We have seen in the elder anger and bitterness, and a joyless compliance to rules without a heart relationship with the father. Another characteristic of this elder brother that shouts from the pages of Scripture is pride!
Listen to the elder brother’s language. He says to his father, “But as soon as this son of yours came…” [Luke 15:30]. “This son of yours!” – He will not even own him as his brother but calls him his father’s son. He feels superior to his brother simply because he has not done the wrong that his brother has done!
This kind of pride is reminiscent of the story Jesus told of the tax collector and the Pharisee in Luke 18:9-14. The Pharisee trusted in himself and in his own righteousness and despised others [verse 9]. He actually thanked God that he was not like this tax collector. The old proverb, “Pride comes before a fall,” is actually Biblically based, “Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall” [Proverbs 16:18]. In this case, it was the humble tax collector and not the proud Pharisee who was justified before God.
In Jesus’ parable, the elder brother is proud of his own goodness! Competitive comparison is the main way in which elder brother achieves a sense of significance! His spiritual problem is the radical insecurity that comes from basing his self-image on achievements and performance, so that he must endlessly prop his sense of righteousness by finding fault in others and putting them down.
This elder brother had never found security in his relationship with his father. For the Christian, it should no longer be a case of “look what I have achieved,” but rather, “Look at what God has achieved for me in Christ”. We will never find true peace until we get to the place where we recognise that there is nothing that we can do to make God love us. Isaiah says that, “All our righteousnesses are like filthy rags” [Isaiah 64:6]. Our acceptance by God can never be on the basis of our performance but on the basis of His grace. Someone has said that P.O.W. stands not only for a prisoner of war, but also for a performance orientated worker. It is pride that thinks that my performance will win me acceptance with God, and it is pride that finds its identity in comparing itself with other people.
Oswald Chambers rightly said, “Maturity is having nothing left to prove”.
Whilst I try to prove my value, or worth on the basis of what I have achieved, or compare myself with others, then I have never really experienced the fullness of God’s grace.
What does John say in 1 John 2:15-16 about pride? What does James 4:7-10 say is the cure for pride?
Why do you think that God so opposed to the proud?
What are the normal ways in which pride manifests itself?