Jacob 2:18-22 — LeGrand Baker– pride is a dangerous illusion
18 But before ye seek for riches, seek ye for the kingdom of God.
19 And after ye have obtained a hope in Christ ye shall obtain riches, if ye seek them; and ye will seek them for the intent to do good–to clothe the naked, and to feed the hungry, and to liberate the captive, and administer relief to the sick and the afflicted.
20 And now, my brethren, I have spoken unto you concerning pride; and those of you which have afflicted your neighbor, and persecuted him because ye were proud in your hearts, of the things which God hath given you, what say ye of it? (Jacob 2 :18-20).
In America, about the time the Declaration of Independence was written, there was a polite phrase which often appeared in private and professional correspondence. It was a softer way of saying “I know I am right,” or “I know I deserve this.” The words were “I flatter myself that [such and such is so]” It was a strange expression, for it asserted the reality of something based on the fiction of self flattery. Pride is that. Pride is pretending something is real, then acting on its “reality” as though one were not pretending. That is why pride is so dangerous. It distorts, even violates, our sense of reality. It is like living in a kind of “virtual reality,” but making real life decisions based of one’s interactions of things which do not exist.
Pride and vanity are much the same.
“Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.” (Ecclesiastes 1:2) and the preacher is correct, for, “Man is like to vanity: his days are as a shadow that passeth away.” (Psalms 144:4) Strong defines the Hebrew word translated “vanity” as “vapour, breath.” That is, vanity is a variety of nothingness. Isaiah warns, “Woe unto them that draw iniquity with cords of vanity…” (Isaiah 5:18) I think that means those who justify their iniquity with nothingness — figments of their own imaginations, but only pretense, and nothing real.
In the sentence, “For the sin of their mouth and the words of their lips let them even be taken in their pride: and for cursing and lying which they speak. (Psalm 59:12), the Hebrew word translated “pride” is also translated, as “excellency,” “majesty,” “pomp,” “swelling,” and “arrogancy.” Excellency and majesty are good enough concepts when one is speaking of God or an anointed king, but otherwise they are like pomp and swelling – an assumed reality which is not fact, and not there.
It seems to me that the greatest danger of pride is that it causes one to live, act, respond, value, hate, and even love in a world that is only a fiction. And in that fiction, one’s life, actions, responses, values, hatreds, and love are also fictions. Let me give you some examples:
A great danger in pride is the way one perceives others: If one assumes a superiority as he interacts with others, his life (in that instance), actions, responses to those persons, attitude toward their value as people, love or hatred for them, all these are vanity – pretended realities which exist only in the mind of the person who is proud. But while his perceptions are fictions, his actions and attitudes as they impact the lives of others are real. So will God’s judgements be.
A greater danger in pride is the way one perceives oneself. If one defines oneself in terms of one’s possessions, academic superiority, social status, ability with words, or any other thing which one temporarily owns or displays, and calls these things himself, then one is defining oneself in terms of a vanity — a wisp of vapor — a temporary thing which cannot survive time — which will rust, decay, or grows old even while he grows old.
The danger of that is that if one defines himself, and dictates his own attitudes and actions in terms of pretended reality, then one can not BE. The eternal BEing which was oneself before this life, and (one would hope in his case) will be oneself hereafter, is locked in a closet from which it cannot escape, while his pretended Self moves about and reacts to a vacuum of fiction. For such, this life is a quality of evil because it is a quantity of nothingness which violates the law of one’s own eternal being.
Humility, on the other hand, as I understand it, is simply an acknowledgment of who and what one is, of the eternal worth of others, and of trying to live in a world of truth, without pretense, where assumptions and reality are the same thing.