“But Naaman was angry and went away, saying, ‘Behold, I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call upon the name of the LORD his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper. Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?’ So he turned and went away in a rage” (1 Kings 5:11-12).
I know a little bit about anger and pride. It is a set of sins that I have struggled with for many years. I am fortunate that, over the years, I have had some good brothers help me with these issues. Some have helped me out of real concern; others, not so much, but God has been working all that time, and I accept His correction in whatever form it comes.
The root of pride is the ego, and the ego is based in the flesh. Consider Jesus words in Mark 7:21-23: “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” Paul tells us that these are all works of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21).
Pride is deceitful and insidious, and it is easy to be deceived by pride. We tend to rationalize our behavior, and practice self justification. This is what Naaman did. After he went away from Elisha, he rationalized his anger by telling himself that he was worth more than what God had to offer him: a seven-fold baptism in the Jordan river. He thought he was increasing his value by comparing himself to the prophet’s hand waving gestures, and his own homeland. He really only cheapened himself. A person is so much more valuable than an impressive showing, or a clean river.
This is why pride is such a problem: it reduces persons to things, and causes us not to love ourselves as God loves us, and God loves us much more than we will ever know. After all, He gave the life of His Son for us (John 3:16). How much was the son of God worth? Telling ourselves that we are worth less than what God tells us we are worth is the worst kind of self-deceit, because we can’t properly love our brother if we don’t love ourselves. Jesus said, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matthew 22:39). We can make an effort at it, but we will not get very far before we become discouraged with ourselves and give up.
The flesh is deceitful making us think that we are worth some worldly object. This is why the apostle Paul told us not to be deceived by it: “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting” (Galatians 6:7-8). Pride sows to the flesh, and it will destroy us if it goes unchecked.
I have often had this question asked to me over the years: “Is there such a thing as good pride?” Recently a friend told me that he never read such in his Bible. I’ve never read such either. I have read this verse: “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18). I’ve always read this verse as if the words “destruction” and “fall” were very bad things, and it does depend upon what kind of destruction and fall one has, but more recently, I’ve learned that “destruction” and “falling” can be very good things if directed in the right way. Paul wrote, “And he hath said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my power is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9). There is always hope, but let us not think that we can sin that grace may come (Romans 6:1).