.
2. Matthew 18:1-5 – 18 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, 3 and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me. Once again, Jesus surprises his disciples with His choice of role-models.
B. Pride is difficult to extinguish because it is difficult to see – in ourselves. Purging ourselves of any trace of pride is a matter of survival. (Prov. 16:18 – “pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall,”. This applies to saints and sinners a like.
1. The problem is that pride brings its own set of blinders! W can see arrogance in others just fine, but we carefully rationalize and excuse our own. God’s word is sharper than a two-edged sword, and can expose who we are from the inside out.
II. Religious Pride on Display – Few places identify the origins and the destruction of pride more clearly than Paul’s letters to the church in Corinth. Pride was the source of several deadly flaws that existed in this church. Can we see ourselves in this?
A. The Pride of Knowledge – Knowing God’s word ought to be the passionate prayer of every believer. Colossians 1:10 – that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. All those who would come to God must be taught of God. But knowledge can create pride. 1 Corinthians 8:1-2 – 8 Now concerning things offered to idols: We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies. 2 And if anyone thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know.
1. This is not to suggest that we can please God without knowing the truth – even the details – concerning what God requires. It is not arrogant of self-righteous to demand biblical authority for what we believe and practice. But it is possible to understand the truth and not be pleasing to God, because we hold that truth in a spirit of arrogance and smugness.
2. This problem may appear evident when Christians, who know the truth, speak to those who do not know the truth , or is in error. Their knowledge creates pride, and pride smothers out the compassion and love that is needed to effectively lead the unknowing to the truth. 2 Timothy 2:24-25 – 24 And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, 25 in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth,. Speaking the truth is imperative, but it must be harnessed by love or else pride will drive the cart. Ephesians 4:15 – 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head — Christ — What attitude governs your spiritual communication?
B. The Pride of Talent – How much do you do for the Lord? The church at Corinth was blessed with spiritual gifts, and there was plenty of “qualified” people to do God’s work. 1 Cor 1:4-7– I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus, 5 that you were enriched in everything by Him in all utterance and all knowledge, 6 even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you, 7 so that you come short in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ,
1. But arrogance can also emerge from our talents. Some in Corinth had concluded that some gifts were more important that others (speaking in other languages), and thus concluded that those who had these gifts were more important (or spiritual) than others. Arrogance about their roles and gifts threatened to unravel the church in Corinth. Paul addresses that in 1 Cor. 13- 14. He instructed them to pursue love more than spiritual gifts.
2. Notice how Paul exposes their conceit through a series of rhetorical questions in 1 Cor. 4:6-7 – I have figuratively transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes, that you may learn in us not to think beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up on behalf of one against the other. 7 For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?
3. This is an especially dangerous journey for preachers and elders. Those who serve in a public capacity and are praised by others as a result. It is easy to conclude that I am worth more to the church (and to God) than others. What would they do without me? Very often a person’s ability is their greatest liability because pride has spoiled it. We compare our skills to others in our group and think we are something special, or we sink into the darkness of envy because we don’t measure up.
a. Consider Paul’s self -assessment:1 Tim 1:12-16 – And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry, 13 although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. 14 And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. 15 This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. 16 However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life. – No religious pride here.
C. The Pride of Tolerance; Strangely, spiritual arrogance is also the father of permissiveness. It is very popular today for people to boast in their ability to tolerate sin. We take pride in our acceptance and inclusiveness. First we must recognize that Jesus was not so inclusive that He tolerated what was clearly revealed to be sinful. Jesus openly excluded sexual immorality, lying, covetousness, neglecting to care for your parents, divorce without cause, etc.
1. The church in Corinth allowed their arrogant tolerance to produce a leavening sin in the congregation. A couple in the church was sexually immoral, and the church was proud of their ability to tolerate it when they should have mourned over it 1 Corinthians 5:2 – 2 And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you.
2. False teaching often comes from the arrogant voice of tolerating sin 2 Peter 2:18-19 – 18 For when they speak great swelling words of emptiness, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through lewdness, the ones who have actually escaped from those who live in error. 19 While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage. The rebel shouts, “They say you can’t do this, and you can’t do that. I pronounce liberty!” “Don’t let anyone tell you what to do.” It sounds so appealing, but it shackles its hearer to the corruption of spiritual arrogance.
D. The Pride of Association: God created the local church in such a way that commitment to Him means commitment to His body, the church. Yet, when we divide up that local church into groups who arrogantly think they are better than others, we are infected with spiritual arrogance. This behavior was eating up the church in Corinth.
1. 1 Corinthians 1:11-12 – 11 For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe’s household, that there are contentions among you. 12 Now I say this, that each of you says, “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos,” or “I am of Cephas,” or “I am of Christ.”1 Corinthians 3:3-4 – for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? 4 For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not carnal? Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. 7 So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.
2. People of the world may divide up by age, interest, race, economics, and background, but not the people of God! The “we” versus “them” mentality feeds our pride and gives the world a distorted view of the gospel. The commitment to group over God is a sign of arrogance.
3. Even as I consider the association of Christians in a local church, I realize that my salvation is not defined by, or determined by, my association with a group of men, but rather by the work of Christ and my allegiance to Him.
III. What impact does pride have on God’s people? Consider Corinth:
A. Division. Spiritual arrogance among the Corinthians caused them to be “puffed up one against the other” (1 Cor. 4:6).
1. 1 Corinthians 1 shows how their spiritual arrogance nullified three central teachings of the gospel. After pointing out their divisions, “Some saying, “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos,” he goes on to ask three questions in verse 13, “Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” (1 Cor. 1:13). The church, which is the body of Christ…divided? Never. Forgetting Jesus was crucified for us? Never. Forgetting whose name we were baptized in? Never. But, when spiritual arrogance exists people are elevated over Jesus. As a result the blessings of the church, the cross, and baptism are nullified by pride!
B. Gossip, Envy And Jealousy – You find these in 1 Corinthians 3:3, “For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal.” There have always been Christians who love to get together in little groups, and cliques and talk about how terrible others are. The reason for that is because they feel so much above them. That’s why where there is pride you’ll find jealousy, because they wish they had what others had. You’ll find envy, a slow seething that they don’t have more power, more say. That will lead to a mouth of gossip, because pride has to let everyone else know how good they are compared to everyone else.
C. Slander & Intimidation. Those who didn’t like Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians soon began to spread lies about him. In 2 Corinthians, we find they are calling him weak and a poor preacher, with an insufficient message. This slander often escalates to intimidation. We remember how the Pharisees would “cast people out of the synagogue who confessed they believed in Jesus” (John 9:22, “His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had agreed already that if anyone confessed that He was Christ, he would be put out of the synagogue.”) Fleshly intimidation has no place among God’s people.
Conclusion:The correction of our spiritual arrogance comes from humility learned at the feet of Jesus. He taught that greatness is not based on talent, knowledge, or reputation, but in having the simple, trusting, obedient faith of a child. It is found in the humility that causes one to serve others before himself.