It’s an eternal unchangeable truth that pride is an abomination to the Lord. It’s the deciding factor that will separate the sheep and goats for eternity.
Everyone proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord; Though they join forces, none will go unpunished. (Proverbs 16:5)
While considering the illustration Jesus used of separating the sheep from the goats at the end, this verse came to mind. It occurred to me that there are two fundamental characteristics that define goats. Firstly, unlike sheep who are born followers, goats are sly, arrogant, and very clever. Secondly, they will eat absolutely anything they want to eat. It doesn’t take a huge jump of imagination to recognise the perfect example of arrogance – which is pride, when we boil it down to the basics. Arrogance is simply the outward behaviour that defines inner pride.
Why is pride an abomination to God?
The answer to this is that pride is the manifestation of self. The best illustration is the fall of Satan, and the Bible tells us that in his pride, he reached out for the glory and power that belongs to God alone. In doing so, he raised himself up in rebellion against God. The simple truth is that sin of any kind, little or large, is effectively rebellion against God. It is self putting its desires before the commandments of God, and that is rebellion. Take really understand this, we should look at Samuel’s words to Saul: For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He also has rejected you from being king. (1 Samuel 15:23).
It’s pretty clear, isn’t it? We can readily understand why these would be ‘abominations’ to the Lord. But why pride? It’s because pride lies at the very root of every single sin – rebellion – we commit. Think of Adam and Eve. Their sin was prompted by the promise of ‘being like God.’ On the surface, it seemed like a worthy aspiration. After all, God is good and holy, and we should all desire to be like Him. But pride is the manifestation of self. It is the voice that whispers temptation and the root of every rebellion. Pride is concerned about only one thing: me-myself-I. Surrender and obedience go overboard when pride steers the good ship Lollipop.
Inward pride and outward humility.
The illustration of the sheep and goats works very well in understanding today’s verse. We should keep in mind that it is Christ who will make the separation, not us. The reason for this is that we usually lack the spiritual discernment to tell the difference. In our churches today, the goats mingle with and feed alongside the sheep. To all intents and purposes, they are the same flock. The difference lies in in the truth that the goats are those who are proud in heart. The sheep – the true followers – are humble in heart and depend on the shepherd.
This is critically important. It is what is in our hearts – our heart attitude – which defines who we are and what we will become. Pride in the heart is an inward thing. It is not necessarily outwardly visible. We can fool our friends, our pastor, our elders, and an entire church for years. Outward humility does not make for inward humility. It’s learned behaviour to prevent detection. Anyone who has ever tried to catch a goat will know what I mean. They’ll graze away, seemingly oblivious and behaving perfectly. But the whole time, they’re watching out of the corner of the eye, ready to elude you. Or that apparently ‘harmless’ old ram chomping away in the corner…until, for no apparent reason, down go his horns and you’re making an ignominious retreat or flat on your rear in the dust. Goats are never what they seem. What is inside is seldom what we see outside.
Inward pride makes for spiritual arrogance.
I’ve already mentioned that goats will eat anything. They have an arrogance that believes everything is good for them. They can eat what they choose and no harm will come to them. The same applies to our spiritual goats. Their pride of heart generates the arrogance that absorbs any ‘gospel’ that appeals to that pride. Any preaching that tickles their ears and feeds their ‘feel-good’ hunger is an instant hit. If they fancy it, they eat it. They will pursue the latest fad in ‘Holy Spirit manifestations’ and even ‘off the wall’ doctrines providing they look like ‘food.’
Their arrogance – the outward behaviour of inner pride – puts them in a place of self-determination. They pride themselves in being able to ‘discern’ what is of God. Seldom does this discernment rely on the Word of God for verification. A goat decides what they want and shapes everything else around this. Their outward show of humility is simply a means to an end. It avoids suspicion and enables them to pursue their own agenda without fear of discovery. It’s simply an expedient mask to hide their true nature, which is pride.
Pride has the power to auto-replicate.
This root of all sin is a powerful enemy because it’s so deeply established at the very core of self. We all have it. Pride whispers continually to self, stirring it up against the things of God. That is why Satan’s ploy in Eden worked so effectively. He simply spoke to what was already in place in the heart. He managed to tempt a third of heaven’s angels, so a couple of brand new beings were a cakewalk. It’s a lesson we all need to learn and hold onto.
The essence of it is this: pride hates to be alone. It inherently seeks to ‘auto-replicate’ in order to surround itself with like-minded followers. Satan did it, and humans have continued to perpetuate it through the whole of history. Having others who think like us validates our behaviour. It creates a perception of authenticity to the doctrines and gospels that feed our pride. When others can be tempted to subscribe to what a goat believes, there is immediately ‘safety in numbers.’ They become a movement rather than a rebellion. They establish outward credibility.
God has never changed His attitude to pride.
In all of this, we lose sight of the brutal truth. Pride in the heart is an abomination to God. It was, it always has been, and it still is. Just because we’re ‘more sophisticated,’ ‘more intellectual,’ or ‘more technologically advanced’ doesn’t mean He has changed His mind. All of these things aren’t evidence that we’ve somehow lifted ourselves beyond ‘antiquated’ perceptions. All that our so-called advancements have done is fed our pride. They enable us to spread our rebellion with ease, to pull others into our deception, and to disseminate perverted truth at the speed of light.
At the end of the day, a goat remains a goat. Their fundamental nature remains unchanged. Unlike the sheep, who have learned to look to the Shepherd and follow His voice, the goat will happily ‘make like a sheep’ while living like a goat. Clear-cut Biblical truth isn’t relevant to the goat. Their discernment is such that they have the ‘supernatural’ edge. They see things others cannot, and they don’t need to rely on the Word because they have ‘outgrown’ it spiritually.
Pride is alive and well, even in the Church.
Today’s verse is a sobering reminder. The goats are within the flock, not without. The message is for everyone who considers themselves a believer. At the end of the day, the Shepherd will separate the sheep from the goats, and no pretensions of pride will protect them. There are two reasons He allows them to remain.
The first is grace and mercy. I firmly believe that God allows the goats time to change and to address their lives and wrong attitudes. The second is that the Church must be ‘shaken’ so that at the end, only those things that are of God will remain. Throughout our Christian walk, we have a continual choice. We either surrender our pride and open our hearts in surrender and obedience. Or we become a goat, following the dictates of self through pride and arrogance. It’s very clear that it’s one or the other. No amount of outward humility will save any goat when the day of eternal separation comes.
Dealing with pride is a daily decision.
Jesus tells us that the sheep hear His voice and obey Him. This is the definition of a kingdom sheep. By implication, the opposite is true for the goats. In order to hear His voice, we must live our lives in the Spirit and in the Word. It’s not one or the other. Discernment is essentially understanding things according to God’s perspective. This is impossible unless we have the Word in us to adequately discern or ‘judge’ all things.
In simple terms, goats were once sheep, even if it was only for a brief moment before self reasserted itself through pride. We choose our path daily. Do we follow the Shepherd, listening intently to the Word and obeying the guiding of the Spirit? Or do we forge our own path based on our own desires for self-importance and self-gratification? Humility is the antithesis to pride. It is the only way to avoid the kind of pride of heart that deceives and seduces us away from obedience. Real sheep know that it is only the Shepherd who protects, guides, teaches, and provides. They know that they are completely and utterly dependent on Him. Without Him, they are nothing, can do nothing, and are vulnerable to the enemies that seek to destroy them.
We defeat pride by crucifying self.
Pride cannot be tolerated, excuses, or disregarded. It must be vigorously uprooted and destroyed. The voice of self is the indication that pride is operating. The Bible tells us clearly that we must daily crucify self. This is the only way. We cannot incarcerate it, try to ignore it, or pretend it isn’t real. It must be brutally crucified, dragged out into the light and put to death. While God does the work, we make the choice. Holding onto pride, even in the most apparently innocuous forms, leaves us vulnerable to deception, seduction, and a future of eternal separation. What is abominable to God must be abominable to the sheep, also.
Father, forgive us for the weakness of pride in the heart. Keep us in Your Word and guide us with Your Spirit. Reveal us the things that lead us away from surrender and obedience, and grant us the grace and the courage to make our daily choice to crucify self. Remind us always that it’s often the little things that seduce us because they seem unimportant. Above all, speak to us daily so that we may hear Your voice and follow You.