It is easy for us to get the idea that pride is not a big deal. What’s wrong with a little bit of swagger? Proverbs 6:16 says, “There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him,” and the first thing mentioned in this list is “haughty eyes” (6:17).
To be haughty is to think yourself better than others, to look down on other people because you feel superior in your intellect, in your lifestyle, or in your achievements.
Remember, pride is the original sin. It is the root of every other sin. So, do not be haughty. I want to apply this particularly in regard to the way we speak to each other when we disagree.
1. Never look at others with haughty eyes.
There is a fascinating letter by John Newton1, who wrote the hymn “Amazing Grace.” This letter cautioned a friend who was about to respond, in writing, to someone with whom he strongly disagreed. Newton wrote this letter to warn his friend about the spiritual dangers of engaging in public controversy.
In those days, very few people had a platform and, therefore, an opportunity to engage in public controversy. But social media has changed all that. Now we all have the opportunity to post comments expressing our opinions, either agreeing or disagreeing with others.
All too often, social media is a platform that exposes not only our opinions but also our pride. Even though our opinions are hidden behind a screen name, we must remember that nothing is hidden from the eyes of God. Newton’s words are worth bearing in mind before you post or say anything in public.
As you are likely to be engaged in controversy, and your love of truth is joined to a natural warmth of temper, my friendship makes me solicitous on your behalf. You are of the strongest side; for truth is great and must prevail… but I would have you more than a conqueror, and to triumph not only over your adversary, but over yourself.
Consider your opponent.
I wish that before you set pen to paper against him, and during the whole time you are preparing your answer, you may commend him by earnest prayer to the Lord’s teaching and blessing. This practice will have a direct tendency to conciliate your heart to love and pity him; and such disposition will have a good influence on every page you write.
If you count him a believer, though greatly mistaken in the subject of debate between you [remember] the Lord loves him… therefore you must not despise him, or treat him harshly.
But if you look upon him as an unconverted person… he is a more proper object of your compassion than of your anger. Alas! ‘He knows not what he does.’
We find very few writers of controversy who have not been manifestly hurt by it. Either they grow in a sense of their own importance, or imbibe an angry contentious spirit, or they withdraw their attention from those things which are the food of a life of faith, and spend their time and strength upon matters which are at most but of secondary value…
What will it profit a man if he gains his cause and silences his adversary, if at the same time he loses that humble, tender frame of spirit in which the Lord delights, and to which the promise of His presence is made?
Scripture makes it very clear what God says about pride. He lives with the humble person “who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite” (Isa. 57:15). And He hates pride and will destroy it. A haughty person “shall be humbled, and the lofty pride of men shall be brought low, and the LORD alone will be exalted in that day (Isa. 2:17).
2. Never be wise in your own sight.
Many of us, by instinct, want to defend our independence. We don’t want to depend on others. We want to stand on our own two feet, and that sense of individual responsibility is surely right and honoring to God.
But listen to what the Scripture is saying to us here: “Never be wise in your own sight” (Rom. 12:16). The man (or woman) who is wise in his own sight feels he has everything he needs within himself. He doesn’t need to listen to others. The way he sees it, he already has all the wisdom he needs.
There are two manifestations of pride that keep us from living in harmony. One is to think that you are better than others. The other is to think that you don’t need others.
Paul speaks about this in his first letter to the church in Corinth. The church is the body of Christ and the body has different parts: “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you’” (1 Cor. 12:21). The very nature of the body is that God has granted interdependence to all of the parts.
The proud person is the one who thinks in his or her heart, I have all that I need in myself. I make my own decisions. I run my own life. I am a Christian, so why do I need to be a member of the church? That’s the eye saying to the hand, “I don’t need you.”
Before responding to one with whom you disagree, pursue humility. Don’t be haughty or wise in your own sight. And before you post anything on social media or engage in public controversy, prepare with prayer.
God, deliver me from having haughty eyes. May I never look down on another person. Lord, may I never be wise in my own sight. Make me humble, so that I’m in a position to be taught by you and by others.
1. John Newton, The Works of John Newton, Vol. 1 (Banner of Truth Trust: 2015), 186-187.