The Subtle Pride of Achievement
by Mike Pohlman
What do you have that you did not receive? - 1 Corinthians 4:7
Pride is crafty. It has a way of bleeding out of us in ways we don't even recognize. This is unfortunate for if we recognized it sooner we just might avoid the fall (cf. Proverbs 16:18).
Jerry Bridges is a great teacher. He uses Scripture like a surgeon uses a scalpel. And he just cut me again.
In his book, Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins We Tolerate, Bridges takes up the subtle sin of pride by looking at the "sin of achievement." He warns us against slipping into a mindset that sees our accomplishments as our own doing. And we do this is subtle ways. For example, it may be the simple telling of a story to a friend or family member that involves a promotion at work, or success on the hoop court, or an academic milestone--but with no mention of God. Subtly, we have projected ourselves as the ones who accomplished something when in fact all the credit should go to God.
Why is this? Why should God get all the glory in our achievements? Bridges, with a little help from the Apostle Paul, explains:
To the proud Corinthians, Paul wrote: "Who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?" (1 Cor. 4:7). So what do you have that you did not receive? Nothing. You have nothing that did not come to you as a gift from God. Our intellect, our natural skills and talents, our health, and our opportunities to succeed all come from God. We have nothing that will enable us to achieve success that we did not receive from God.
Bridges continues to cut:
So why do we boast, either in an overtly proud fashion or in a more subtle way in which we want to be proud but don't want to appear to be? In both instances, it is because we have failed to acknowledgethat success came from God. Sure, there was diligent effort involved, but who gave you the ability and the desire to succeed? And who blessed your efforts? Ultimately, all is from God.
Now, I know there is a way to simply "paste" God-talk on our conversations while still inwardly swelling with pride (cf. Matthew 15:1-9). It is not enough to simply say, "Praise God." What Bridges is calling for, in any and all of our achievements, is a sincere recognition of God's grace toward us. We give God all the glory, all the recognition, all the credit "since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything" (Acts 17:25). If we are to boast it is only in the cross (cf. Galatians 6:14).
As the great Protestant Reformer wrote, "We are beggars; this is true." And beggars don't get glory.
Intersecting Faith & Life
In what ways has the pride of achievement shown itself in your life? How can we better deflect attention on us while focusing it on Christ?