Summary: Pride prevents us from being able to do what God wants us to do and therefore, it prevents us from being able to enjoy His blessing.
James 4:1-6 August 29, 1999
Submitting to God (Part 1)
A New England pastor and a rabbi were having a conversation one day over lunch. The N.E. pastor proudly proclaimed, “One of my ancestors signed the Declaration of Independence”. He thought that the rabbi would be very impressed by this. To his chagrin, the rabbi responded, “I understand your pride. One of my ancestors signed the Ten Commandments.”
One of the problems with pride is that there is always going to be someone who can top you. They will run faster, jump higher, win more, be more beautiful, tell a funnier story, receive more applause and go one step farther than you did. Even if no one beats your record in your lifetime, someone eventually will.
But an even greater problem with pride is that it puts you in opposition against God. There is only one who can receive glory, and when we try to steal some of His glory for ourselves, we commit the same sin that caused Satan to be cast out of heaven. That’s why the Bible says that God did not choose the wise and the beautiful and those who had everything together to do His work. He chose the weak because they would be smart enough to understand that the only way that they could ever accomplish anything of any value would be through God’s power. And so whenever something good happened, they would be forced to give all the glory to God.
But sometimes, we forget our weakness and start to allow pride to creep into our way of thinking. So God sends us reminders of what pride does and what pride says so that we will recognize it in ourselves and get rid of it before it destroys us.
This morning, we’re going to examine James 4:1-6 and see what pride says so that we can search our own hearts, find out if pride is lurking there and get God to deal with it so that He will be able to continue to use us and bless us.
PRIDE SAYS . . .
1. “I am not responsible for the turmoil in my life. It’s not my fault.” (vs. 1)
About the time that James was writing this book, there was a great deal of turmoil that was going on in Israel and the near East. The Jewish people had grown tired of the occupation of the Romans in their nation. They were fed up with these gentiles controlling their lives. So insurrections and small bloody battles began to pop up all over the area. The Jews justified their actions by claiming that their motivation for doing this was to bring honor to God and free His land from these ungodly people. And if there were other Jews who didn’t agree with their practices, well they became the enemy, and if they stood in the way, then they too would die. But that’s ok; their actions were justified. After all, if the Romans didn’t want to die, they shouldn’t have come in and invaded in the first place. It’s their fault; my cause is just.
James writes this passage specifically to counter that kind of thinking. He says that the wars that they were entering into were no one’s fault but their own. They were fighting because they wanted something, not because God had told them to. They wanted their land back. They wanted control. They wanted self-respect. They were allowing an internal battle – the war that raged within them – to become an external battle. Fighting’s on the outside are always a reflection of fighting’s that are going on in the heart. When we look for the causes behind the wars that happen on earth, and the wars that happen in our churches and the wars that happen in our families, it is easy to lay the blame on external reasons. But the true cause is the condition of our own heart and the desires that it possesses. “I want something, and I’m going to do whatever it takes to get it.” My desire for something becomes more important to me than our peace.
Paul spoke of this kind of internal struggle in Rom 7:23 but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind, and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. And then again in Gal 5:17 For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. Each of us has a war waging inside of us. That war is caused by the desires that we have. The way that we choose to fulfill those desires and the level of control that we allow them to have in our life determines whether or not that war on the inside is going to lead to a war on the outside.