My parents never finished high school but I still believe they were the smartest people I have ever known. They knew how to do almost everything. For instance my Mom could go to the kitchen and whip up a meal for twenty-five people consisting of fried chicken, mashed potatoes, homemade biscuits, and rhubarb pie in just about an hour’s time without ever using a recipe. She could bake bread and make her own yeast starter. She could make butter and cheese from cream and milk. She could balance her budget and have enough left over to put away for a rainy day. And my Dad, he could fix any car, truck, tractor, and baler with nothing more than an old pair of nylons and baling wire. My Dad could figure mathematically how much cement a person needed for building a home foundation or sidewalk. He built scales that were large enough to weigh a semi-truck filled with a heavy load. He could do math in his head faster than I could use a calculator. But as smart as I think they were, there is one piece of advice I have always relied upon that they cautioned me about many times. Never be ashamed of where you came from going up the ladder of success because you just might meet yourself coming down it when your pride makes you fall. Pride always comes before a fall, just like Proverbs states.
How much better to get wisdom than gold, to get insight rather than silver! The highway of the upright avoids evil; those who guard their ways preserve their lives. Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. Better to be lowly in spirit along with the oppressed than to share plunder with the proud. Whoever gives heed to instruction prospers, and blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord. Proverbs 16:16-20, (New International Version or NIV).
There are many examples of pride and failure as a result of pride in the Bible. One thing that we humans seem to have in common is how susceptible we are to being full of pride. One would think that the wiser a person is the less likely he would be to fall under the sin of pride, but sadly that is not the case. One example of a wise King is King David who was well-known as a man after the heart of God (Acts 13:22). Even though he was a great King he also did some major big time sinning. This always surprises me when I read about some of David’s actions that harmed others as a result of his sin because he sought after God nearly all the time. And yet we are told of the Prophet Nathan’s confrontation of King David and hear the most unthinkable of sins that were committed by the King.
The Lord sent Nathan to David. When he came to him, he said, “There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him. “Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.”
David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this must die! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.” Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you all Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more. Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.’
“This is what the Lord says: ‘Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity on you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will sleep with your wives in broad daylight. You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.’ ” Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” Nathan replied, “The Lord has taken away your sin. You are not going to die. But because by doing this you have shown utter contempt fora the Lord, the son born to you will die.” 2 Samuel 12:1-14, (NIV).
How could King David who was so wise and so honoring of God and sought after God in so many ways in his life have done such a horrible thing as adultery and murder? Then to think that he got away with it, oh the rationalization he did of his sins. Yet God saw it all and told Nathan the Prophet to go and confront the King. Wow! The bubble of pride that surrounded the heart of David was burst and his sins were revealed. The shame of it all, but thankfully David repented and eventually was restored to God. From the adultery and murder committed by King David to have Bathsheba as his wife came the death of the child conceived from the adulterous affair. But another son was born to them, one that was to be the wisest man on earth.
King Solomon was well-known for his wisdom and wealth (1 Kings 3) and yet he also did some major big time sinning (1 Kings 11). Do you suppose that Solomon had learned to be filled with pride from his parents? Or was it the dysfunctional relationships within the palace walls that contributed to Solomon’s pride? We know that children learn early in life the patterns of how to behave from their parents. Children are sponges when it comes to watching the adults in their life and they often act like those adults when they are grown. I don’t know. If I were to hazard a guess I would say that King Solomon was a humble and thoughtful person when first made King to reign after his father David. I get this from his asking God for wisdom to rule his people well. But over time and throughout his life King Solomon, the wisest man on earth, the author of my favorite book in the Bible, Proverbs, the man who could teach what he could not do himself fell away from God because of his pride. When you read King Solomon’s writings in Ecclesiastes you hear the emptiness of his knowledge. For instance he begins the book with:
The words of the Teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem: “Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” Ecclesiastes 1:1-2, (NIV).
He then goes on to describe how people work day in and day out year after year generation after generation and for what purpose other than to continue from birth until death. But by the end of the book Solomon has made a major conclusion about his life and the lives of those he has watched year in and year out.
Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil. Ecclesiastes 12:13-14, (NIV).
So what are we to make of all this? Are we to think that only the wise fall into the sin of pride? No, not at all. We are all vulnerable to the sin of pride and we must guard our hearts and minds from pride because it can destroy lives. It is just like my parents taught me; we all must fight the sin of pride. We all are susceptible to this deadly sin. But when we burn all of our bridges as we think we have accomplished something worthy of others to notice and we begin to puff ourselves up as we climb higher and higher on the ladder of pride, watch out! The fall is deadly and we just might need the friendships we abandoned because the peers on the pride scale won’t know us any longer, but the humble will most likely be there for us.