First and best and most important. That was the request of James and John, the sons of Zebedee, when they came to Jesus with the bold request, “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.” When Jesus asked them to clarify their appeal, they replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.” (Mark 10: 35-45). When Jesus asked them a follow up question about being able to drink the cup or be baptized with what he was about to be baptized with (His pending cross and crucifixion), they foolishly replied “yes we can.” They obviously didn’t know what they were saying!
When the other ten disciples heard about their incredible desire for being considered first and best and most important in glory, they were indignant with James and John. Jesus calmed them down with a simple reminder, “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever want to be first must be slave of all” (vs. 43, 44).
The prideful heart pursues being first, best and most important…rarely considering the position of second, least, or last. The pride of the sovereign self places your own interests paramount to all others. Pride is thinking of yourself as more important than others, better than others, or above others because of your name, achievements, gifts, looks, knowledge, possessions, or wealth. A prideful heart is self-exalted over others and becomes offended when people don’t give you the attention, respect, or honor you think you deserve. When a person considers self above others, then selfish ambition and vain conceit reign supreme. Pride and arrogance – an overly inflated sense of your own importance – ultimately breeds quarrels, dissension, and animosity.
The Bible speaks often of the self-righteous, self-sufficient, and self-indulgent, and is clear about God hating pride as one of seven abominations noted in Proverbs 6. In Proverbs 18:12 we are reminded of the fruit of pride, “Pride goes before a fall, but humility comes before honor.” And both James 4:6 and 1 Peter 5:5 quote Proverbs 29:3-4, which says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
Pride is continually contrasted in the Scriptures with humility and wisdom. A prideful heart is rarely teachable or hospitable, nor does one see the value of empathic listening or compassionate concern. However, these are the very words that break the bondage of pride: humility, wisdom, hospitality, listening, and compassion. If you think you’re immune to pride, think again. It resides in your heart and it shows its ugly head more times than you care to admit. Are you willing to acknowledge and address your own pride today? When does your pride emerge and what is God inviting you to consider in response?
When Jesus reminded James , John and the other disciples about how pride is conquered he called them to a life of servanthood. And, He offered them His humble self an example worthy of a following, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many,” Mark 10: 45. The antidote to a prideful heart is a servant’s heart. May that be your choice today.