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A More Subtle Pride


“God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God.

(James 4:6-7)


We often think of pride as arrogance, and outwardly displayed. It is the person who touts their accomplishments, gravitates towards being in charge because they “know better.” Or we think of pride as someone who refuses help, not wanting to need anything or anyone. Or the prideful person is unwilling to admit when he’s wrong.

But pride is also the person who can’t stop thinking about themselves and their own desires and needs. This person almost puts themselves first, not because they think other people are unimportant, but because the emotional freight of their needs compels them. They are beholden to their feelings, led by them to act in selfish ways.

This type of person (with whom I share many qualities, to my shame) would not say or argue that they are more important than anyone else, and may even have a low opinion of themselves. But they act as though their emotional and physical needs are the most important thing to them. Whatever they may believe, they act as though they matter more than those around them. As a result, they look for people to serve them instead of looking for ways to serve others. More than that, they are often unwilling to embrace suffering in order to do the will of God. They may see or sense that God is calling them to something, but they resist because it will entail risk or sacrifice of something they’ve come to depend on. They prefer their comfort. But really all this is pride. It is saying, “My needs and desires are too important not to be satisfied.”

God opposes this way of being. It does not honor him or represent him well. Jesus, came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). He did not think of himself or of his own desires, but set his mind on serving God and serving us. But the person set only on themselves is the opposite. How can God not oppose them?

What then is the solution? It is to ask not what you need, but to ask what is required of you. It is to act on what you know to be true—that God is more important than you, and that his desires are more important than your own. It is to see that in Jesus you have already received all things (Romans 8:32), and therefore you can trust God to provide you with what you need. In short, it is to submit yourselves to God.

But such a submission is not a one-time thing. It is a lifestyle that you adopt that comes from a posture of the heart. It is a thousand decisions you make each day. It is returning again and again to the Christ who “did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped [used for his own benefit]” (Philippians 2:6). It is prayerfully seeking God’s grace moment-by-moment. It is asking over and over again, “What is required of me this day, my Lord?”


Jesus, let the substance of my life be as yours—humble and having a servant heart. I am afraid to submit to your will because I worry about my own needs being met. I fail to trust you with my life even after I’ve seen how you died for me. I am not like you; but I want to be. Please grant to me the ongoing grace I need to be reformed in my character and attitude. Let me look not only to my own interests, but to the interests of others. Grant to me a servant heart like yours. Amen.

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