Haughtiness (arrogance)



Haughtiness is another thing of which we, as believers, must beware for our good and in order to shine as lights in this dark world. In other words, we must see that we do not set our mind on sumptuous things.

The Scripture says that the pride of life is not of the Father but is of the world (1 John 2:16); and those who belong to this world show this pride in many ways, one of them is by buying costly and sumptuous things which draw the attention of people for their outward beauty. For instance, many people buy clothes which are very expensive in order to appear greater and more important than other people. Many buy high-powered cars or special models in order to appear very important people in the sight of the other people and to draw the attention of people when they travel by car. Many buy country seats with swimming-pool or sumptuous apartments (and sometimes they even run into many debts) just because they want to be noted, they want people to say that they live like the lords. There are indeed many people who act in this way, and all of them refuse to set their mind on humble things.

But the Scripture is against haughtiness, for Wisdom says: “The Lord detests all the proud of heart. Be sure of this; they will not go unpunished” (Proverbs 16:5 - NIV), and again: “A haughty look, a proud heart, and the plowing of the wicked are sin” (Proverbs 21:4 – NKJV), because God wants us to be humble, as it is written: “Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble” (Romans 12:16 - NKJV), and again: “Be … humble” (1 Peter 3:8 – NIV). What does it mean to be humble? It means that, concerning the material things we need, we must not buy or seek the most expensive things or those things which would certainly make us feel more important and higher than the other people and would induce other people to pay us a lot of compliments or to envy us. In other words, when we intend to buy something we need we should wonder whether it is a humble thing or not, whether it is something that will pass unnoticed because it is modest or something that will draw people’s attention and induce them to pay us some compliments for its sumptuousness and will cause many to envy us for it.

Now, in the Scripture we find an example of humility that is perfect, and that is the example of Jesus Christ. He was the King of Israel and the King of Jerusalem as well, yet on earth He did not live like the kings of this world, that is, wearing splendid clothes and living in luxury in a royal palace, and riding powerful horses or commanding His servants to carry Him on a royal litter. Let me dwell upon a circumstance of His life, that is, His entry into Jerusalem, in order to show you what it means to be humble and not to set one’s mind on high things. Here is what Matthew wrote about this incident: “And when they drew nigh unto Jerusalem, and were come to Bethphage, unto the mount of Olives, then sent Jesus two disciples, Saying unto them, Go into the village over against you, and straightway ye shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her: loose them, and bring them unto me. And if any man say ought unto you, ye shall say, The Lord hath need of them; and straightway he will send them. All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass. And the disciples went, and did as Jesus commanded them, And brought the ass, and the colt, and put on them their clothes, and they set him thereon. And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees, and strawed them in the way. And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest” (Matthew 21:1-9). As you can see, the King of Jerusalem entered Jerusalem sitting on a donkey and not on a powerful horse or on a royal litter; is this not a great example of humility left by Him who said: “Learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart” (Matthew 11:29 – NIV)?

Indeed, all the earthly life of the Lord Jesus Christ was marked by humility, from His birth in Bethlehem to His death in Jerusalem. But how many among the people of God have learnt or want to learn to be humble like Jesus? According to my personal experience, I must say that only a few believers want to be humble like Jesus; all the others walk according to the pride of life and when you see them they look like people of this dark world rather than people who have turned from the worldly lusts to Christ. It is sufficient to stand outside a place of worship about the opening time of the worship service or after the service has been closed in order to see a line of high-powered cars which have been polished beyond measure. It is sufficient to stand at the entry of the places of worship in order to see a real fashion parade. And in addition to this, you should go to the homes of these believers because it is there that you can see the rest of their haughtiness!

Be sure of this: the people of the world do not glorify God for the conduct of these believers, and in fact many unbelievers, who are offended, point out (and I must admit, they point out rightly) that they see much haughtiness in many who claim to be followers of Jesus. What can we answer these people when they make such remarks about these believers? They don’t know many things about Jesus, but they know that He was poor and humble, that’s why they are offended when they see some Christians living in unbridled luxury and setting their mind on the high things.

Those who are haughty show their haughtiness not only by seeking material things that can draw the attention of other people and cause them to be envied, but also in the following ways. For instance, when they are invited by someone to a wedding feast or when they go to the place of worship they choose the best places in order to be noticed. They say that they are great, and because of their studies they despise those who are not educated like them. They want to hold an office in the church at all costs and are ready to resort to cunning, fraud and vainglory to hold that office. They refuse to submit to those who have been appointed by God to shepherd the flock of God, and also to other brothers (as it is written that we must submit “to one another in the fear of God” Ephesians 5:21 - NKJV). And besides this, they boast about tomorrow (James 4:16), and they speak evil of dignitaries (2 Peter 2:10), and they despise wisdom and instruction (Proverbs 1:7). We can describe the attitude of the haughty in this way: somehow they want to draw people’s attention and exalt themselves.

According to the Word of God, they will be humbled by God, as it is written: “And whoever exalts himself will be humbled ….” (Matthew 23:12 - NKJV), and also: “God resists the proud” (1 Peter 5:5 – NKJV). The best thing to do is to humble oneself before the brethren (as well as before the unbelievers) as well as in the sight of God in order to receive grace from Him, because God “gives grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5 – NKJV) and exalts them in due time (1 Peter 5:5-6; James 4:10). The example of Jesus teaches us this very clearly; He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross, and therefore God highly exalted Him and gave Him the name which is above every name (Philippians 2:8-10). Let us follow His steps, and we will be blessed by God, even though we will have to suffer many things.

Brothers, it is true that we all stumble in many things, but let us make every effort to be humble in order to honor our God through our consecrated life.