Arrogance is one of the most pervasive problems in society. It is basic to human nature, and has been the source of much conflict and heartache.
Arrogance can be described as natural confidence gone sadly awry. Rather than the self-assurance born of knowing our own strengths and limitations, arrogance admits no limits.
It might also be described as having a lack of accountability. It’s a character trait often seen in elected officials who assume the public isn’t watching when they spend taxpayers’ dollars. Or it could be anyone who assumes God isn’t looking when he misbehaves.
The arrogant person assumes his views and opinions are “The Truth.” He claims to have no weakness and usually rejoices in finding flaws in others. But imperfections are inherent in being humans, so the arrogant, like everyone else, always have feet of clay, however well hidden they may be.
Pride is a Major Problem
For a long time, I didn’t pay much attention to what type of ego any given Christian leader might have. If someone preached the gospel message, it didn’t matter to me if this individual thought he was God’s gift to mankind. I now realize that arrogance is where a lot of error begins.
Satan uses the spirit of self-importance as a stepping stone to deception. If he can’t gain control of the mind in one step, he’ll gladly accept pride as a down payment.
The Bible offers much about pride–none of it positive. The Word of God gives numerous examples of how arrogance can lead people to destruction. The Book of Proverbs has so many warnings against pride, God could have just as well added a subtitle to the book, “Keeping Your Ego in Check.”
“A man’s pride shall bring him low: but honor shall uphold the humble in spirit” (Prov. 29:23).
“Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Prov. 16:18).
“Wise people don’t make a show of their knowledge, but fools broadcast their folly” (Prov. 12:23 NLT).
“People who listen when they are corrected will live, but those who will not admit that they are wrong are in danger” (Prov. 10:17 TEV).
“Arrogance will bring your downfall, but if you are humble, you will be respected” (Prov. 29:23 TEV).
“Too much honey is bad for you, and so is trying to win too much praise” (Prov. 25:27 TEV).
The “Love Yourself” Gospel
There is little teaching about arrogance today because it is so widely embraced by the Christian world. Christians are told self-esteem is the path to happiness, and godliness is reflected in the amount of material goods we possess and brag about.
At one point, a minister who had great wealth would try to hide his earthly horde. Today, ministers often demonstrate no shame in showing off their fancy cars, airplanes, and mansions.
The prosperity preachers need to be mindful of how the following verse runs contrary to their lifestyle: “And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God” (Matt. 19:24)
Some Word of Faith preachers say this verse means the opposite of what it seems to imply. Jesus is basically saying the eye of a needle is a door, and we believers have the key. As my old friend David Reagan would say, “If the plain sense makes sense, seek no other sense or you will end up with nonsense.”
The world is of full of preachers who spread false doctrine. A Christian seeking to learn God’s truth needs to avoid any ministry that is not focused exclusively on Christ. Because the devil is so dedicated to spreading deception, I stay away from any preacher who is preoccupied with self-exaltation.
“Do not love the world, or the things that are in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him; because all that is in the world is the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life; which is not from the Father, but from the world. And the world with its lust is passing away but he who does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:15, 17).
How To Spot Arrogance
Nearly every major Christian ministry has its own website today. Each week, I get dozens of requests from people asking me what I think of the people who run some of these sites.
There isn’t enough time for me read through every article to see what these people believe. I normally look for signs of arrogance to get a rough idea of what type of person the site is representing. Here are three areas I focus on:
Money – Whenever I visit a Christian website, the first thing I look for is what they are providing to the public at no cost. Several Christian ministries take in millions of dollars from products they sell, yet they offer almost nothing on their site. Ministries that are focused on the gospel message should offer materials free to the public. A self-centered person will always have merchandise as a primary focus.
Link Page – Most people don’t realize it is beneficial to have links to other websites. Search engines like Google and Yahoo award ranking partly based on the number of links a site has to other domains. Those who are selfish normally won’t have a link page. They either don’t think any other sites deserve their endorsement, or they fear people will escape their little kingdom.
Pictures – A lot of people who are arrogant feature several pictures of themselves on their site. One site of a well-known preacher contains eight images of his mug within the first three inches of the page. I’m at a complete loss to understand the practical reason for such a massive amount of redundancy.
The Bunny Ears Test
I have my own special test to measure the modesty levels of prophecy speakers I meet at various conferences. This test has served me quite well in determining the demeanor of men with whom I wish to establish a Christian business relationship.
Each year, I go to several prophecy gatherings across the nation. One of my favorites is the Tulsa conference hosted by Thy Kingdom Come. The primary purpose for going to these meetings is to learn about prophecy, but another reason for going is to meet with like-minded Christians who share the same interest in prophecy.
Several years ago, we started the practice of wearing silly hats at the Tulsa conference. One year, I had a pair of bunny ears that I asked all the speakers to wear for a photo op. Most were more than happy to accommodate me, but some refused.
I found “the bunny test” to be very effective in separating the self-important people from the true servants of God. I have also used it at several other conferences. It wasn’t always the bunny ears. The key was something that would trigger the response, “I am too important to do something like that.”
Modesty is the Best Policy
There is a very practical reason we should behave with modesty. People who act arrogantly often suffer embarrassment when their plans fail.
Jesus showed how the lack of tact can lead to humiliation in his parable about being invited to a marriage banquet: “When you are invited by any one to a marriage feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest a more eminent man than you be invited by him; and he who invited you both will come and say to you, `Give place to this man,’ and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, `Friend, go up higher’; then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. 11 For every one who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 14:7-11).
A website run by Gawker Media recently came out with a book entitled, The Gawker Guide to Conquering All Media. The book was mocked in the press because it only sold a scant 242 copies a month after its release. One reviewer of the book said, “Before Gawker Media gets carried away with dominating the world, maybe it should try to master the book industry.”
In Isaiah 14:13, Lucifer provides one of the most stunning examples of arrogance recorded in the Bible. He said in his heart, “I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.”
If Lucifer had a more modest view of himself, he would not have lost such an important role. He gambled everything on a futile bid for power, and ended up with nothing.
Freedom from Yourself
In order to be productive in the Kingdom of God, it’s important to have a humble attitude. Many people think humility is about having a low opinion of one’s self. True humility is beneficial because it frees us from preoccupation with ourselves. A humble person makes a realistic assessment of himself without illusion or pretending to be something he is not.
Someone who is prideful worries about fame, reputation, success, or failure. A humble person does not have to wear a mask in order to look good to others.
Sometimes, people who achieve great success fall flat on their face once fame and fortune come their way. Famed inventor Thomas Alva Edison fell into this trap.
Edison achieved great success by inventing the motion picture camera, the phonograph, and a commercially useful light bulb, but he didn’t always have such good luck. Edison had two huge failures that were driven by his inflated ego.
He was stubbornly convinced that AC power was inferior to DC power. Edison launched a propaganda campaign by electrocuting animals in public, demonstrating that AC was too dangerous to be useful. Because DC currents can only travel a few miles, it was doomed to lose out to the AC current, which can travel hundreds of miles.
Edison’s second big failure was his iron ore project. In the 1880s and 1890s, he poured nearly all the money he had earned from his inventions into developing a separator device that would extract iron from low-grade ores. What little ore he was able to extract was in a powder form, and this created a huge problem for transportation and the refinement process. Henry Frick, of Carnegie Steel, said that he would no longer buy the ore: “What doesn’t blow away in the railroad cars,” he wrote Edison, “blows out the chimney as soon as the furnace is fired.”
If it had not been for the fame, Edison may have realized the practicality of AC power. If he had a more humble approach to his iron ore business, he might not have lost his personal fortune.
“God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6).
Arrogance and Preaching Don’t Mix
The nature of preaching opens itself to criticism of arrogance. Anyone who stands in front of others and tells them they are hell-bound sinners should expect a negative reaction.
True preaching is not arrogant because the first act of preaching begins with hearing God’s Word, which is an act of submission and humility. If a minister does the right thing by proclaiming God’s message, if people still have problems, they need to take it up with the Author of the message.
Any minister who comes across as conceited destroys the authority of the message he is trying to promote. Preachers should never view themselves as the conduit of grace; they are simply ambassador pointing people to the source of salvation.
Jonah was a very arrogant preacher. He was called by God to proclaim repentance to the Ninevites, but he did not think they were worth saving. It required a trip into the belly of a giant fish to convince Jonah to obey God. Even after witnessing the Ninevites repenting from their sin in sackcloth and ashes, he still expected the Lord to punish them.
The most brilliant mind on earth can not improve on the master plan already laid out in the Bible. All anyone can hope for is being a good plagiarist. I don’t take credit for any of my ideas. My name might be on them, but God is the true author.
Men may like the role of being shepherds, but they need to realize that the flock they are tending belongs to God.
“To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers–not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock” (1 Pet. 5:1-3).