Pride is a tricky thing. It motivates us to do our best work, practice good hygiene and find satisfaction in everyday accomplishments. And that’s good. Putting forth the right effort in life and pursuing excellence is a virtue that not only benefits us individually, but serves the common good. Yet, in the fallen nature of mankind, there is a flip side we all have to guard against: the danger of transitioning to sinful pride. That’s bad. In fact, it’s the road to ruin
The Bible warns us that pride goes before destruction. So how do we discern our motives and keep a healthy perspective in our achievements? A good place to start is by examining what we are looking for. Do we want the approval of God or the applause of men? Do we strive for the advancement of His kingdom or the gains of this world? The answers carry more weight than we realize. Choosing the first keeps us focused on truth. Every accomplishment is met with the humility of knowing God alone has equipped us with the gifts and talents we possess. That understanding moves us to act with gratitude and commitment. Choosing the second, however, ushers us into arenas of entitlement and dissatisfaction. Rather than adoring the Giver, we adore the gifts and that’s a step away from believing they originate with us.
No one is exempt from the struggle, but no believer is helpless in the battle. History is filled with examples of men and women whose extraordinary contributions to mankind were the result of their humble dependence on God. They understood He endowed them with talents and abilities from the riches of His storehouse and that perspective gave purpose and meaning to their endeavors.
One of the most brilliant and prolific composers that ever lived was Johann Sebastian Bach. Without fail, he framed his work with acknowledgement of the provision and goodness of God. Every piece began with JJ: “Jesus Juve” (Jesus help me) and concluded with SDG: “Soli Deo Gloria” (To God Alone be the Glory).
Bach was clear about his mission: “The main purpose of my music is to glorify God.” Not everyone in his company felt the same. In fact, along the way, he encountered behaviors that revealed pride’s dark side. Yet Bach stayed the course of his mission and strove to fulfill the Biblical mandate of 1 Corinthians 10:31 ” … whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
Taking the counsel of Scripture to heart is a divine shield against our temptation to misplace glory. When pride is laid at the foot of the cross, we gain perspective. The humble realization that we are redeemed people who live and breathe and have our being because of God alone, puts all glory on His side of the scale. There is but one thing that belongs solely to us: our choice.
Refusing Him catapults our gifts to self-indulgent pride and the by-product of stealing God’s glory is that we end up with none. We only become haughty and more deceived and therein lies ruin. Rev. 16:9 speaks of men scorched with great heat who blasphemed the name of God “… and they did not repent and give Him glory.”
God is serious about this.
The One with whom we begin and end our days will determine the quality of our lives, the purpose of our efforts and the condition of our society. A lifetime of glorifying God leaves a legacy, however great or small, that can profoundly influence those who come behind us. With the help of Jesus, that may just turn out to be a masterpiece ~ because it was all done Soli Deo Gloria!