1 Peter 5: Humility vs. Pride

This entry is part [part not set] of 11 in the series 1 Peter- Buck McCallum

1 Peter 5: Humility vs. Pride

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I think this section should begin with verse 5, because we begin dealing with the topic of submission and humility starting in vs. 5.  When he says, “Likewise,” he is simply saying “furthermore” or “moreover.”

Younger men

I think the reason Peter singles out younger men here is kind of obvious.  He knows that this is the particular group of people who have a difficult time with the idea of submitting to anyone.  He wants us all to have a mind of humility toward one-another.  But the younger men may have a harder time with this so he gives them an extra nudge.

The humble

But Peter goes on, and he notes that the over-arching attitude which is necessary is “Humility.”  The idea of the younger men submitting to the older is also subsumed under the broader topic of humility.

And this is the matter I would like to look into further before we progress.

False ideas

I think when people concieve of humility we can get some fairly unattractive pictures in our mind.

Example: When you think of someone humble, you might think of someone like Martin Short, or just some kind of a big sis.  “Oh, theres a humble person.  Kick him.”

There is kind of a sickly passive and excessively self-effacing picture associated with that word.  In fact, I would say that this is a quality which is not respected in our culture at all today.  Something which people have no use for, in whatever guise.

Example: Instead I think the model of self-assertiveness and self-confidence that we worship in our heroes, both men and women, is seen as the greatest characteristic to be had.  I know this is true because the hereos we see on TV and elsewhere, people like this Bruce Willis character, are characterized by not just self-confidence, but a self-conscious arrogance that is hard to take when you meet that kind of person.

And these heroes aren’t forced on us by some diabolical TV producers.  These are the ones we like.  That’s why they sell.

Well I think the general distaste for this whole idea of humility comes largely form a misconception about what it is.

Peter explains

Fortunately Peter explains what this whole idea of humility is for us here in this passage.

For one, he contrasts it with that pride and arrogance we are so familiar with.  “God is opposed to the proud . . .”

And truthfully, it might be OK for Bruce Willis or Don Johnson, but my friends aren’t that way.  And that’s because nobody really wants to get close to someone like that.  And if I ever get that way, I chase people away.  Nobody likes people who are like that in real life.  We only tolerate them.

But he goes on in vs. 6ff. to explain what it is like to humble yourself under God.  “Humble yourself under the might hand of God . . . Casting all your anxieties upon him.”

You see, he explains what it means to humble yourself before God.  It involves casting your anxieties upon him because he cares for you.  The idea that is being communicated here is that of neediness.  You have genuine fears or anxieties.  You have troubles.  And so, instead of shellaquing them over with a veneer of pride, you acknowledge that you have genuine needs.  You come to God with those anxieties.

An attractive picture

So, humility is simply having the honesty to understand you have need.  And expressing it appropriately.  This can be with God, as vs. 7 suggests.  But it can also be with other people.

I don’t know if this is such an unattractive picture.  For one thing, I don’t think it is weak.  We’re not talking about a slobering idiot writhing around, crying out with all this need.

We’re talking about normal people.  Normal people like you and me.  But humility means to add a degree of inner strength–the strength to be able to be honest and say, “I have need.”

It’s like I’ve always said, there’s only one thing weaker than a weakling: someone who can’t admit he’s a weakling.  There you have someone who is so captivated by their fears of what others will think and what will I look like, they can’t muster up the courage to be honest.

And this is why I’ve always had a hard time with the arrogant.  It’s also why I have a hard time with myself when I get like that.  It’s insincere.  It doesn’t reflect the truth.  To go about and try to foist this impression of togetherness on people–the problem is it’s just not true.

And worst of all, if you succeed in convincing yourself that you’re all together, then those needs and weaknesses mount up.  They go unoticed.  They go unchecked.  And they conquer and destroy the faker.

Example: It’s always interesting to watch the arrogant.  If you are close to someone who is this way, and you don’t like them, then just watch `em.  Don’t mention that they might have a problem.  Don’t mention anything.  Just watch them.  Watch them fall.  Because when you indulge arrogance, you can become so confident and inflated, that you forget your weaknesses and you end up getting broadsided some day.

I know because I’ve spent enough time there.  I’ll get high on myself for some reason.  I’ll slip into the illusion that I’m not a needy person.  “That’s all the other people.”  And I won’t reckognize my own weakness until it is about to overcome me.

And I say, “Don’t say anything if you don’t like them,” because if you want to watch someone fall real hard, let them be prideful and arrogant.  But if you love someone, find a way to gently remind them of their need for God.  And let me tell you, gently.  You don’t have to come barelling in saying, “You’re arrogant again, you’re gonna fall!”  There are more effective ways.

Example: My wife is good for this.  And I have friends who are good for this too.  But she is most consistent.  “Buck, what’s going on?  Where are you struggling these days?”  I’ll tend to bat this question off.  But my friends will keep at me.  As I face that type of question on a regular basis I’m forced to recognize my need for God.

We can help each other greatly in this way.


You know, there is an even more important application of this idea of humility.  Because there is this general maxim Peter gives us in vs. 5, “God is opposed to the proud . . .”

I want to give you an appreciation for how powerful and all-encompasing this statement is.  God is looking for an attitude out of people.  And this is it.  You may think, “God . . . of course, he wants me to be good.”  Wrong!  God is looking for an attitude of humility, that is, neediness out of people.

And you know what?  He shatters all our conceptions of the way things ought to be.

Example: Look with me at a passage in Luke 18.  Here we have two men going up . . .  Now, the first one prays, “God I thank you . . .”  Now I know what you’re thinking.  You’re thinking, “Of course, a pharisee!  Look at him!  Isn’t that how they got their name “pharisee?”  Isn’t that what it means to be a pharisee?!  To be an inflated idiot like this guy?”  And right from the start we know how this story is going to end.

But that wasn’t Jesus’ intention here.  He was trying to lead his audience along.  He was trying to paint a picture of someone very admirable.  Look, “I thank you, God, that I’m this way or that . . .”  That’s not so bad, is it?  And he is genuinely thankful that he is not an adulterer, swindler, or, like this one, a traitor tax-gatherer.

Those of you who haven’t studied this period of history might not know that tax-gatherers weren’t like the IRS man . . .

So you’re sitting here, listening to Jesus tell this story and you’re saying, “Yup, that’s good.  That’s a good prayer.”  And then this tax-gatherer prays.  And look at him.  Ashamed, alienated from God, and rightly he should be.  He couldn’t even lift up his eyes to God.  You’re sitting here, listening to Christ, “Yea, we all know someone like that!”

But he went home justified!  Christ throws in this punch-line at the end that really has some kick.  It was the other guy who went home with God’s forgiveness and favor!

The only way I can possibly make you feel the lesson Christ is giving here is to think of it in terms of the clergyman and the drug-dealing prostitute.  We’re too far from the situation to really feel its impact.  And the clergyman is praying, “Well God, I guess I’m thankful that I’m not a drunkard, I’m not a mafia boss, and I’m not like this poor prostitute-drug dealer here, Lord.”

She, on the other hand, doesn’t even have a prayer.  She just has an attitude, “God, have mercy on me.”  And God recognizes the attitude of the prostitute, not the prayer of the clergyman.

Why?  Because the latter expresses need.

This is what God is looking for out of people.  And that is why Jesus had his greatest conflicts with the religious of his day.  Religion obscures this one simple fact, “I have need for God’s mercy.”  The whole goal of religion is to make you feel like you’re OK, like you’re doing something for God.

But God simply wants us to recognize our neediness.  I don’t know if you have ever come into contact with God on this basis.  But the Bible tells us that you can approach God and express your neediness for his mercy, and you get it.  That’s what our passage in I Peter 5 says, “God gives grace to the humble.”  God’s grace is is love.  That’s what the word refers to . . .

The Accuser

But let’s move on to the next topic as Peter winds down this letter.  He is spilling out some of his final concerns . . .

His existence

He refers to that strange character, “the devil.”  I was reading an article recently where a professor was tracing the recent rise in religious ferment on campuses to an increase in movies about the devil, like the Exorcist.  He said it is a short leap from believing in a devil to becoming a Fundamentalist.

Of course, in saying this he was insinuating that the narrow, simple views of fundamentalism were one in the same with a belief in the Devil.

Well, I hate stereotypes.  And so, someone asks me, “Are you a fundamentalist?”  No.  “Do you interpret the Bible literally?” Well, not exactly.  I try to discover the author’s intent.  “Do you have black and white answers for everything?”  Maybe, Maybe not.

“Do you believe in a Devil?”  Now what am I supposed to say?  Wonder if I do?  Does that make me a raving fundamentalist?  Or is it just possible that people have carefully thought about where they stand and why they believe what they believe, and they still hold that there is such a thing as an evil spiritual force?  Yes.

I don’t consider the belief in a devil, or whatever you want to call him, any more stupid or incredible than a belief in a God.  How can I?  They’re both the same class of being, spiritual.  And experientially there’s just as much evidence for a bad spiritual being as a good one.  So, really, this thought, which the Bible affirms, is not such a hard pill to swallow.  And I feel a little put off when belief in such a spiritual being automatically slots you in with some silly stereotype.

An adversary

Well, Peter describes him here as an adversary.  And the word he uses is one they used in the courts, of your opponent in court.  Peter is trying to convey here a picture of the Devil which is pretty common in the Bible–that of an accuser.  He is an adversary in the sense that he brings charges against people.  He brings accusations against people.

There is a great ennactment of this idea in the book of Job.  Here Satan, the Devil, comes before God and says, “What do you think of that Job character, you think he’s pretty righteous don’t you?  Well, let me tell you what I think.  I think he’s a patsy.  I think you buy him off with good gifts.  Who wouldn’t be faithful with all the stuff you’ve given him?!”

So the Devil brings charges against Job.  And then he preceeded to persecute him and try to wreck his faith.

The Bible records this story because it so perfectly portrays the kind of attitude this character has.  Seething with hatred.  Overflowing with hatred for human beings and especially God’s followers.

You have to understand, this guy didn’t just get raised on the wrong side of the tracks.  He began his career in paradise, the Bible tells us in Ez. 28.  And the reason he left was that he became so arrogant, so puffed up with himself that he was outraged anyone else could be on the throne besides himself.

“How come God is sitting up there like he’s God?  I can’t stand it.  I’m gonna be God!”

So the Bible tells us he is pretty much bent on destruction all the time.  And he likes nothing more than to find a weak spot in a Christian and exploit it.  This is why he is called the accuser.

Example: I remember a few years back, in fact quite a few years back now, I was about to give a teaching on the whole matter of suffering.  And someone suggested to me that I was a young pup, wet behind the ears, and knew nothing of the topic I was going to teach on.  Well, I don’t want to suggest that the Devil was speaking through that person because it was just an affectionate teasing.  But over the next few days I couldn’t forget that idea.  “Yea, you really don’t know anything about suffering, or anything for that matter.”  This became an obsessive thought.  It became an obsession to the point that I could not carry off that teaching and at the last minute had to call someone else in to cover me.

Well, I’m convinced that there were spiritual forces involved in that exchange.  Nothing could be more typical of these spiritual beings than to take pleasure in rattling us, making us feel inadequate, or even evil, so we can’t carry on with the Lord’s work.

Example: I’ll recall something you may be very familiar with.  Here you are on the afternoon of a home church, or even heading off to the meeting, and you begin to notice what an idiot your wife is, or your husband.  “She’s completely self-centered in this area or that.”  So you attack.  Or perhaps you’re the one who is attacked.  You have to get down to the bottom of the issue now because it is the sinle most life-threatening thing you know of.

So by the time you get to hc, you’re wiped out.  I’ll propose that often this kind of thing comes from a spiritual source.  Here some spiritual being has used you, or suggested something accusatory to you, to wipe the both of you out.

Example: I don’t know how long it’s been going on now–years.  It’s the same thing every week.  Along comes Monday afternoon because I have my home church on Monday night, and I remember all the problems I’ve got.  I remember just how serious a sinner I really am.  And without fail, I start to get depressed.  I go out to visit my family sometimes on Mon. afternoon and they wonder why I’m so sullen.  It’s because I have so many problems!

But of course, once home church is over, everything’s OK.  Problems?  What problems?  I can hardly even remember what they were, until next Mon.

And you can imagine what happens when you get ready to come up here.

I don’t know if all of you realize this.  But when you become active in serving the Lord, you become an excessively attractive target for these vicious spiritual beings.

The next time you start really getting down because of all your problems and all your sins, just ask yourself this, “What am I about to do that will benefit God’s kingdom?  What is about to happen of spiritual consequence?”

I just can’t belive how stupid we are sometimes.  I’ll be talking to one of my fellow hc leaders and they’ll be finally convinced that they shouldn’t be a leader or that they can’t conquer this problem.  And I’ll remind them, “You know you’re supposed to teach tommorow night.”  And that’s enough.  It’s like the wake up and remember, “Oh, yea!  Someone might be suggesting these things to me!”

I do it myself.  I told you what happens every time something important is coming up.  But do you think I always remember?  Of course not.  I let myself get caught all the time.

And that is exactly what Peter’s point is here.  Don’t get caught!  There’s someone so persistent, so vicious, out there he can only be compared to a roaring lion.

Example: One thing about lions in those days, you didn’t have guns, or anything like that.  If a lion attacked you might be able to get dagger out, or try to club him.  But either way, you’d be in trouble.  So you can bet one thing.  If you even thought you were being stalked by one of these creatures, sobriety and alertness would be the least of your problems.  You wouldn’t even have to tell me to be alert . . .

Well, that is exactly what Peter is saying.  Realize this character is out there and capable of damage.

Example: I’ve told you some light-hearted stories.  But I want to tell you, I’ve seen fellow brothers and sisters go down in flames spiritually because they didn’t weather an accusatory attack by these spiritual beings.  It’s a horrible sight.  If you hang around vital Christians very long, you’ll see it too.  You won’t have any problem comparing it to a ravaging lion.

Resisting him

I want to put in some time thinking about this idea of resisting him.  Because I’ve painted a pretty bleak picture.  John gives us some insight into what this means to resist him firm in our faith in the book of Revelations.

Here, John is seeing kind of a prophetic drama played out for him regarding the Devil.

The accuser . . . thrown down

See first he notes that God’s kingdom has come.  And he is refering to the time in the future when God will firmly establish his kingdom.  But he says, “The one who is always accusing is cast down, overcome.”

Then he explains why.

Blood of the Lamb

He says for one, those who overcame the Devil did so because of the blood of the Lamb.  He is refering to the fact that we are accepted by God on the basis of Christ’s death on our behalf.  Christ’s death, the Bible says, cleanses us of any wrong.

Yes I’ve got problems.  Yes I make mistakes.  Yes, there are serious flaws in my character.  But Christ has covered all that.

That’s the idea he is trying to communicate here.  We overcome Satan’s accusations, not by saying, “No, that’s not true.  There’s nothing wrong with me.”  You overcome him by saying, “So what, God accepts me in spite of that.”  And that resonse, that attitude on the part of the Christian, appealing to God’s grace, is just too much.  He has no reply for this.

By their word

Secondly he notes that the Devil is overcome by the word of our testimony.  In other words, the best defense is a good offense.

Here I am, frozen in my chair after a home church teaching ora central teaching.  Why?  Because I was stupid again and I’ve been thinking about myself all day and all my problems.  The accuser go to me.

So what do I do?  I get up, go over, and begin encouraging someone about how good God really is.  What he’s done in my life.  Or perhaps what he could do in there’s.  I start to actually speak forth God’s word!

What could be worse?!  Again, these spiritual beings have no real weapons when we start to speak God’s word to others.  Remember talking about that a couple weeks ago?  How we can get involved in speaking God’s word to others?

Did not love their lives

Finally, they didn’t love their lives.  John is drawing attention to the selfless Christian.  The one who doesn’t even cling to his own life.  What kind of threat do you bring against someone this dedicated?

No, the Devil fears this kind of person.  How many of us have given our lives to the Lord to this extreme?  I don’t know, but may there be many more.

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