[Column] Pride Leads to Destruction

There is a story called The Lion and The Deer in Aesop’s fables. A deer approaches the water to drink of it and sees its reflection. Soon, it is fully absorbed with the beauty of its huge antler extending upwards and sideways. In the reflection, it also sees its scrawny legs and says to itself in disappointment, “These legs are worth nothing.” Then, there appears a lion from nowhere and chases the deer. Using its legs it considered “worth nothing,” the deer runs into the woods until it is caught in a tall tree because of its antler. The deer laments, “I’ve been able to prolong my life all this time because of my legs I never appreciated. Now I’ve met my demise because of my antler I took so much pride in.” The deer eventually is killed and eaten by the lion.

We must maintain humility even if we have countless reasons to be proud of and boast about. The Bible says, “Pride goes before destruction” (Proverbs 16:18). Pride eventually leads to destruction. Nowhere is this maxim more evident than in the story of Saul. Speaking through Samuel, God commanded Saul to invade Amalek and destroy all living things (1 Samuel 15:3). Gathering 200,000 infantry from Israel and 10,000 troops from Judah, Saul decisively defeated the Amalekites. However, he did not fully comply with God’s command to destroy all living things. While he killed many Amalekites and slaughtered many animals, Saul spared Agag’s life and brought some of the best sheep and cattle for the people to offer unto God. Saul acted only to secure his position and public prominence. Having won the battle and brought seized goods to offer unto God, he desired to be viewed as an excellent king even at the expense of obeying God.

Saul succumbed to disobedience as pride entered his heart. Prophet Samuel rebuked Saul concerning this: “Although you were once small in your own eyes, did you not become the head of the tribes of Israel?” (1 Samuel 15:17). When chosen as King, Saul exhibited his utmost humility referring to himself “as a Benjamite, from the smallest tribe of Israel” and “the least of all the clans of the tribe of Benjamin” (1 Samuel 9:21). Now, however, he ascribed all glory to himself and even set up a monument in his honor (1 Samuel 15:12). Who enthroned Saul? Who granted unto Saul victory? It was the Almighty God. As he lost sight of this fact, he grew arrogant and disobedient. From then on, the grace of the Holy Spirit departed from him and the evil spirit haunted and took control of him. Instilled with an envious, hateful, and murderous heart, Saul persecuted and attempted to kill innocent David and murdered 85 priests and their families. His hardened heart caused him to fall from God’s grace and suffer ignominious defeat by the Philistines. In the end, Saul kills himself (1 Samuel 31:4).

Who gave you your family? Who allowed your material wealth and career? Who appointed you to a leadership position at church? It is none other than God. Whatever we have and enjoy have been given us by God. “For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive?” (1 Corinthians 4:7). We must be faithful in all humility to the end. When his face radiated, Moses covered it with a veil lest people honor and glorify him (Exodus 34:35). This is how we as believers should conduct ourselves. Instead of setting up a monument in our honor, we are to render all honor and glory to God alone. If there is a light within us, it is a mere reflection of God’s light, not our own light. God allows us special positions, blessings, and grace not necessarily as a response to our commendable deeds but as a means of fulfilling His calling in obedience and humility. Saul’s failure in life is a cautionary reminder to all of us: “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us” (Romans 15:4). Just as Saul abandoned the Word of God, God abandoned Saul (1 Samuel 15:23). Disobedience leads to abandonment. Pride leads to destruction. Let this be a cautionary reminder to all of us.

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