Proverbs: On The Cure for Spiritual Cancer

Prince Rabadash was the evil heir of Calormene.  He is portrayed as the supreme example of pride in CS Lewis’ chronicle The Horse and His Boy.

Rabadash lets a Narnian princess he wants to marry slip through his fingers. In his anger and disappointment, he calls for an attack on the land of Narnia. In the ensuing battle, Rabadash is captured. When he arrogantly refuses terms of surrender, Aslan appears and challenges him: “Forget your pride and your anger and accept the mercy of these good Kings” (208). Unfortunately for Rabadash, he lashes out at Aslan, calling him a demon, a foul fiend, and enemy of his own god – Tash. Aslan warns him . . . “Your doom is nearer now: it is at the door: it has lifted the latch” (209).  Rabadash continues to abuse Aslan until Aslan turns Rabadash into an ass: “‘Oh, not a Donkey! Mercy! If it were even a horse-even a horse-e’en-a-hor-eeh-auh, eeh-auh.’ And so the words died away into a donkey’s bray. . . Of course the Donkey twitched its ears forward-and that also was so funny that everybody laughed all the more. They tried not to, but they tried in vain” (210-11).

Rabadash’s pride not only makes him act like an ass, but he gets turned into one. In Rabadash, Lewis reminds us of the key verse on pride from the Proverbs: “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18).

There is no fault…which we are more unconscious of in ourselves. And the more we have it ourselves, the more we dislike it in others.

J.I. Packer reminds us: We are all engaged in a constant, inescapable battle against the Pride of face, when you think you are most handsome; pride of race, when you think your skin is the best color; pride of place, when you think you are better positioned than others; and  pride of grace, which is the worst of all.

What is spiritual cancer?The LORD hates . . . a proud look” (Proverbs 6:16-17) – raised eyes…uplifted eyes. The way we look down on others in a superior, censorious way. Pride looks down on others. The Pharisee and the Publican…the elder brother upon his prodigal brother.

Pride is a “ravaging spiritual cancer.” Why?

It destroys your ability to love. Other vices may sometimes bring people together: you may find good fellowship and jokes and friendliness among drunken people or unchaste people. But pride always brings enmity – it is enmity. And not only enmity between man and man, but enmity to God.

Pride is the essential vice, the utmost evil, the great sin. It has served as the chief cause of misery in every nation and every family since the world began. It was through pride that the devil became the devil. As long as you are proud you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you.  Pride is a spiritual cancer: it eats up the very possibility of love …

Secondly, pride hides itself so well in all other sins. In fact, it leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind…There is no sin that is not somehow rooted in pride. Consider a few examples: (p. 19).

Sexuality immorality is rooted in pride: “I deserve to have my pleasure, and I shouldn’t have to concern myself with the consequences.”

Lying: I do not trust that God can work through the truth. Therefore, I have more confidence in my ability to deceive and distort the facts.

Rebellion: I know better than my leaders…than my parents. Therefore, I can accomplish better things by doing what I want to do.

Ingratitude: I have what I have because I worked for it and I deserve it.

Discord: I have no need for relationship with you. I will be able to accomplish what I need to in life without you.

Pride hides itself best in “religious” attitudes and practices… Pride of grace, when you think you are one of God’s top people.

As a result of this prevailing sin in our hearts, we anger God, offend others, and destroy ourselves. Pride angers God by self-exaltation.  Proverbs 16:5 – The LORD detests all the proud of heart. Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished. The person who is proud claims to be the sole architect of their achievements and possessions, taking the credit that belongs only to God. Humility is openly acknowledging that all that we are, do and obtain comes because of God’s goodness and faithfulness.

Pride offends others with its self-preoccupation. Here are the telltale signs: “Are your conversations mainly about yourself? Do you do most of the talking in your interactions with others? When was the last time you served someone in a mundane way? Are you more worried about your position in the eyes of others or in God’s eyes? “Do you have an inflated view of your own abilities and importance, and look with contempt on those whom you think don’t reach your standards?”

Pride destroys yourself by self-deception. “Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him” (26:12). Apt description of pride. Pride results in self-deception, for it creates an exaggerated sense of one’s own importance or abilities.

Proverbs 16:18 – The results of lofty self-exaltation are calamitous: a total shattering of what the person has and is and a crashing down as from a high place (fall – stumbling off the edge of a bank or precipice).

Pride goes before a FALL. This principle is illustrated by the fate of Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 4:29-32). It was when Haman who thought he was at the height of his power and about to receive the accolades of the Emperor when he was commanded to give way to Mordecai whom he despised (Esther 6:6-14).

How does pride reveal itself in us and among us? What are the chief practices of a proud heart? When pride comes, then comes dishonor…” (11:2)

  1. Uncharitableness – An absence of forbearing love. “Despises one’s neighbor” (11:12). Pride makes it impossible to love another when we have an exaggerated sense of our own importance. When we are proud, we find it nearly impossible to rejoice in the successes of others… but a person of understanding and wisdom sees much in his neighbor to move him to mercy and to stir up his prayers, but nothing to despise.
  2. Prayerlessness – Book: The Prideful Soul’s Guide to Humility: “Do you frequently, sincerely and with deep conviction pray and ask others to pray for the advancement of God’s kingdom work?” (p.49)
  3. Divisiveness – By pride comes nothing but strife, but wisdom is with those who seek counsel (13:10). Pride is an ingredient of every quarrel – the clash of competing and unyielding personalities. Pride produces a closed mind that refuses advice and input. Pride undermines unity and ultimately divides.  Show me a family or church where there’s division, where there’s quarreling, and I’ll show you a family or church where pride is rife.
  4. Defensiveness – A proud person does not listen well…lacks teachability. PRIDE produces an inability and unwillingness to mourn over your sin and that of others. Proverbs 9:8 – Do not rebuke a mocker or he will hate you; rebuke a wise man and he will love you. Proverbs 15:31 – He who listens to a life-giving rebuke will be at home among the wise. 17:10 – A rebuke impresses a man of discernment more than a hundred lashes a fool. Pride is not quick to admit wrong. When we resist the counsel or correction of others. Taking advice and heeding counsel. The wise are those who solicit advice and counsel.
  5. Presumptiveness – We boast about what we are going to accomplish. “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth.” (27:1). We lack power to predict the future as well as to truly evaluate ourselves (27:2).
  6. Rebelliousness – Proverbs 30:11-13 – In family relationships. Unchecked pride leads to one activity.  Look in Philippians 2:14.  Grumbling and complaining

How do we cure pride and cultivate humility? The Prescription for Pride.

CONFESS: C.S. Lewis: “If anyone would like to acquire humility, I can, I think, tell him the first step. The first step is to realize that one is proud. And a biggish step, too. At least, nothing whatever can be done before it. If you think you are not conceited, it means you are very conceited indeed.”

CONTEMPLATE THE CROSS OF CHRIST: The one who always knew the light of His Father’s presence and glory humbled himself to live in poverty and die in disgrace. Contemplate His cross. It will progressively free you from the spiritual cancer of pride and contending for supremacy with God and with others. The world will tell you assert yourself, look out for yourself, believe in yourself. Jesus tells you, if any man would follow me, let him deny himself and die to himself and come follow Me.

Charles Spurgeon: “Stand at the foot of the cross, and count the drops of blood by which you have been cleansed; see the thorned crown; mark his scourged shoulders, still gushing with crimsoned stripes; see his hands and feet given up to the rough iron, and his whole self to mockery and scorn; see the bitterness, and the pangs, and the throes of inward grief, showing themselves in his outward frame; hear the horrifying shriek, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” And if you do not lie prostrate on the ground before that cross, you have never seen it: if you are not humbled to the dust by this picture, you do not know him.”

Martin Lloyd-Jones:  “There is only one thing I know of that crushes me to the ground and humiliates me to the dust, and that is to look at the Son of God, and especially contemplate the cross.  Nothing else can do it.  When I see that I am a sinner…that nothing but the Son of God on the cross can save me, I’m humbled to the dust…Nothing but the cross can give us this spirit of humility.”

PURSUE THE PATTERN OF CHRIST: Philippians 2:5-8… Lewis writes: “If you meet a really humble man… Probably all you will think about him is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap who took a real interest in what you said to him…”

THE CHOICE IS BEFORE YOU… Pride or humility…you must choose the companion who will either drag you into shame or lead you to wisdom.

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