The Apostle John warns us that there are three sins characterizing worldliness: the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life (see I John 2:16). It would probably be a mistake to designate any one of the three as more dangerous or heinous than the other two. But what makes pride, perhaps, more insidious today is that what God calls a sin is being promoted as a virtue. Rather than engaging in a philosophical argument about the relative sinfulness of pride, let’s briefly peruse a narrative found in Mark’s Gospel (10:35-45) that illustrates twelve consequences of pride. In the passage preceding our text, the Lord had just told His disciples for at least the third time (8:31; 9:31; 10:33, 34; also 9:12) that He was destined to suffer and die a horrible death. Rather than sympathizing or commiserating, James and John respond to the Lord’s latest announcement with a selfish and insensitive request to be given the privilege of sitting on the immediate right and left of His throne when the Lord sets up His kingdom. That and what follows paint an ugly portrait of pride.
2. Pride blinds us to the truths of God’s Word (v. 35). Not only are the two disciples incapable of feeling any compassion for the Lord, they are incapable of processing the Lord’s words. As profound as was the revelation, it’s as if He had said to them only, “Have a nice day.” Pride deadens our hearts and minds to the truth.
3. Pride makes us presumptuous in our expectations (v. 35). “Do for us whatever we ask of you” is the outrageous way the disciples introduce their request to the Lord. Where pride rules, any sense of proportion is banished. “Whatever we ask”? Are those the words of humble, assured faith or the bluster of someone who has failed to grasp Who the Lord is and who he himself is before the Lord?
4. Pride prompts us to make carnal requests (v. 37). There is nothing holy or righteous about the requests of these two brothers: blind ambition and delusions of grandeur seem to have usurped their hearts and minds.
5. Pride discounts the value of others (v. 37). For some two-and-a-half years, James and John had shared the blessings and deprivations of following the Lord alongside ten other men that the Lord had exclusively chosen to share in this sacred endeavor. In one moment, they forgot their comrades or—worse yet—did not care about them in the hot flush of their own lusts.
6. Pride makes us overestimate our abilities (v. 39). The Lord’s response to their request was to ask them if they could “drink the cup” of suffering that He was about to undergo. With brash confidence, both disciples assured him that they could, neither realizing that they would both turn tail and run when the heat was turned up. Pride always thinks more highly of itself than it ought to think.
7. Pride provokes us to usurp the rightful place of others (v. 40). Jesus told them that not even He (in His incarnate state) had the authority to grant their presumptuous request, but that only the Father could give such positions to those for whom they were prepared. Sit at the back of an assembly and wait to be asked by the host to come forward had been the Lord’s earlier instruction on humility. But the disciples’ desire for self-aggrandizement had caused all such lessons to flee their minds.
8. Pride creates strife and divisions (v. 41). Though James and John instigated the problem by their injudicious request, the other disciples manifested a similar lack of humility. When they heard the brothers’ request, “the ten began to feel indignant.” Pride invariably foments strife and, if left unchecked, divisions. Sometimes the divisions will be dramatic physical separations, but always there will be destructive spiritual division.
9. Pride promotes worldly behavior (v. 42). “Do not love the world nor the things in the world,” John commanded before defining those things as including “the boastful pride of life” (I John 2:15, 16). As if pride were not sinful enough by itself, it opens the door to further worldliness. The worldly Gentile rulers, Jesus said, lord it over their subjects. Believers are to manifest charity and humility instead.
10. Pride manifests the opposite of what Scripture requires (vv. 43, 44). The heart of a believer is to be that of a servant—a “slave of all.” Nothing could be further from that scriptural obligation than the pride James and John had been manifesting.
11. Pride is contrary to the Person and work of Christ (v. 45). Christ Himself “did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” His followers throughout time have been called to demonstrate the same character, living lives of selfless service for the glory of the Lord who saved them and the blessing of others.
12. Pride stifles love (vv. 35-45). James and John exhibited a profound lack of love for the Lord, their brother disciples, and the charge they had received. Self-love—the hallmark of pride—was their predominant motivation.
May the Lord deliver us from pride.
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