Pelham Road Baptist Church | Greenville, SC

Arrogance is not a Virtue

If you were asked to list the most distasteful traits a person could possess, what would be on the list? If you were asked to list the most destructive traits a person could hold, what would be on the list? If you were asked to list the most harmful qualities a nation could have, what would be on the list?

If you were asked to list the sin or sins which are most destructive to a person, group, or nation, what would be on the list?

I ran across an old Billy Graham column. He was responding to a question about pride and he wrote, “The Bible does warn us about the dangers of pride, by which it means an arrogant, haughty, self-centered attitude that looks down on others and feels no need of God.

This kind of pride is wrong in God’s eyes because it can make someone act as if he/she is the most important person in the world. That cuts us them from others; no one likes someone who’s constantly acting as if they’re better or more important than anyone else. A prideful attitude also cuts us off from God, because we think we can get along without Him. But the Bible warns, “The eyes of the arrogant will be humbled and human pride brought low” (Isaiah 2:11).

Most Holy books, and almost all holy teachers thru the ages warn us about the dangers of pride and the virtue of humility.

Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall (Proverbs 16:18).

Pride ends in a fall, while humility brings honor (Proverbs 29:23).

Scripture seems to champion humility at every turn. So let’s begin with this positive and desirable trait.

What makes humility so valued?

You, in the heat of an argument say something you should not say. As soon as it leaves your mouth you know in temperament or in content or in both you are wrong. You know quickly and act quickly to heal the brokenness. You announce, “listen that was wrong of me, please forgive me.” The likelihood is you are forgiven and the relationship suffers a speedbump but not an over the median into the on-coming traffic accident.

Let the people answer.Further this ability to recognize your mistakes, even sin, and make things right extends to God. The ability to seek forgiveness from God is a sign of humility. What would we think of a person who said they do not ask God for forgiveness? Would we consider this person humble?[i]

What are the positive values that result from us practicing humility?

What are the positive values that come from a nation or society that practices humility?

When the Bible says that pride goes before destruction, how does this happen?

I think best in stories and here are two I think show us why pride is to be avoided.

According to Greek myth, Daedalus and his son Icarus take flight on wax wings made by Daedalus. Icarus is given good guidance from his father but he thinks he knows better than his father. When Icarus ignores his father’s warning not to fly too high, the sun melts the wax, and Icarus falls into the water and drowns.

The fate of Icarus draws attention to pride, thinking more of your own ideas and self. Icarus would not accept reasonable limits. He went too far, flying beyond the bounds that had been set. As a result, he met with disaster. Scripture over and over says we should take counsel, the person who thinks he knows more than advisors will soon destroy himself.

Icarus forgot that his wings were only temporary ones, made of wax. The exhilaration of being able to fly went to his head, and he became over ambitious and full of pride in his ability, forgetting that it was only temporary and fragile.

In 1977, three years after Nixon’s resignation in disgrace from the US presidency, British Journalist David Frost conducted a series of interviews with Nixon. It consisted of 12 interviews in all. They were transformed into four programs. CBS broadcast the programs in May 1977.

In one key segment, Frost asked Nixon bluntly about the legality or illegality of his acts in office, and those of his key assistants in the White House. The transcript read as follows:

Richard Nixon: When you’re in office you gotta do a lot of things sometimes that are not always in the strictest sense of the law, legal, but you do them because they’re in the greater interest of the nation.

David Frost: Alright wait, wait just so I understand correctly, are you really saying that in certain situations the President can decide whether it’s in the best interest of the nation and then do something illegal?…

Richard Nixon: I’m saying that when the President does it, that means it’s “not’ illegal!

I read the better part of two of the interviews.  I’ll further admit I did not read every word, so I may have missed what I’m about to announce but I did not read the words “I’m sorry.” Or any of the possible substitutes.

When I put in the search engine on google the phrase, “Modern examples of Pride” the most popular results were Enron, Madoff, Nixon, and Aquino (I think this was the Philippian president).

No doubt destruction came to both Nixon and Icarus.

Pride is one of the seven deadly sins, we should reject ourselves and we should not accept in others, and I will add we need to be cautious about becoming a prideful nation.

National pride goeth before destruction as well. Humility is valued because instead of thinking we are right, we are willing to listen to new ideas, even if those ideas originate outside our brain or in this can outside our country.

This is from the Pew Forum research group.

One of the biggest cross-national tests is the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), which every three years measures reading ability, math and science literacy and other key skills among 15-year-olds in dozens of developed and developing countries. The most recent PISA results, from 2012, placed the U.S. an unimpressive 35th out of 64 countries in math and 27th in science. Among the 34 members of the

Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which sponsors the PISA initiative, the U.S. ranked 27th in math and 20th in science.

In math, we were behind Hong Kong and Taiwan but also behind Vietnam and Slovenia. The same was true for science.

Keep in mind two points. First, we test all of our 15-year-olds with this test. In places like Vietnam and others ranked above us, they have already pre-sorted their students and often time those more comfortable with manual labor or a trade skill have already been removed from the education system. So they are only testing their most capable students. Second, maybe we could learn something from some of these countries ranked above us. Pride keeps us thinking our way is the correct way, a little humility might lead to a better outcome for the student. If Finland has a better way to teach science, only a fool or a person full of pride would say—-no let’s do it our way—we’re number 35!

Pride reveals itself in many ways. There is nothing wrong, in fact it is noble to admit, I could have done better, I was wrong, you could have a better way.