Childish Pride or Childlike Humility?
Dr. Franklin L. Kirksey | Pastor
First Baptist Church, Spanish Fort, Alabama
Childish Pride or Childlike Humility?
Childish pride or childlike humility.
Do you know the difference? Which one marks you?
Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit Paul the apostle writes in 1 Corinthians 13:4-5a, and 11, “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own. . . . When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”
Psalm 131:1-3 reads, “Lord, my heart is not haughty, Nor my eyes lofty. Neither do I concern myself with great matters, Nor with things too profound for me. Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul, Like a weaned child with his mother; Like a weaned child is my soul within me. O Israel, hope in the LORD From this time forth and forever.”
Dr. Herbert Lockyer (1886-1984) explains Psalm 131 is “One of the shortest Psalms to read, but one of the longest to learn.”[i]
Note three truths from our text.
1. First, note the acceptance of God’s placement.
Psalm 131:1 reads, “Lord, my heart is not haughty, Nor my eyes lofty. Neither do I concern myself with great matters, Nor with things too profound for me.” The term “haughty” could be translated “proud”.
Matthew 18:1-5 reads, “At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me.’”
From the Children’s Ministry Resource Bible: “are converted: Turn from the proud attitude evidenced by the disciples in their desire to be the greatest (see v. 1), as little children: Humble, not seeking status.”[ii]
Dr. Stuart K. Weber comments on Matthew 18:2-3, “Jesus’ response to the disciples showed how selfish and foolish their question was. They were thinking childishly, but Jesus showed them that mature faith is the opposite. Mature faith is childlike humility. In fact, elsewhere in the New Testament, Peter seemed to suggest that the more mature a disciple’s faith becomes, the more brotherly kindness and love it demonstrates (2 Pet. 1:5-9). The child Jesus called to him served as an object lesson for the disciples. It was a memorable image to help them learn the nature of true maturity. Little children are the most helpless and powerless members of society. But Jesus infused their childlike qualities with value and greatness.”[iii]
From the pages of Our Daily Bread, David C. McCasland shares the following: “When some followers of Jesus were jockeying for position in His kingdom, the Lord ‘called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven’” (Matt. 18:2-3).
Not many children seek position or power. Instead, they want acceptance and security. They cling to the adults who love and care for them. Jesus never turned children away.”[iv]
Matthew 19:13-15 reads, “Then little children were brought to Him that He might put His hands on them and pray, but the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.’ And He laid His hands on them and departed from there.”
Romans 12:1-3 and 16 reads, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. . . . Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion.”
Psalm 18:27 reads, “For You will save the humble people, But will bring down haughty looks.” Psalm 101:5b reads, “The one who has a haughty look and a proud heart, Him I will not endure.” Proverbs 6:16-19 reads, “These six things the Lord hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him: A proud look, A lying tongue, Hands that shed innocent blood, A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that are swift in running to evil, A false witness who speaks lies, And one who sows discord among brethren.” Proverbs 16:18-19 reads, “Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before a fall. Better to be of a humble spirit with the lowly, Than to divide the spoil with the proud.”
Rev. Matthew Henry (1662-1714) explains, “[David] didn’t amuse himself with nice speculation or doubtful disputation or covet to be wise above what is written.” Henry also writes, “[David] was well reconciled to every condition that God placed him in. . . . David had not been restless in his attempt to get the crown before the set time.”
Welsh evangelist, Vavasor Powell (1617-1670), warns, “It is very hard to behold our own gifts without pride, and the gifts of others without envy.”[v]
Lucifer did not accept God’s placement according to Isaiah 14:12-15. Rev. Andrew Murray (1828-1917), shares the following in his book titled, Humility: The Beauty of Holiness, “When the Old Serpent, he who had been cast out from heaven for his pride, whose whole nature as devil was pride, spoke his words of temptation into the ear of Eve, these words carried with them the very poison of hell. And when she listened, and yielded her desire and her will to the prospect of being as God, knowing good and evil, the poison entered into her soul and blood and life, destroying for ever that blessed humility and dependence upon God which would have been our everlasting happiness. And instead of this, her life and the life of the race that sprang from her became corrupted to its very root with that most terrible of all sins and all curses, the poison of Satan’s own pride. All the wretchedness of which this world has been the scene, all its wars and bloodshed among the nations, all its selfishness and suffering, all its ambitions and jealousies, all its broken hearts and embittered lives, with all its daily unhappiness, have their origin in what this cursed, hellish pride, either our own, or that of others, has brought us. It is pride that made redemption needful; it is from our pride we need above everything to be redeemed. And our insight into the need of redemption will largely depend upon our knowledge of the terrible nature of the power that has entered our being. . . Pride has its root and strength in a terrible spiritual power, outside of us as well as within us; as needful as it is that we confess and deplore it as our very own, is it to know it in its Satanic origin. If this leads us to utter despair of ever conquering or casting it out, it will lead us all the sooner to that supernatural power in which alone our deliverance is to be found — the redemption of the Lamb of God. The hopeless struggle against the workings of self and pride within us may indeed become still more hopeless as we think of the power of darkness behind it all; the utter despair will fit us the better for realizing and accepting a power and a life outside of ourselves too, even the humility of heaven as brought down and brought nigh by the Lamb of God, to cast out Satan and his pride.” [vi] Jeremiah instructed Baruch in Jeremiah 45:5, “‘And do you seek great things for yourself? Do not seek them; for behold, I will bring adversity on all flesh,’ says the Lord. ‘But I will give your life to you as a prize in all places, wherever you go.’”
2. Second, note the allowance of God’s provision.
Psalm 131:2 reads, “Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul, Like a weaned child with his mother; Like a weaned child is my soul within me.”
Rev. Matthew Henry (1662-1714) writes, “The child is perhaps cross and fretful while it is in the weaning and thinks itself undone when it has lost the breast. But in a day or two it is forgotten; the fret is over, and it accommodates itself well enough to a new way of feeding, cares no longer for milk, but can bear strong meat. Thus does a gracious soul quiet itself under the loss of that which it hoped for, and is easy whatever happens, lives, and lives comfortably upon God and the covenant-grace, when creatures prove dry breasts. When our condition is not to our mind we must bring our mind to our condition; and then we are easy to ourselves and all about us; then our souls are as a weaned child.”[vii]
I discovered the following comment on Psalm 131 in the Children’s Ministry Resource Bible: “a weaned child: A symbol of contentment. The psalmist has been weaned from a self-centered life and thus finds contentment.”[viii]
Paul confesses in Philippians 4:11, “Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.” Rev. Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892) warns, “If you are not content with what you have, you would not be satisfied if it were doubled.”
Only those with a Christ-centered life have genuine contentment. We must remember that God is our source not man. James 1:17 reads, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.”
Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 3:1-3, “And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?”
Hebrews 5:12-14 reads, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.”
Dr. Warren W. Wiersbe explains, “Weaned children discover who they are and what they can do. They have quiet hearts and no desire to go back to babyhood. They live for the future and watch for the special things that come to children growing up. They learn to obey, for only then can they fully experience all that the Father has for them.”[ix]
Dr. J. Hardee Kennedy (1915-2003) explains, “The figure of the “weaned” child (v. 2) held a twofold suggestion: giving up and finding contentment. The child gave up the mother’s breast and learned contentment and security without it. Similarly, in his maturing process the psalmist turned from his own ambitions and learned to wait on God.
The disciplined life was not a natural endowment. The psalmist had known the inclination to haughty looks and ambitious schemes. But humility and patience had replaced selfish struggle.
Let Israel learn this same lesson. Perhaps this was the problem-plagued community after the Exile. Not in restless struggle, but in calm confidence the people should wait on God. David’s name appears in the superscription. Possibly this is true because the psalm seemed to illustrate the spirit of David’s life (2 Sam. 7:18-29).”[x]
Dr. A. W. Tozer (1897-1963) writes, “Our present preoccupation with the world may be a warning of bitter days to come. God will wean us from the earth some way—the easy way if possible, the hard way if necessary. It is up to us!”[xi]
3. Third, the assurance of God’s purpose.
Psalm 131:3 reads, “O Israel, hope in the Lord From this time forth and forever.” Note the psalmist focuses on others at this point as in Psalm 130:7, “O Israel, hope in the Lord; For with the Lord there is mercy, And with Him is abundant redemption.”
God’s purpose related to others is also revealed in Philippians 2:4 and 8, “Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. . . . And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.”
Dr. Wayland Hoyt (1838-1910) writes, “Tennyson sings of ‘the mighty hopes which makes us men.’ Have you ever thought of the worst loss which can come to a man? Loss of property? That is a sad loss, but not the worst. Loss of friends? That is a sad loss, but not the worst. Loss of opportunity? Nor is that the worst of losses. Loss of hope, when the heart dies, and the courage fails, and the hands hang listlessly, and a man begins only and sadly to drudge — this, the loss of hope, is the blackest loss.”[xii]
Dr. George Curtis Jones (1912-1999) shares, “Life with Christ is an endless hope, without him a hopeless end.”[xiii]
Dante Alighieri (1265–1321) imagines above the gate of Hell [the Inferno] are the words: “All hope abandon, ye who enter here.”[xiv] Are you concerned about others who will be going there? Once a person goes to Hell, there is no escape. It is my prayer you will not have to endure Hell, but that you will enjoy Heaven. Come to Jesus and believe on Him and be saved.
Rev. Benjamin Charles Caffin (1795-1855) observes, “The necessity of childlike humility. There is no true conversion without humility; a man whose thoughts are filled with self cannot turn to Christ. Pride concentrates the regards of the soul on self; and while the soul is occupied with self it cannot see the surpassing beauty of the Lord, it cannot turn to him. Those who would follow Christ must become as little children; they must be like the little ones in their simplicity, their trustfulness, their humility. The little child is simple; it shows its true nature; it has no hypocrisy, no desire to seem other than it is; it is humble and modest; it does not aim at display and show; it is full of affectionate trustfulness in those whom it loves. And, the Lord Jesus says, they shall be greater than others, they shall have the higher places in the kingdom of heaven, who humble themselves as that little child who then lay in his arms was humble; that is, with an unaffected humility, with a simple and genuine lowliness. Then the Christian must not set his heart upon gaining the high places of life; if God puts him there he must do his duty simply and humbly; if others are set above him he must be willing to take the lowest place, content and happy, remembering the blessed Master’s words.”[xv]
Dr. J. C. Ryle (1816-1900) explains, “The first thing that we are taught in these verses [Matthew 18:1-14], is the necessity of conversion, and of conversion manifested by childlike humility. The disciples came to our Lord with the question, ‘Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ They spoke as men half-enlightened, and full of carnal expectations. They received an answer well calculated to awaken them from their day-dream–an answer containing a truth which lies at the very foundation of Christianity—‘unless you turn, and become as little children, you will in no way enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.’
Let these words sink down deeply into our hearts. Without conversion there is no salvation. We all need an entire change of nature. Of ourselves we have neither faith, nor fear, nor love towards God. ‘We must be born again.’ Of ourselves we are utterly unfit for dwelling in God’s presence. Heaven would be no heaven to us if we were not converted. It is true of all ranks, classes, and orders of mankind. All are born in sin and children of wrath, and all, without exception, need to be born again and made new creatures. A new heart must be given to us, and a new spirit put within us. Old things must pass away, and all things must become new . . . . Would we know whether we are really converted? Would we know the test by which we must try ourselves? The surest mark of true conversion is humility. If we have really received the Holy Spirit, we shall show it by a meek and childlike spirit. Like children, we shall think humbly of our own strength and wisdom, and be very dependent on our Father in heaven. Like children, we shall not seek great things in this world; and having food and clothing and a Father’s love, we shall be content. Truly this is a heart-searching test! It exposes the unsoundness of many a so-called conversion. It is easy to be a convert from one party to another party, from one sect to another sect, from one set of opinions to another set of opinions. Such conversions save no one’s soul. What we all want is a conversion from pride to humility–from high thoughts of ourselves to lowly thoughts of ourselves–from self-conceit to self-abasement–from the mind of the Pharisee to the mind of the Tax-collector. A conversion of this kind we must experience, if we hope to be saved. These are the conversions that are wrought by the Holy Spirit.”[xvi]
Rev. Andrew Murray explains, “. . . pride, or the loss of this humility, is the root of every sin and evil. . . [The] chief mark of counterfeit holiness is its lack of humility.”[xvii] James 4:7-10 reads, “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.”
Remember, just because a person has grown older does not mean they have actually grown up! Is your life marked by childish pride or childlike humility?
[i]Herbert Lockyer, Psalms: A Devotional Commentary, (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1993), 675.
[ii]Children’s Ministry Resource Bible, Special Study Helps, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1991 and 1990), 1219.
[iii]Holman New Testament Commentary, gen. ed. Max Anders, (Matthew), Stuart K. Weber, (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 286. Database © 2005 WORDsearch Corp.
[iv]Our Daily Bread, David McCasland,“Gentle Jesus,” (Matthew 18:1-10), (Grand Rapids, MI: RBC Ministries, September 14, 2014), Accessed: 09/18/14, http://odb.org/2014/09/14/gentle-jesus/.
[v]John Blanchard, The Complete Gathered Gold: A treasury of quotations for Christians, (Darlington, UK: Evangelical Press, 2006), 615. Database © 2007 WORDsearch Corp.
[vi]Andrew Murray, Humility: The Beauty of Holiness, (New York, NY: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1910), 17-19.
[vii]Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, 741. Database © 2014 WORDsearch, Corp.
[viii]Children’s Ministry Resource Bible, Special Study Helps, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1991 and 1990), 741.
[ix]Warren W. Wiersbe, Chapter-by-Chapter Bible Commentary, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1991), 400.
[x]The Teacher’s Bible Commentary: A concise, thorough interpretation of the entire Bible designed especially for Sunday School teachers, eds. H. Franklin Paschall and Herschel H. Hobbs; J. Hardee Kennedy, “Schooled in Calm Confidence and Humility” (Psalm 131), (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1972), 348. Database © 2009 WORDsearch Corp.
[xi]A. W. Tozer, Mornings with Tozer: Daily Devotional Readings, (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread Publishers, 2008), September 18 Reading. Database © 2009 WORDsearch Corp.
[xii]The Biblical Illustrator, ed. Joseph S. Exell, Psalm, Database © 2012 WORDsearch Corp.
[xiii]G. Curtis Jones, 1000 Illustrations for Preaching and Teaching (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1986), 195. Database © 2006 WORDsearch Corp.
[xiv]Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy, “Inferno [Hell], Canto III, The Harvard Classics, (1909–14), Accessed: http://www.bartleby.com/20/103.html .
[xv]The Pulpit Commentary, eds. H.D.M. Spence and Joseph S. Exell, Matthew Vol. 2, Homilies by B.C. Caffin, (New York, NY: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1909), 218. Database © 2012 WORDsearch Corp.
[xvi]J. C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels, Matthew, (New York, NY: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1879), 219-220
[xvii]Murray, Humility, 15, 74.
Published by permission