The Stupidity of Pride5 min read
“And Eliab his eldest brother heard when he spake unto the men; and Eliab’s anger was kindled against David, and he said, Why camest thou down hither? and with whom hast thou left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know thy pride, and the naughtiness of thine heart; for thou art come down that thou mightest see the battle.” 1 Samuel 17:28
The irony in Eliab’s statement is that while he was ranting in anger at David for no reason, he revealed the foolish nature of his own heart. We can be fools sometimes, and quite often it is because of our pride. We must learn to humble ourselves, lest we fall into the same stupidity of pride that Eliab did.
Causes of Pride
(1) AGE. Eliab was the oldest in the family, while David himself was the youngest. Instead of encouraging David, as older siblings should do, Eliab could only criticize him. Why? No doubt to prove his own seniority and privilege. And what better way to lift one’s self up than to put down another? It can be easy to put down “the little guy” because “I’m the big guy.” It can be easy to underestimate young people: after all, they have no wisdom, no experience, no difficulties, no morality, no maturity – right? Absolutely not! David as a young man was responsible, mature, valiant, and faithful. The real fool was the one who underestimated that. So then, if we want to be fools, let us learn to criticize others because of their age so that we might make ours look more important.
(2) POSITION. Eliab was the man in the battlefield – rugged, tough, responsible, wanted. But David was just the unwanted shepherd boy with “those few sheep.” Sometimes we too can think ourselves more important or better that we really are simply because we have a more public role or a more recognized role. This is totally unbiblical, for 1 Corinthians 12 teaches us that each member and each gift has meaning and purpose. Again, if we desire to be fools, let us esteem ourselves higher than others.
(3) HUMILIATION. While David’s brothers were cowering before Goliath, here came the “little guy” who was more than willing to do something about the situation. How embarrassing! So then, to make David more insignificant in the scene in order to elevate their own reputation, Eliab criticized David for “showing them up” by showing up. Do we not also become defensive when we see someone excelling beyond us? We always want to be the best! But we need to come to reality. If someone is doing something right while we are cowering from responsibility, let us be real and understand that maybe we should actually get down to business with the things of God. Let us not do wrong in order to defend our wrongness. That is plain stupidity. It is okay to admit wrong. But if that isn’t what we like doing, a good way to be a fool is to pretend that we are right when clearly God is trying to speak to us.
Elements of Pride
So then, how can we know if we are proud? How do we avoid it? Well, it would profit us to see some elements of pride so that if we find ourselves with these in our lives, we can stop ourselves and be humbled in the presence of God.
- What was the main element of Eliab’s railing speech? The element was humiliating criticism – no kind commendation whatsoever. When was the last time you encouraged someone? Can’t remember? Maybe you have been too proud to compliment another believer. A lack of encouragement comes from the idea that we are better than most, which is why we don’t see many reasons to compliment others. You see, to commend someone means that they have something we might not have, or it means they can compete with our skill. Only humility can truly compliment another, for it elevates someone other than self.
- We also notice that Eliab unjustly assumed the worst of David – this was unrighteous judgment. Now the Lord does call us us to judge righteously, but there is no righteousness in assumption. Are you quick to assume the worst of others? You are proud.
- Eliab was also blind to his own pride and assumed that David’s pride was the problem. Would you allow yourself to think of the possibility that you might actually be the one with the fault? Or is it an impossibility for you to be wrong? Don’t always assume that others are the problem, for they might actually be the humble ones acting in obedience.
- Pride is hasty in its accusation of others. In our verse, there was no opportunity for David to explain himself, but rather Eliab had to be right and therefore needed to immediately make David look wrong. Proverbs says “In the multitude of words, sin is not found wanting.” Proverbs also gives us the principle that he who states his case first sounds right until there is a just examination of the facts. So then, be careful if you are always very quick to jump to conclusions when you don’t understand the situation. Be thoughtful and Biblical in your approach.
- Finally, pride is characterized by anger, and it was Eliab’s anger that caused him to lash out on David. Do you find yourself angry often? No, not angry at sin (which is good), but angry because your pride has been hurt or angry because another has done a job willingly that you failed to do at all or angry because someone did not fulfill your preferences. This is the kind of anger rooted in pride, and it will make fools of us if we do not humble ourselves. Learn to be corrected. Learn to be criticized. Learn to admit wrong. These are marks of humililty.