Our third receptor of temptation is something we all struggle with. So far we’ve looked at how our hunger and our sight are receptors of temptations and how to overcome them. Large parts of those temptations are aimed at our souls from the outside. We see something and want it. In those cases, there is something we see, hear, or feel that triggers a desire to have. The third temptation source and receptor are almost entirely in ourselves.
The key verse for this series is found in 1st John. “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome. For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:3–5, NASB95) In this, we see that overcoming is more about living out our faith and defeating temptation than conquering the world.
Along the way, we’ve brought together three sets of verses. The description of Adam and Eve’s first sin found in Genesis 3:6. John’s identification of three sources of temptation in 1 John 2:16. And how Jesus overcame these temptations in Luke 4:1-13.
The third temptation we are receptive too is baseless pride. We make two mistakes when it comes to pride. The first is when we remove all pride, all sense of accomplishment, all measures of value and adopt a kind of false humility. The problem, of course, is that we aren’t really humble. Just really good at hiding our pride.
The second mistake is when we fail to recognize the efforts of others and God in our successes, accomplishments, and value. Let’s be clear, if you think you have fully overcome baseless pride you’re wrong. This particular temptation is perhaps the most subtle and sneaking of the three. It’s words sound so good, so right, and yet they are so wrong.
In the garden, “When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.” (Genesis 3:6, NASB95) There are some implied bits here. “The tree was desirable to make one wise,” the text says. But read between the lines a bit and you’ll hear something along the lines of “wise without God” or “wise by your own hand.” The baseless pride here is the assumption that they knew better than God. A mistake we all make.
John called this particular temptation “the boastful pride of life.” (see 1 John 2:16). The Greek word for boastful pride used here is only found one other place in the New Testament. James wrote, “Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.” (James 4:13–17, NASB95) In James, the word is translated as arrogance. This pride has no legs to stand on, it is baseless, arrogant, and pretentious.
Pride is a tricky thing. Some pride is warranted and even expected. Not all pride is evil. The pride a parent feels when their children accomplish something. The pride that comes with conquering a challenge, completing the race, or reaching the summit. But pride is also our greatest stumbling block. We assume too much and fail to acknowledge the others that helped us along. It’s my victory and I’m going to revel in the spotlight of success. So there! Oops, I did it again.
Satan also tempted Jesus’ pride. Luke records the third temptation, “And he led Him to Jerusalem and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here; for it is written, ‘He will command His angels concerning You to guard You,’ and, ‘On their hands they will bear You up, So that You will not strike Your foot against a stone.’ ” And Jesus answered and said to him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ” (Luke 4:9–12, NASB95) Oh the sneakiness of pride. How often does the foolishness of our pride tempt us to prove our identity, our value, and our ability? How often do we play the “one up on you” game to bolster our pride? Jesus overcame by recognizing that no test was required to confirm who he is.
We overcome the temptations of pride by recognizing the basis for true pride. We praise God for His work in our life. We praise Him for his leading and direction, for granting us favor and grace, for giving us wisdom and skill beyond our ability. We recognize and thank those that walk beside us no matter the effort or task. Very few things, words, or actions are solely our own. No success or achievement is ever without help, whether from God or from others.
Even this article is not exempt from this rule. I’m one hitting the keys to form the letters. No one else provided the words to write or an outline. Yet writing is impossible without the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the truth of God’s word, the school teachers that taught me to write, to type, and to spell. This article is filled with input received from years of hearing preachers, teachers, and reading the works of others. My pride is not found in the words but in the obedience of doing and the encouragement when someone shares how God used them in their lives. It’s not a pride of doing or of conquering, but of simple reliance on Jesus.
How do we overcome the temptation of pride? Paul put it this way, “For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.” (Romans 12:3, NASB95) Overcoming pride requires sound judgment; neither thinking too highly or too lowly of ourselves, but resting in who we are in Christ.