“Before destruction the heart of man is haughty, and before honour is humility” (Proverbs 18:12).
As I read this Proverb this morning, it struck me that there are many ways that haughtiness, pride, can bring destruction.
- Proud behaviour makes enemies, and when enemies set out to destroy us, they can do a lot of damage.
- Pride breaks down our relationships with family and friends. These are the ones who would have been ready to help in time of need — but if pride has damaged our relationships, they may not help. The result is that something that might have been a small problem becomes a destructive one.
- Arrogance keeps us from seeing dangers that can bring destruction. “It won’t happen to me!” says the proud fool. He can handle it! And so he is destroyed.
- Pride keeps us from handling dangers wisely. Even when we recognise the dangers, pride can cause us to show off in the way we approach them.
- A haughty heart hinders us from asking for wise counsel, which would help us in our day of need.
- Pride may keep us from asking for help in our time of need.
- Arrogance may cause us to demand help from those who have no obligation to give it, because we think we are so important that we should have it. As a result, those who may have been willing to help (if asked) may refuse when we proudly demand.
These are just some of the ways, on a human level, that pride brings destruction. It doesn’t need a Christian to see that pride, manifesting itself in these and other ways, can lead to devastating results. Anyone, believer or not, with a reasonable knowledge of human nature can see the consequences of such attitudes.
But the Scriptures tell us that the greatest problem with a “haughty heart” is that it comes between us and our God. James 4:10 tells us to humble ourselves “in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.” Pride tells us we don’t need God to lift us up.
A proud heart doesn’t need to pray, because it thinks it can handle things without the Lord. A proud heart rejects God’s standards, and so reaps the consequences, both in this life and for eternity, of breaking them. The arrogance of sin takes individuals and societies to the point where they effectively shake their fist in the face of God. Not only do they lose the privilege of calling on a God who loves them, with confidence in His able and wise help, they confirm themselves as His enemies who have no right to expect anything but His judgment.
As I thought about this Proverb this morning, I thought about a nation experiencing horrific flooding, repeated severe gales, many difficulties. And I thought it was tragic that a nation which could so use God’s help has rejected Him.
Rather than seek the face of the One who determines the weather, they look to the government, the politicians, for help. Rather than ask whether they are pleasing the Saviour who stilled the wind, they ask if the politicians are pleasing them. Pride has such a grip in this land that people readily accept the environmentalist propaganda that their own actions determine the weather.
The politicians may make many promises and borrow ever more money to help people in need, but they won’t be able to stop one drop of rain from falling from the sky, one blast of wind from tearing across the landscape. David Cameron and Alex Salmond, even working together with all the resources at their disposal, could never guarantee that the power will stay on when power lines are blown down, that water will always stay within the river banks, that trees won’t fall on railway lines and roads.
And yet, a nation still does not turn to God, but rather turns further away from Him. “Before destruction the heart of man is haughty….” One wonders if more calamities are coming on the nation, but one thing is certain — we live in a nation that cannot expect God’s assistance when troubles do come.
Britain has decided to “go it alone” and the Lord of Creation is not in their master plan. The politicians have made themselves clear on this point for years, and the people of the nation elect them anyway. That is a great tragedy.
But there is another tragedy, not a national one, but a personal one. Even many Christians become haughty. Wealth, ease, and proximity to the world has tempted us. We fill our minds with the world’s entertainment, the world’s “opinion-makers,” the politicians and the pundits, the celebrities and the script-writers, the “experts” and the correspondents, allowing them to tell us how we should think about things, letting them influence our attitudes in subtle (or sometimes not so subtle) ways.
Those influences invariably tend towards forgetting God, ignoring Him, not calling on Him — and even many Christians, too often, forget that they need our Lord. They’ve got enough money, the government provides a safety net, the employer provides a job, the police hold back the criminals, the local council even makes sure the rubbish goes away every week or two! Who needs the Lord? If something goes wrong, even for many believers, the first response is to think about what the government should do, rather than to actually pray.
If we’ve drifted into those attitudes, we have a haughty heart, one that has forgotten its absolute need to humble itself under the mighty hand of God. Yet, destruction is all around us, crime, horrible weather, economic upheaval, threats of wars, disease, and ultimately sin, death, and hell. No human institution can prevent destruction — but the hand of God IS mighty for those who humble themselves.
“Before destruction the heart of man is haughty….” We do well to recognise it in our nation. We do even better to guard against it in our hearts.