Humility kills pride. So “humble yourself before the Lord,” as James writes (Jas 4:10). Kill your pride before it kills the things you love. Subdue it before it gets you into the kind of trouble that may even kill you. Conquer your pride before it defeats you. It’s that simple, but we all know it’s not that easy.
We struggle against our natural impulses. We love ourselves too much and our neighbor too little. We pursue pleasure and are addicted to feelings. We are rarely calm or at peace. We choose not to commit ourselves to integrity, dignity, hard work, self-denial, contentment, or kindness. We unnecessarily complicate life. We welcome praise and turn away humility.
However, we can survive the crucible of pride. The gauntlet of vanity and envy is navigable. How? Jesus guides and leads us. He walks us through the shadow of the valley of death, with himself as our Shepherd. But we wrestle with him at the same time that we listen to his voice. We struggle and fight against him to preserve our pride at the same time that he strengthens us to fight against our pride with him.
Pride is the biggest menace to a Christian because, as Paul writes, it comes right before we fall into unbelief and selfishness.
That’s the whole point. At the same time that we’re being led away from the fight, we are also the person in the arena. We’re washed clean in the blood of the Lamb and the one covered in dust and sweat. That’s who we are as Christians: shepherded and rebellious, struggling and surrendering, proud, and humbled at the same time.
So we embrace being that person and repent of being that person. We embrace Jesus’ humbling of us and repent of our rebellion against it. Pride is the biggest menace to a Christian because, as Paul writes, it comes right before we fall into unbelief and selfishness. Pride can destroy us. It takes away our ability to focus on Jesus and his gifts for us, including Jesus outside of ourselves and Jesus in our neighbor, who works for our good.
What is good for us is when we’re humbled; when we’re stripped of envy and vanity. We can have a stadium full of fans, but if our family hates us, how great, how successful are we? How long is our happiness likely to last? How can we do or say anything that matters to other people if the only thing that matters to us is ourselves?
When we’re forced to stop loving ourselves so much, forced to put other people first, and see our pride for the menace and enemy that it is, then we’ll see that being great isn’t so great after all. In fact, it’s the furthest thing from what’s truly great, the furthest thing away from Jesus, that we can go.
Where Jesus leads us, he seizes the opportunity to humble us.
Where Jesus guides us and where he wants us to be, our pride will be killed. He will lead us to his gifts in words, water, bread, and wine. He will shepherd us to self-sacrifice and service to our neighbor. He will introduce us to the broom, so to speak. We will sweep up for our neighbor and sweep up after our neighbor. And he will teach us that there’s nothing shameful about sweeping. It’s just another opportunity to be humbled. But, if that’s not agreeable to us, then think about what our rebellion against his work for us gets us: disease, disablement, loss, and all sorts of afflictions.
Where Jesus leads us, he seizes the opportunity to humble us. All the people we know, any of the people we meet, he will work in and through them to humble us. So “humble yourself before the Lord.” Welcome him in when he comes to kill pride.
It may seem harsh, and his way of humbling us doesn’t feel good, but it’s the only way to conquer our pride. Jesus walks us through the shadow of the valley of death, with himself as our Shepherd: forgiven, humbled, and welcomed into life eternal.