In the book The 19th Hole Golf immortal Arnold Palmer recalls a lesson about overconfidence:
It was the final hole of the 1961 Masters tournament, and I had a one-stroke lead and had just hit a very satisfying tee shot. I felt I was in pretty good shape. As I approached my ball, I saw an old friend standing at the edge of the gallery. He motioned me over, stuck out his hand and said, “Congratulations.”
The lesson Palmer learned that day was the lesson of pride. When he shook that hand he became arrogant. And once the pride had seeped in it poisoned his concentration and made him lose the trophy that he so diligently sought.
All of us must learn that lesson too. All of us must come to understand that pride is a poison that is more lethal than any snake bite or anything one might receive by way of a needle’s injection.
Our proverb for this morning certainly makes that clear. Our proverb makes it clear that pride is a fatal toxin. For once it seeps into your system it has the ability to poison both your relationships and your mind.
Our proverb starts out by talking about how pride poisons our relationships.
I. Pride poisons your relationships
It says, “by insolence (i.e. by pride) comes nothing but strife.”
In other words, it is saying that pride is an irritant. It is, by its nature, an aggravator. It takes what could otherwise be a peaceful and enjoyable relationship and frustrates it.
You see, the thing about pride is that it is focused only one the self and one’s preeminence. And if the only thing that matters in the world is you, then you will become an annoyance to everyone else in the world.
When I was young we used to play a game called, “King of the Mountain.” And that was one of the most contentious games I ever played. Even more than football. You may know what I’m talking about already. In King of the Mountain, everyone starts out at the bottom of a hill or snow pile. When you say go, everyone scrambles to the top of a hill. The one who gets there first tries to push everyone else down so he can be king of the mountain. So there is constant friction. One person comes from one direction and you have to push him down. Someone else comes from a different direction, and you have to push him down (or else be knocked off).
That is what this proverb is talking about. If you are full of pride, then you are going to want to be king of the mountain. So you are going to try to push everyone else down. And there is going to be constant fighting going on because you have to stay at the top. You have to look good. You cannot bear to be the one who is not the winner of the argument, the victor or the one to whom everyone else looks up.
You might remember that this was one of the first lessons of history. Pride poisoned some of the most glorious relationships that ever existed: The relationships that existed among the angels in heaven.
Think about Satan. What was his sin? It was pride! He was the most beautiful of all the angels. He was also the highest ranking angel. The only one above him was God himself. But then he became proud. He wanted to be the “King of Heaven.” He wanted pre-eminence over God and did not want to be subject to Him. And his pride caused nothing but strife. He bucked against God and God bucked back. As a result heaven was divided. Satan was cast down from heaven and so were a third of the angels who had allied themselves with Satan.
That same episode occurs here on earth among us, wherever pride manifests itself. Wherever you find pride, you are going to find people butting heads.
That’s true in marriages isn’t it? Why do married couples bicker so much? Why is the divorce rate in our nation so high? It is because of pride. Men are too proud to say to their wives, “You know, honey. I did was wrong, will you forgive me?” Women are not humble enough to pray for their husbands! The poison of those relationships is pride.
The same is true in the church. The Corinthian church is one example of this. There were a lot of things wrong in the Corinthian church, weren’t there? But what was their real problem? What was the root of all their woes? It was pride! Their fundamental issue was their arrogance.
You could look at almost every issue in that church and attribute it to pride. There was strife over who to follow (Paul or Apolos). There was strife over the gift of tongues. There was strife regarding the Lord’s Table. There was strife over what to eat and where to eat. Why? Because they were full of pride! They were only concerned about themselves—how they looked, about how they felt—and that’s pride!
That’s why Paul says in the famous Love chapter, “Love is not arrogant. It does not boast. It is not rude. It does not insist on its own way.” Pride cannot bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, or endure all things. Pride cannot be patient or kind because it is the incubator of anger, hate and division.
All those things Paul talked about lead to peaceable relationships. Love considers others first and seeks to promote other’s welfare. Love produces a harmonious atmosphere—like that of heaven.
Pride cannot do that. There cannot be peace where there is pride. That’s because pride poisons relationships. It pits people against one another. It creates a hellish environment where there is constant friction and arguing.
You know why that is? Because there can only be one God. Really, that’s the poison of pride. You are trying to become like God. This is why homes are broken and churches are destroyed. Because people have not humbled themselves before God. And since that relationship is distorted, all other relationships are going to be broken as well.
When God is at the center of your life, the God who is Love, will help you to be loving. But when you are at the center of your life, you will be all that matters in life. As a result you will not be able to admit that your wrong, or be willing to be thought of as wrong. You will not be willing to be misunderstood or let themselves be wronged. That’s because a prideful person has to be king of the mountain and he has to beat every one else into submission!
I want you all to be aware of pride. Do not think of yourselves more highly than you ought. Otherwise you are going to be riddled with strife. Pride produces rivalries in relationships.
But don’t think it stops there. Pride poisons more than just your relationships. It also poisons your mind.
II. Pride poisons your mind
The second half of our proverb says, “With the well-advised there is wisdom.” Do you hear that? Do you hear how the prideful person is poisoned?
This is saying that someone who is humble is going to be willing to listen to other people. A humble person knows that he does not know it all. And he knows that God speaks through various instruments. Ministers, parents, friends, fellow believers and the Bible. These are all God’s mouth-pieces. And the wise man considers these to be resources of knowledge and he is willing to weigh what they have to say. As a result his knowledge is ever expanding. He is growing ins wisdom. His mind is increasing with knowledge and understanding.
But that’s not happening with a proud man. A proud person won’t listen to others. A proud man is a close minded man. He won’t listen to anyone. He already thinks he knows it all. He doesn’t think he needs people to give him any advice because he is the expert.
So what happens? His pride poisons his mind! Since he is so proud, he will not receive instruction. He ends up being none the wiser. His mind isn’t going grow. His understanding isn’t going to expand. If anything, it degenerates even further than it is. So he goes on acting like a fool.
It is interesting how Paul advises Titus regarding such people. Turn over to Titus 3. In Titus 3:10 Paul gives Titus some advice on how to administer church discipline. He says, “As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him.”
Do you see the pride in these people? If a person stirs up division in the church—isn’t that the initial sign of pride. That’s exactly what we just talked about. They are poisoning the relationships in the church. So Paul says, warn him once. Warn him twice. If he doesn’t listen to you, have nothing to do with him. In other words, excommunicate him. If he is so arrogant that he will not listen to your advice—and if he is so haughty that he will not submit to your authority—then cast him out of the church.
Paul goes on to say that such a person is “warped.” Have you ever seen a piece of wood that is warped? That means it is twisted or bent really funny and won’t lay straight.
That’s what a person who is prideful is like. He is twisted inside. His mind is perverted so badly that he cannot think straight.
And that is exactly what this proverb is getting at. A proud person doesn’t think right and will not be willing to have others tell him how to think. His mind has been poisoned with pride. Who knows what else might result if that happens?
Former President Richard Nixon was known as someone who typically gave and took a lot of advice. In his presidential campaign against John F. Kennedy however, he paid the price for not listening to the wise counsel of Dwight D. Eisenhower. Otto Friedrich in Time magazine wrote:
Eisenhower and others warned Nixon not to accept Kennedy’s challenge to a televised debate—Nixon was Vice President after all, and far better known that the junior Senator from Massachusetts—but Nixon took pride in his long experience as a debater. He also ignored advice to rest up before the debate and went on campaigning strenuously until the last minute. So, what a record 80 million Americans saw on their TV screens was a devastating contrast. Kennedy looked fresh, tanned and vibrant. Nixon looked unshaven, baggy-eyed, and surly.
Kennedy went on to win the election by a very slim margin. Most analyst say that if it had not been for the televised debate, Nixon would have won. If he only would have listened to those who had tried to counsel him he would have won. But it would not be so, because his mind had been poisoned by pride.
Young people, I want you to realize something. If you ever come to the point where you tell someone, “Get off my case” that can be a dangerous thing. Your mom or dad can nag. That might be true. But when someone comes up to you and has the courage to say, “Hey, I’ve seen that you… and I don’t think you should be doing that.” You can either hear what they have to say, or you can tell them to get lost. If you choose the latter, you may just have drunk the juice. You need to be aware that the poison of pride might already be in your veins. Your mind already may be affected with that devilish serum of arrogance. And you may well be on your way to reaping the effects of your pride.
Martin Luther once said that that the pope he most feared was not the one in Rome. It was the pope in his own heart.
Luther recognized that poison of pride resided within him. Popery is nothing other than a prideful self exaltation to the place of Christ. And none of us are immune to it.
All of us, of course, need to be on the lookout for this venomous vice. You have to remember that Satan is the Great Snake, and he would like nothing more than to sink his teeth into any one of us. He, of all people in the world, knows the devastating effects of pride. And he would like nothing more than to have each one of us become just as puffed up as he is. He would like nothing more than to have our minds become numbed by our own selfish conceit. He loves it when our heads swell with pride. Because when that happens our ears close and the word of God is silenced. And he loves having us pitted against one another. Because if he can drive us further away from each other, he can drive us further away from God.
So beware of the poison of pride.
Kindled Fire is dedicated
to the preaching and teaching ministry of
Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.