Summary: A look at Daniel 4, where we learn not to be proud, we also see the difference between false humility and real humility.
Story has been told of a lion who was very proud and decided to take a walk one day to demonstrate his mastery over all the other creatures.
He strutted his way through the forest until he came across a bear, ‘WHO IS THE KING OF THE JUNGLE BEAR? ‘Why of course you are mighty lion’.
He went on until he found the tiger, ‘WHO IS THE KING OF THE JUNGLE TIGER?’ ‘Why you are great lion’.
Next the lion found the elephant, ‘WHO IS THE KING OF THE JUNGLE FAT ELEPHANT?’
The elephant immediately grabbed the lion with his trunk and spun him around a few times and slammed him to the ground.
He then stepped on him a few times and picked him up and dunked him in the water and then threw him up against a tree.
The lion staggered to his feet and said, ‘LOOK, JUST BECAUSE YOU DON’T KNOW THE ANSWER IS NO REASON TO GET SO UPSET!’
Some people are so full of pride they don’t even realise it. However, the true message of Nebuchadnezzar’s pride from the story is found in the difference between dogs and cats. The master pets a dog, and the dog wags its tail and thinks, “He must be a god.” But the master pets his cat, and the cat purrs, shuts its eyes and thinks to itself, “I must be a god.” Though Jesus in grace reached down to us, there is still a perverse human tendency to think like the cat!
King Nebuchadnezzar was a great man. In his youth he commanded his father’s armies to destroy the Assyrian empire, which was the major world power of the time. He had also beaten the great Egyptians which the Assyrians had failed to do. He became the ruler of the greatest empire of his day. He had life and death power over his citizens. He had a great and beautiful city. One of the ancient wonders of the world, the hanging gardens of Babylon was built by Nebuchadnezzar for one of his wives. He had it all. And to cap it all he had had a dream from God, which when interpreted showed him as the head of gold a vast statue representing world empires. He was the greatest, the one whom God had given vast dominion.
The Sin of Nebuchadnezzar
But he forgot or never recognised this last part of it. The fact that God had given him his empire. In verse 30 Nebuchadnezzar says “Just look at this great city of Babylon! I, by my own power, have built this beautiful city as my royal residence and as an expression of my royal splendour.” He was certainly very full of himself and had a very high opinion of himself. It’s possible that the statue he set up in chapter 3 was in fact a statue of himself, although we don’t know for certain. It seems that Nebuchadnezzar gets the wrong point from the vision God sends him chapter 2. The message that God allows or causes nations to rise but ultimately they will all have to submit to him is completely lost and all Nebuchadnezzar seems to remember is that he was the head of gold, the king over many kings. His response seems to be have been more cat-like than dog-like.
Daniel tells him he can avoid the coming judgement, in verse 27. “Break from your wiked past by being merciful to the poor.” While Nebuchadnezzar sees his sin as pride at the end of the chapter. There two views can easily be reconciled when we look at what pride is. When we truly understand what pride is then we will see that there is no contradiction here. Nebuchadnezzar’s sin was pride.
We might not be the King or Queen of a vast empire but we can guilty of pride, just as Nebuchadnezzar was. We can be proud of our accomplishments, our gifts, our position anything really. But the heart of pride is comparison and seeing how much better we are than everybody else. C. S. Lewis said the following in Mere Christianity.
“According to Christian teachers, the essential vice, the utmost evil, is Pride. Unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere fleabites in comparison; it was through Pride that the devil became the devil; Pride leads to every other vice; it is the complete anti-God state of mind...If you want to find out how proud you are the easiest way is to ask yourself, ‘How much do I dislike it when other people snub me, or refuse to take any notice of me, or shove their oar in, or patronize me, or show off?’ The point is that each person’s pride is in competition with everyone else’s pride. It is because I am so annoyed at someone else being the big noise. Two of a trade never agree. Now what you want to get clear is that Pride is essentially competitive - is competitive by its very nature - while the other vices are competitive only, so to speak, by accident. Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man.”