Summary: A textual sermon on 1 Corinthians 4:7 (Material adapted from Dave Swavely's book, Who Are You to Judge?, chapter 6 "Pride Questioned and Convicted)
C.S. Lewis said that the worst evil is pride. “According to many Christian teachers, the essential vice, the utmost evil, is Pride. Unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere flea bites 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.”
3 times Jesus says in the gospels: “For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” Matthew 23:12, NIV.
James and Peter both say, God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”” James 4:6.
In these verses, Paul singles out pride and subjects it to a harsh interrogation. In vs. 7 he gives us 3 questions that should convict us of our pride. Like a criminal, our pride needs to be convicted, but also like a criminal (especially one with a good lawyer), it can be rather slippery and difficult to bring to justice. The difficulty with pride can be illustrated by a story from the life of the preacher Harry Ironside. When Harry was a young man, he realized that he had a problem with pride. So he went to the elders of his church and asked them what he should do about it. They suggested that he make a big sign saying, “Repent or Perish,” and walk up and down the busiest street in Chicago all day long, holding the sign. So Harry did what they suggested, and after enduring a whole day or mockery from the crowds, he thought to himself, “Hmmm, I’m a cut above many. Not everybody would have done that!”
If we do not win the fight with pride, we will likely become the kind of person who goes beyond what is written, because we will think too highly of our own opinions, and place them on equal footing with the Scriptures.
Thesis: Let’s look at these 3 questions of Paul in battling pride
For who makes you different from anyone else?
ESV says this: For who sees anything different in you?
Can be something like: Who in the world sees anything special in you? Who do you think you are? In modern slang Paul might say this: You think you’re so great? NOT!”
By the way this is sarcasm. Who regards me as superior? Only myself. Ask others around us and we will find that they do not hold the same opinion. Ask spouse to list weaknesses and we will not longer has illusions about our superior character.
Bob Dylan sang these words in his song “Positively 4th Street.” "I wish that for just one time, you could stand inside my shoes, and just for that one moment I could be you. Yes, I wish that for just one time You could stand in my shoes; You’d know what a drag it is to see you."
“For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.” Romans 12:3, NIV.
What do you have that you did not receive?
Now, wait a minute. I do have gifts and talents that are better than some others? okay.
Paul knew that the Corinthians, and many others, might answer his first question with a list of qualities and deeds that separate them from others. Paul tackles this thought with this question. This question is an invitation to experience one of those rare, unguarded moments of total honesty, where in the presence of the eternal God one recognizes that every good and perfect gift comes from God- James 1:17
We did not produce this thing, we did not earn this thing, and we do not have the power in ourselves to keep this thing. Think about this:
Consider the good things we did not work for.
Things inherited from parents
Many things here in the US
Consider the good things that we could never earn
We are utterly dependent on God. We do not cause ourselves to be born or keep ourselves living, let alone exercise control over the outcome of our efforts. We are also corrupt, deserving nothing good from a holy God, but only judgment in hell.
But I’m a Christian, forgiven of my sin and on the way to heaven. Okay, but this does not make us superior to others. We have received God’s grace through Christ, but we do not earn it or deserve it. Without Christ there would be no salvation. “For the wages of sin (what we have earned) is death, but the gift of God (what we could never earn) is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23, NIV.