Scripture Focus: Proverbs 16.18-19
18 Pride goes before destruction,
a haughty spirit before a fall.
19 Better to be lowly in spirit along with the oppressed
than to share plunder with the proud.
Reflection: Are We Proud of the Prideful?
By John Tillman
Some saw the podcast, The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill, as unnecessarily dragging out dirty laundry. Most praised it for doing the laundry, dragging past sins out of darkness and into the light. An important question it poses is “What is it about us that prefers narcissists in leadership?”
A section of Proverbs 16 describes ideal qualities and actions of righteous kings. Surrounding the “kingly” proverbs are warnings against pride, including one of Proverbs’ most famous verses (Proverbs 16.18) People who know nothing about the Bible know, “Pride goes before a fall.”
Biblically, the primary thing a king or a leader needs to be is humble. This qualification is stated or implied strongly throughout the Bible. However, when we look around we rarely see this. Leaders tend to overflow with ego, bravado, spite, vitriol, and violent language (or even actual violence). Speaking callously about potential violence against one’s opponents has been normalized. (In this, Mark Driscoll was a thought leader.) Other leaders in American churches have also perpetuated this anti-biblical leadership model. We say, “May the best man win” rather than, “May the first among you become your slave.” (Matthew 20.25-28)
In most situations (whether through democracy, the economy, or church membership) people have at least some influence in choosing leaders. Why do we so often choose poorly?
This question is for our entire culture. Business and politics are deeply affected by this. The idea that hard-nosed, abusive, prideful, narcissist leaders are the best chance for success came into the church from culture. Not the other way around.
Too often, we aren’t ashamed of the prideful, we are proud of them. “Look at all they’ve done!” “Look at the growth!” “Look at the fruit!” However, the “fruit” we are typically pointing to is worldly results: attendance, book sales, etc. We are after the same type of fruit as Adam and Eve in the garden. “Look at it! It’s good for knowledge and gaining power! Take and eat.”
To select and become better leaders, we have to learn to love righteousness over results. We must learn to prefer sitting with the oppressed over divvying plunder with the proud. We need to recognize tenderness as strength and empathy as Christlike. We need to surrender our determination to win at all costs and instead count “all things loss.” (Philippians 3.8)
May we be and see better leaders in the mold of Christ rather than the world.
Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me. Anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it.” — Matthew 16.24-25
– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.
Proverbs 16 (Listen – 3:15)
Psalm 79 (Listen – 1:50)
Read more about Pride and Cowardice
The proud person, ironically, begins looking around for people of like mind who want to be sufficient unto themselves in their pride.
Read more about After the Whirlwind
Many fear that careless, vitriolic words from leaders may inspire physical violence that could erupt from either side of our fractured political spectrum.