Humility or Pride

Humility or Pride

By Patricia Knight

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When pride comes, then comes disgrace,
but with humility comes wisdom” (Proverbs 11:2).  

In Old Testament times, Naaman was the military commander of the Syrian army, a valiant soldier, highly respected by his associates and enemies alike. Although Naaman’s military career was soaring, he suffered from leprosy, a chronic infectious skin disease characterized by skin sores, pain, and disfigurement. Leprosy alienated victims by defining them as social and religious outcasts.

There were no treatments available for leprosy. Naaman knew he would only respond to a miracle. With his opulent chariots filled to the brim with gold, silver, and elegant clothing, Naaman thought his proud, commanding presence would impress the Israeli prophet and influence his healing with gifts and grandeur. But when Naaman’s entourage pulled up in front of Elisha’s modest dwelling, the prophet didn’t show Naaman the proper hospitality by greeting his visitor. To demonstrate to Naaman that it was God, not man, who healed miraculously, Elisha refused to appear to Naaman, instead sending instructions by his servant. “‘Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan {River} and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleaned’”(2 Kings 5:10)

The directions were repulsive to Naaman, especially the thought of dipping in the notoriously muddy Jordan River. Furious, Naaman stormed off toward home in a rage at the ludicrous directions. Naaman was a decorated commander in Syria. He had even gained some victories in warfare over Israel, so Naaman naturally expected royal treatment. Naaman’s attitude came through in a blaze of arrogance; of personal entitlement due to his military rank and wealth.

God hates pride, but promotes humility. Pride is defined as excessive self-esteem. Pride is the difference between what you are and what you think you are. —J. Vernon McGee

Man’s pride runs counter with God’s plan. Whenever the two attitudes meet, there is repulsion, similar to the rejection of two like magnetic poles. Pride is a conceited sense of one’s superiority. Naaman defined pride in its best form.

Naaman was beyond human help. There was no cure for leprosy, the dreaded skin disease that created outcasts of its victims and panic in fellow citizens. Only a miracle could save Naaman from shame and disfigurement. Because Naaman was too proud to accept such a simple, but humbling method of healing, he stomped off and headed home.

God was requiring that Naaman reset his priorities. Even though Naaman was desperate for healing, he hadn’t reached the point of complete submission to God and his will. Until Naaman could yield totally to Jesus’ value system, he tightly held onto his self-assuredness. Naaman was willing to conform to Jesus’ ways as long as he could remain in control of the circumstances.

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After Naaman’s traveling servants held a motivational discussion with their master, Naaman hesitantly relinquished his pride. Once he followed instructions to dip seven times in the Jordan River, Naaman was healed. Radiant and with pure skin once again, Naaman stood before Elisha and said, “‘Now I know there is no god in all the world except in Israel’” (2 Kings 5:15).

Humility isn’t a natural response; it seems we must first assume arrogance. Then when pride proves useless and embarrassing, we recall the examples and teachings of Jesus. No one personifies humility more than our Savior. He was born in humble circumstances, lived an unpretentious life, and died on a shameful cross (but arose in glory) as the supreme example of humility.

“God hates pride but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6). Humility magnifies modesty and meekness, all personality traits of our heavenly Father. Humility is freedom from arrogance or pride; the knowledge that all we have and all we are is a gift from God. By ourselves we are inadequate, without dignity and value. There is never cause to boast of our own accomplishments. Yet because we are created in Christ’s image, we have infinite worth and dignity. True humility does not produce pride but gratitude to the God, who is both our Creator and Redeemer. Our righteousness and existence depend upon Him.

As Naaman learned, no human effort can contribute to our salvation; it is the gift of God through His grace and mercy. “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy (Titus 3:4-5). There is no provision for pride in that formula!

Humility is an important component of discipleship. We must humble our will in submission to Jesus, then deny self—realign our desires and impulses to totally trust Jesus’ values.  We are to love, but avoid judging others; to think of others more highly than ourselves, and to realize each of us has much more growth and knowledge to acquire in our Christian walk. We cannot accomplish humility by ourselves, but only in Christ, as we demonstrate lowliness of mind and heart, inspired by the love and grace with which Jesus lavishes us.

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Amazing things occur when we humble our hearts before our merciful Lord. “He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). And, that provides us with the instruction for a proper relationship with our Lord.

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