Learning to Be Compassionate People Day 3: Why Pride Holds Us Back
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3, ESV).
If we’re honest, each of us, at some point in our lives, has held back from showing compassion toward someone because of pride. Whether we like to admit it or not, pride is a part of our sinful nature. God, of course, knows this, which is why pride is addressed many times in His Word. And if there is one thing we can be sure of, it is that God opposes pride (James 4:6).
But why does pride hold us back from showing compassion? Well, it would seem that the root of pride is caring more about ourselves than others. This is something we all tend toward, but it is contrary to the nature of the Lord Jesus—the One we should be striving to imitate. Sometimes we may look at a person in need of compassion but feel judgmental toward them because we can see that the choices they made put them in their situation. At times, we may think too highly of ourselves to meet a struggling person where they are—to sit with them and be present in their situation. We may even think: Why would I help a person like that?
It’s embarrassing to admit that I’ve thought some of these things before. Maybe you never have and are shocked that anyone could, but if you’re honest with yourself, you may realize your heart has been in a similar place. And it’s important to acknowledge this, because if we want to change and become more like Christ, recognizing our sin is imperative. Pride and self-centeredness may be our tendencies, but that doesn’t give us the excuse to continue in that way. We must do better, because Jesus did better.
The story of the Pharisee and tax collector in Luke 18 is a perfect example of what it can look like to think highly of ourselves (like the Pharisee) while looking down on someone who is in need of compassion. At the same time, it reveals the heart of someone who understands not only his place before God (the tax collector) but also God’s heart of mercy and compassion. It is this person who will be able to learn true compassion, because it is found in knowing God.
“He [Jesus] also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and greeted others with contempt: ‘Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: “God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.” But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!”’”(Luke 18:10-14).
Our pride will be brought to nothing at the cross. It is there we remember that we are all the same—sinners who, by God’s grace, have been forgiven.
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved — and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not of your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:4-9).
“God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
He could not have given us more. He showed us the fullest compassion when we’d only disobeyed Him. He loved us when we hated Him. He saved us when we were helpless. When we know these things to be true, how can we not show compassion to others? It would be as if we were counting Christ’s sacrifice as nothing.
The bottom line is this: I’m not better than anyone else, and neither are you. We are all the same; we are all sinners. But God has shown us immeasurable compassion through His Son, and if our aim is to become more like Him, we must show it too. We have to confess our pride to God, ask Him (even if it’s daily) to change our hearts, and seek to know His heart of compassion more so we can share it with others. After all, what is the point of anything without love?
“If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way” (1 Corinthians 13:3-5).