Summary: God hates pride, but loves humility. God's promise is that if we humble ourselves before God, He will give us His grace. This truth is clearly displayed in the story of Nebuchadnezzar, and in the story of the Pharisee and the tax collector.
A. One day a certain preacher began to pride-fully muse about what a fine preacher he had become.
1. So he said to his wife, “How many really great preachers do you think there are?”
2. His wife thought for a minute and said, “Well, I don’t know how many really great preachers there are, but there is probably one less than you think.”
3. That probably stung, but she was right on target.
B. Back in 1993, MTV aired a special news report on “The Seven Deadly Sins.”
1. The program was advertised as interviews with celebrities and ordinary teens talking about the seven deadly sins: lust, pride, anger, envy, sloth, greed, and gluttony.
2. The show turned out to be very revealing about the contemporary attitudes toward sin.
3. Rap musician Ice-T glared at the camera and said, “Lust isn’t a sin…These are all dumb.”
4. One young man on the street thought that sloth was taking a break at work.
5. Perhaps the most difficult sin for the MTV crowd to grasp was pride.
6. Actress Kirstie Alley, who rose to fame during the hit sitcom Cheers, said: “I don’t think pride is a sin, and I think some idiot made that up.”
7. I wonder if it has dawned on Kirstie Alley whom that person is who “made that up,” whom she called an “idiot.” Could it be God Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth?
C. Let’s talk about Bernie Madoff for a minute. Do you remember him?
1. When Bernie wasn’t flying his private 24 million dollar jet across the Atlantic or watching sunsets from the deck of one of his yachts (one costing 7 million dollars), he was living a life of luxury inside his ten-thousand-square-foot penthouse in New York City.
2. Bernie and his wife denied themselves nothing – a home in France, a beach home on both coasts, boats, cars, furs, Wedgewood china, silver and gold – you get the picture.
3. Everyone wanted to know Bernie – people stood in line to shake his hand – including people like Steven Spielberg and Larry King.
4. He was considered an investment superstar until it all came crashing down on Dec. 10, 2008.
5. That’s when Bernie Madoff sat down with his wife and two sons and confessed that he was running a “giant Ponzi scheme” and that it was all “just one big lie.”
6. Over the next days, weeks, and months, the staggering details became public knowledge.
7. Madoff had masterminded a 22-year-long shell game, the largest financial crime in US history.
8. Madoff had swindled people out of billions of dollars.
9. His collapse was of biblical proportions – he went from the top of the heap to the very bottom.
10. He lost it all – his family, his fortune, and his future.
11. At 71 years-old, Bernie Madoff was sentenced to 150 years in prison, the maximum allowed.
12. No doubt he will spend the rest of his life in prison.
D. But why did Bernie Madoff do it?
1. What makes a man live a lie for decades? What was the trade-off for Madoff?
2. According to one biographer is was “status” – “As a kid, he was spurned and humiliated for what was perceived to be his inferior intellect…he was rejected by one girl after another…he was regulated to lesser classes and lesser schools…but he excelled at making money, and with it came the stature that once had eluded him.” (Andrew Kirtzman, Betrayal: The Life and Lies of Bernie Madoff, Harper, 2010)
3. And so Madoff became addicted to adulation and was hooked on recognition.
4. He wanted the applause of people and money was his way of earning it.
5. Madoff had clawed and cheated his way to the top of the mountain only to discover the Biblical truth that “Pride comes before destruction, and an arrogant spirit before a fall” (Pr. 16:18).
6. If only he had known this promise: “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5b).
E. Bernie Madoff is a modern example of someone whose pride and selfishness got him into trouble, but if you want to see an even more dramatic picture of the downfall of pride, just look at the story of Nebuchadnezzar.
1. Madoff’s “riches to rags” story is small potatoes compared to the vast power, and possessions, and drastic free fall of the king of Babylon.
2. The Babylonian Empire, led by King Nebuchadnezzar overthrew Jerusalem in 605 BC.
a. Nebuchadnezzar transported many Jewish captives back to Babylon, including four young men whose names you will recognize: Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
3. Years later, Nebuchadnezzar built a 90 foot-tall golden statue in his honor and commanded everyone to bow down before it.