Pride, Spiritual Arrogance & Judgmentalism – Part 4

[To read this study in its entirety, please go to the Bible Studies page on this website and download the PDF.]

Acts 7:51-52, “You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did. Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who previously announced the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become…”
Context: Stephen, the first Christian martyr, speaks the word of God to the Sanhedrin (the Jewish court) after being brought to them by opponents of Christianity. After these words, the Sanhedrin stoned him to death under the supervision of Saul, who would later become the Apostle Paul.
Analysis: The term “stiff-necked” means stubborn. When we are stubborn, we are unwilling to consider the counsel of others, because we arrogantly believe that our way is the only way. Stephen points out to the Sanhedrin, many of whom were Pharisees, that they are arrogant, just like their fathers who killed the prophets, and he implies that this arrogance led them to kill Jesus.

Romans 2:1-3, “Therefore, you are without excuse, every man of you who passes judgment, for in that you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. And we know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who practice such things. And do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment upon those who practice such things and do so yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God?”
Context: In the last half of chapter 1, the Apostle Paul writes of the many sins of the Gentiles who had not been exposed to the Gospel of Christ. Paul begins chapter two with a warning to the early Christians not to be arrogant toward those who did not live as wholesome a life as they did. We do not know exactly what kind of sins Paul addresses here; therefore, this quote a bit vague.
Analysis: Unfortunately, many Christians use this verse to support their judgmentalism in situations where the person they judge commits a sin that they do not. We have already learned, however, that the roots of sin are intentions of the heart, such as pride, greed, and hatred, so even if a person commits a sin that outwardly appears different from our own, their sin results from the same evil intentions that reside in our hearts, as well. For example, a man may be promiscuous, because his sexual conquests boost his pride. Meanwhile, a Christian may be judgmental, because looking down on others boosts his pride. Both of these men have the same root sin of pride in their hearts. But this pride manifests itself in different ways for each man. Therefore, since our differing sins share the same root, we are never free to pass judgment on those whose sins appear to differ from our own.

Romans 3:9-10, “What then, are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are under sin; as it is written, ‘There is none righteous, not even one…’”
Context: Paul uses the issue of judgmentalism in the church to set up an explanation of how we are saved from God’s wrath by justification through faith in Christ.
Analysis: Just as Jews were no better than Greeks, because both were sinful, we Christians are no better than non-Christians because both groups are sinful. The only difference is that we are justified through faith in Christ and, therefore, forgiven.

Romans 3:27, “Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith.”
Context: Same as above
Analysis: Since we are no better than others in God’s eyes, we have no reason to boast.

Romans 12:3, “For through the grace given to me, I say to every man 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.”
Context: Paul goes on to say that each person within the church has his own role or skill that is of value to God. Apparently, some Christians were claiming that certain spiritual gifts were of greater importance than others.
Analysis: Again, the message to Christians here is that we are all of equal value in God’s eyes, so we are not to determine our self-worth by our God-given abilities, but by the fact that we are children of God.

Romans 12:16, “Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation.”
Context: Paul advises the Christians in Rome on how to behave toward each other, as well as toward all people.
Analysis: This verse reinforces Isaiah 5:21, in that we should not consider ourselves to be smarter than others. It encourages us to associate with people in all situations, and begins by telling us to regard all people equally.

1 Corinthians 4:3-5, “But to me it is a very small thing that I should be examined by you, or by any human court; in fact, I do not even examine myself. I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord. Therefore, do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God.”
Context: In chapter 4, Paul writes about what it means to be an Apostle of Christ.
Analysis: Paul begins by stating that he has little concern for how other Christians judge him and that he doesn’t even judge himself. He leaves the judgment to God, who knows what’s in our hearts more than we do.

1 Corinthians 5:12, “For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges.”
Context: Paul instructs the Corinthians to temporarily stop associating with a fellow Christian in order to discipline him for having an ongoing sexual relationship with his step-mother.
Analysis: At first glance, this verse appears to give Christians the right to judge others inside the church. This judgment of which Paul writes, however, is the judging of a deed as sinful and the determination of a method of discipline. Paul is not passing judgment on this man by calling him evil or non-Christian. He is only passing judgment on the deed.

2 Corinthians 2:6-7, “Sufficient for such a one is this punishment which was inflicted by the majority, so that on the contrary you should rather forgive and comfort him, lest somehow such a one be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.”
Context: The person discussed here may be the same as the one who sinned in I Corinthians 5.
Analysis: Even if this is not the same man, we see that Paul recommends punishment followed by forgiveness as the antidote for major sins. Paul does not recommend that Christians judge the person and damn him in their hearts for years to come, like many Christians do today.

1 Corinthians 8:1, “Now concerning things sacrificed to idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies.”
Context: As we discussed in the Alcohol chapter, Paul addresses disputes and dangers involving the eating of meat that had been sacrificed to Roman gods.
Analysis: This verse is further proof that spiritual knowledge often leads to the sin of arrogance.

Galatians 5:26, “Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another.”
Context: Paul encourages the Galatians to be led by the Holy Spirit in their behavior.
Analysis: When pride and arrogance get the best of us, conflict within the church results.

Galatians 6:1-4, “Brethren even if a man is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and thus fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have reason for boasting in regard to himself alone, and not in regard to another.”
Context: Paul gives a few more instructions as he closes out the letter.
Analysis: In the first sentence, Paul requires that Christians correct other Christians in gentleness, knowing that they, too, are susceptible to succumbing to temptation. This command is overlooked by many conservative Christians today, who address the sins of others with anger and judgmentalism. The gentleness of which Paul speaks comes from humility in knowing one’s own sinful heart. It is only out of arrogance that we harshly criticize others for their sins.
The last sentence of this quote provides us with the one exception in which pride is allowed, and that’s when we compare ourselves to our former selves. If your relationship with God and others has improved over the years, you are entitled to be proud of this accomplishment, as long as you compare it to the behavior of your former self and not to the accomplishments of others. This allowance of pride is similar to the 2nd definition of pride given in Webster’s.

Philippians 2:3-4, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”
Context: Paul encourages the Philippians to be like Christ by looking out for the interests of others.
Analysis: This quote is alternate wording for The Greatest Commandment of “Love your neighbor as yourself.” To do that, we must be humble. If we think of ourselves as better than others, we then believe our interests to be more important than the interests of others, and we end up serving only ourselves.

James 2:13, “For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.”
Context: This is the last verse of a discourse opposing favoritism. The recipients of this letter had been neglecting the poor among them, while they showered the wealthy with attention.
Analysis: When we judge a person of high social status to be more deserving of attention than someone of low social status, we are guilty of judgmentalism. When we seek the company of people with high social status over those with low social status, we are guilty of pride, because we often do such things in an attempt to elevate our own social status so that others will think highly of us.
Notice that the phrase, “mercy triumphs over judgment,” is similar to my quote from the Greed & Oppression study, which says, “when people are in need…fairness fails and mercy prevails.” When we judge people to be unworthy of assistance in the name of fairness, we practice judgmentalism. Those of us who do so despise mercy (mercy is never fair) and oppose God.

James 3:13-14, “Who among you is wise in understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth.”
Context: James encourages believers to obey Godly wisdom.
Analysis: Notice the contrast between “gentleness” and being “arrogant.” Wise Christians share their wisdom in a spirit of gentleness. Those who speak from selfish ambition are harsh, critical, and arrogant.

James 4:6, “But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, ‘God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’”
James 4:10, “Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.”
James 4:11-12, “Do not speak against one another, brethren. He who speaks against a brother, or judges his brother, speaks against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law, but a judge of it. There is only one lawgiver and judge, the One who is able to save and destroy; but who are you to judge your neighbor?”
Context: James encourages the recipients of this letter to put an end to the fighting and quarrelling among them, which resulted from their own selfish desires.
Analysis: I have to admit that I don’t quite know what it means to judge the law. But I do know that this verse provides us even more biblical opposition to judgmentalism.

1 Peter 5:5-6 “You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you at the proper time.”
Context: In this chapter, Peter gives encouragement to the elders who were overseeing the church. He then advises the young men to obey their elders.
Analysis: The young men here are to be humble in their spiritual knowledge and be subject to the elders who have greater knowledge. However, the elders are instructed to be humble, as well. For God to be “opposed to the proud” is to say that those who are proud in their spiritual knowledge are enemies of God.

1 John 2:16, “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.”
Context: John warns against living by our fleshly desires rather than by living as God desires. The next verse states that the world is passing away, but those who live by God’s will live forever.
Analysis: The opposition to pride continues….

We have now reviewed 42 Bible quotes that oppose pride, arrogance, and judgmentalism. The total would be higher if I had included all the forgiveness verses in the Bible, because forgiveness is the opposite of judgmentalism. It is out of our pride that we pass judgment on others. Therefore, it is out of our pride that we fail to forgive, because it’s impossible to simultaneously forgive and judge a person, so any Bible verse that promotes forgiveness opposes pride.
Pride and greed are the root sins that lead to almost all other sins. Both of them are, in turn, rooted in selfishness. Out of our pride, we fight, pass judgment, fail to forgive, withhold mercy, cut off other Christians, and fail to help those in need, because we think that we would do better if we were in their shoes. Greed stands in the way of justice and the support of those in need, while it promotes dishonesty and oppression of the poor.
Pride and greed are the two mega-sins of the Bible. Yet most Evangelical/Fundamentalist churches focus so little energy on steering believers away from them. Instead, many of them focus on preaching man-made rules and beliefs that serve no purpose but to distract Christians from God’s will and to shut the door to the kingdom of heaven in peoples’ faces.