Arrogance compares downward and produces pride, boasting, rudeness, and independence. All of which this passage says is unloving.
This is the eye saying to the hand, I don’t need you. I see where we’re going. I mean, has anyone ever heard of a hand to hand conversation? It’s eye to eye. I mean, the eye is the lamp of the body. I mean, the eye is what’s important. The eye is what really matters. The eye is way better than the hand.
You see the comparison? And by the way, it can be the exact same. Here’s what’s so ironic about this envy and arrogance. You can be in one room and the single people see this couple and they get married and the single people are going, ‘God I just don’t understand. There’s envy, resentment in my heart, and she used to be my best friend then she got married. Now they got a little baby, they all seem so happy and I’m so lonely.’
Then you have the married couple with two kids or maybe three, and they thought they were done. They wanted to be done. They planned to be done. They’re not done. And out of the blue comes number three or number four.
And they’re looking at these single people. What are you doing this summer? Well, I’m gonna go on a missions trip, and then I thought I’d spend a week in Italy with a couple friends. And, you know, so how’s your week going? Oh, it’s really good. You know, I had coffee over there, had a latte with my friends, a couple from work - and the married couple is going, we’ve been in diapers eleven years!
And they envy their singleness and their mobility. See, it’s not the what. It’s the want. And we compare upward or downward. The meaning of the word “arrogance” literally means to be puffed up, inflated, overvalued.
If the emotional color for envy is red-hot, than arrogance is cool blue. Above. It’s like the blowfish. Or I guess, I learned between services, is called a puffer.
And in water, this fish, when the enemy comes to it, it can fill itself with water. And it’s just a little fish like this. And I learned, a fellow who owns a fish store, or used to. He said, actually, they fill with anything. He says, if you pull them out of water, they fill with air.
I said, that’s a good illustration because isn’t that what we do? Isn’t that what we do? Whatever our, you know, if it’s a ministry setting, [blowing sound]. If it’s a financial setting, [blowing sound]. If it’s a relational setting, we just - when you’re arrogant, you just fill up to try and project that you matter more, you’re more important.
And there’s something that makes you feel secure by putting people down this direction. And we all do it. It’s rooted in comparison.
I almost hesitate to share this, but it’s probably beneficial. This is a social science experiment I’d like you to do. Go to a coffee shop this week, and you can say this is your ministry, at least, application.
At Starbucks, wherever. And then I want you to, you know, have a book that you pretend that you read, and get whatever’s your favorite, chai or coffee. And just sit there for fifteen or twenty minutes, not purposefully to eavesdrop, but just to hear. Conversation here. Conversation here. Conversation there. Conversation here - there.
And I’ll make a prediction. Four out of five conversations are two people sitting there talking about someone else who’s not there. And they’re either talking about what they didn’t do, what they should have done, and how they don’t measure up. And this group is superior or they’re talking about someone where this person makes them feel less than.
And there’s something horrendously, sadistically, and sinfully satisfying about venting, talking about someone else and feeling better because now we’re saying that about her or about him.
Comparison is the archenemy of love when you look at differences.
The arrogant, puffed up person has a motto or a mindset as well. It’s basically, I don’t need you. You don’t matter. By the way - the more gift, the more talent, the more blessing, the more position - for whatever reason God may give you, the greater the temptation.
This book is filled with people that started out very, very humble and God, could you ever use me? And then they become king and they become famous and then the hubris kicks in.
Because after the attitude of “I don’t need you and you don’t matter, I’m indispensable” comes feelings like, I’m superior. I really am more important. I mean, they talk about other people as though they’re less intellectual, their feelings don’t matter as much. What they do is important. You know, obviously.
And then there’s this entitlement mindset. You’re special. The action steps of arrogance is, when you’re arrogant, you automatically become independent. You don’t need as many people. I mean, you are, you’re what matters. You’re the go-to person. You’re the center of attention.
And so, the more blessing, the more money, the more position, the more power. You actually don’t need people, and then the step after independence, arrogant people are independent and beyond being independent, it moves to the next one. They’re not accountable.
These rules about money and how to use it. These rules about sexual purity and what you can and cannot do. Well, that’s for other people but, I mean, my schedule and my demands, there’s a different set of rules for me. That’s usually well on the journey to their downfall.
And after the independence and the lack of accountability, then they become indifferent to the needs of others.
And, it’s not often just from the words - it’s a look, it’s a glance, it’s a body language. When you’re around them, they almost don’t have to say it, you feel or are tempted to feel less than.
Now, I’m going to suggest that we all struggle with both envy and arrogance but we tend to habitually fall into one camp more than the other. My personal camp is arrogance. I’ve struggled with arrogance all my life. Part of it is your personality; part of it is your giftedness. Part is your family of origin.
I mean, can you imagine. Having a dad, when I was three years old, before I walked out of the house, there was this easel and he was teaching me to read and then he was teaching me to spell long words so he could impress his friends.
I’d go to the swimming pool that he managed in the summer and he was a teacher and a coach. And, Chip, tell them. Intercontinental ballistic missile. A three year old! Gggggggggggg - Boom!
You know? And then, you know, he would say, Chip - this is true - I mean, this country’s going to need a good president someday. Can you imagine this? And I think the good side is you talk about a kid that grew up with confidence. But you talk about a guy that had a warped, arrogant view that God has been cutting through for years.
So, we all will lean one way or another. Often people that have had difficult pasts feel like they never quite measure up, struggle with envy. You know? Why did God make her so pretty? Why did he get that job? You know, I’m tired of, you know, batting eighth in the lineup.
You know, that guy’s a jerk, and he bats third and he plays shortstop, and now he just went IPO on his company. That is so sickening. Alright?
Well, let me give you a remedy, a very specific love step to attack comparison if you compare upwardly. It says, the envious must believe that God is good and has sovereignly and wisely given them what is best for them and best to fulfill his purpose. You might circle that in your notes.
Notice it doesn’t say, the envious must try harder not to envy. Trying harder not to envy doesn’t work, you gotta think differently. God is good. He’s in control. You are who you are. You’re where you’re at, and he wants to work in your life, and he’s for you, and he’s good. And every person in every season, everything doesn’t look great. He cares for you and who he made you is what matters.
I have really, honestly not had much struggle with envy in my life because of my warped arrogance. But about six or eight weeks ago I had a bout with envy. And it kinda shocked me because, you know, I just didn’t think I had it much.
And, there’s a particular friend of mine in another state - he’s a teaching pastor, he’s written books, we’re friends. We’ve had breakfasts and coffee, and we’re a very similar age - and in about a six or eight week period - to make the long story short, everywhere I went, his books were there. Or I look at a conference and he’s speaking here. And then a couple friends mention. Oh, I gotta tell you, this is the most helpful thing.
And normally, it is, like, Great! Man, he’s my friend, the kingdom’s growing. And then even my son was telling me, Dad, I gotta tell you. I just, this guy. This is the best thing in the whole world. And a little something inside went…
Say, son, are you aware, I kind of do some of the same stuff? I mean, I’m your dad. You know? And then, you know, it’s like, it hit me…hit me…hit me…and then I walked into a bookstore and his books are faced forward like in a Barnes and Noble or someplace.
And, you know, my normal reaction would be, oh great! Man, someone solid, this is really super. Instead - this is so embarrassing - it was like, I wonder how my books are doing? Okay, Christian Living, let’s see. H, H, H, H, H, I…J. Must be sold out. No, not there. Don’t even carry it.
And I remember, then I read something. And, I mean, this guy’s really helped me, he’s a friend. I love him. But I felt less than. My less than was followed by, kinda didn’t want to be around that.
And I felt resentful. And it was like, oh, this is so ugly. And so, I did some very specific steps that God led me to, that I want to give you that will help you with your person.
Number one, I faced the desire, my jealously. See, I called it all kinds of other things, but I kept having this uneasiness. It really helped to say, I’m envious. I’m jealous.
The second thing is I, I didn’t try and squash the desire. So, what do I want to say? God, I never want you to use my books? God, I never want you to use my life? No! I redirect it and say, God I really want you to use my life, but I want to be your man, your spot, used at whatever level to promote ministry and kingdom. Not compared to anything or anyone else. And so I repent of that. But I long for you to use my life.
Third is, I meditated on God’s goodness. See, at the end of the day it was like, when you start comparing, it’s like, well, if God was really good he would have given me a mate by now. If God was really good he would have, kind of, healed my body like he did this other person’s body. If God was really good, he would have…
The root word, in terms of goodness, is the word “generosity.” God longs to be generous. He’s in all wisdom and justice, sovereignly working to bestow his goodness. And you, to experience it at deeper and deeper levels.
When we compare, we begin to believe the lie that God isn’t good. The very first sin in the Bible. Eve was deceived because she believed God was holding out. Eve. I mean, you understand what this will do for you? And she believed that God was holding out; that he wasn’t good. And so you meditate on that.
The fourth specific thing you need to do to overcome envy is choose gratitude and give thanks. So I began to thank God for this guy. Thank God for his books. Thank God my son is listening and reading this person. And it’s helping him, and encouraging him. Thank you, Lord!
I began to thank God. And then I willfully decided, I just made a little thing. I said, you know something? I’m not going to compare, so I just have a new little rule. I’m not going to go into bookstores and see where I’m not or where I am or care either way. And I just decided, you know what? That little practice just sets me up for doing and having bad comparative thoughts.
You can be jealous or you can be grateful but those two won’t live in the same heart. You start thanking God for this person. Thanking God for his blessing. Thanking for what he’s done. Either you will envy what others have or you’ll thank God for what you have.
And you start doing that, I will tell you what, the envy will dissipate.
And then finally, connect with that person, if it’s appropriate, and serve them. Now, this person lives in a whole other state - so I just, I remember as an application, I’ve been praying for him. Hey, “his name”, I just want to let you know, everywhere I’ve turned around in the last three or four weeks, God is using you in amazing ways. Thank you for your impact in my life and I just want to encourage you, keep pressing ahead and hang in there. Chip.
You know, a few hours later, “Thanks, Chip”. And you know what? I was free. And now, we’re both, we’re in the kingdom of God boat and we’re both rowing together toward what God wants and, you know, in the kingdom, it’s a fallen world, so there’s all kind of tough stuff happening. So, it takes on water. And so, why would I ever be discouraged of other people that are pailing out water in a bigger bucket than mine? Aren’t we going the same direction? And so I want to rejoice in that.
For the arrogant, you must admit your need and choose to be vulnerable in order to receive the goodness of God in your daily experience. Arrogant people don’t have people close to them. They keep getting separated, separated - more and more independent. And everyone sees them as powerful.
In fact, I worked with one group of guys recently. And I said, do you know why most of you don’t have any close friendships? They all happened to be in a room, and they all owned their own business.
I said, because you can either fire them or disinherit them. And that’s why you get very little truth in your life. Because they’re intimidated by you.
And do you know what they don’t understand? They don’t understand how lonely it is to be, quote, as influential and affluent as you are. They don’t understand the issues in your marriage that other people don’t understand. They don’t understand that when you start having a relationship, in the back of your mind, you’re always wondering, is this person trying to get into my wallet, my portfolio, or my rolodex?
And so you become an untrusting person, you become more and more independent. You will gravitate toward this very dangerous place of not being accountable. And then you’ll start using people because, pretty soon, affirmation is all you get. You don’t get a lot of real love. And so you have to make more and more impact, and do and do more, and earn and earn more.
And so you use people to get things done and that’s called manipulation. And your soul dries up when that occurs.
Arrogant people need to choose to be vulnerable, so they need a safe place to do that in order to receive the goodness of God in their daily life. And I will tell you that there’s three or four things you can do that will give you some real help here.
One is, remember that everything you have is from God. In chapter 4 of this book, Paul says, what do you have that you haven’t received? The brains that you have, the opportunity that you have, the family that you have, the money that you have, the gifts that you have, the talent that you have. They’re from God. Every good and perfect gift is from above. From the Father of Lights with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. You don’t own anything. You are not the blowfish. You’re just a fish.
And God can fill you up and I’ll tell you what, he can take you down. And you just need to understand, it’s a stewardship. God, I’m not sure why you gave me this position, I don’t know why you gave me these gifts, I don’t know why you’ve given me this family, I don’t know why you’ve allowed me to be single and free. I don’t know why you’ve given me this money, I don’t know why people look to me. But what I know is, it’s a sacred stewardship.
Second thing. Remember your roots. Remember your roots. You gotta remember where you came from. You know, I remember Kaufman, Texas. Thirty-five people.
I have a friend - this is a third thing. Hang out with some people that know your roots. That, no matter what is ever written about you or what people say about you, no matter how many zeros get at the end of your name or how many letters. There’s some people who know you and, you know what? They are totally unimpressed.
Played golf two weeks ago with a guy that I spent eighteen, twenty years with as friends and ministry and you know, I mean, he just, he has the gift of bluntness and I so love him for it.
And I mean, it’s just, he loves. Here’s the other thing. He loves me for me. Because he loved me when we were in ministry together - he came on when we were surging. We were up to sixty people, or a hundred, you know? And he just loves me.
I have another friend who’s on our board that I’ve known for twenty-eight years and he’s so shrewd. He acts goofy and funny and wears masks and funny glasses and, I mean, he’s like a comic. And then, he’s real serious.
We’ll have coffee, like, we had a board meeting this last week and he’ll bring up the past. And I know what he’s doing and I so love him for it. You know what he’s saying? Hey, Chip, remember when you and I were painting the bathroom in that very first church? Remember the house with all the cracks in the foundation? And, remember when you did that silly, stupid thing? Yeah. Remember when you…you know?
You know what he’s doing? He’s saying, I love you, but I tell you what. It’s God. You’re just a steward. You’re just a piece of flesh. And he’s filled you with opportunity and some gift and you’ll stand before him on it. I just want to remind you.
And see, the thing about envy and arrogance, remember? They’re just the hit man. The core is comparison. That’s what we gotta eliminate. I’m giving you specific ways for you to say, I either lean toward arrogance or lean toward envy and how do I address it?
And I want to encourage you here - that fourth thing - is admit your needs and invite people into your life if you’re arrogant. Admit your needs.
I wanted to close with admitting my needs. I didn’t want to do this. In fact, I came to last night’s service and I didn’t have this. And as we were singing one of the songs just the Spirit of God whispered, you need to share this.
I like to say this is from ten or twenty years ago when I used to be an arrogant jerk. But it’s from August of this year when I acted like an arrogant jerk.
A verse came to my mind at the end of a day. I’d traveled, and I had the privilege of having dinner with my older sister that I rarely see. And it says, the heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately wicked. Who can understand it?
That verse came to my mind from Jeremiah. And then this is what I wrote in my journal. “As I finished up my day of travel yesterday, and enjoyed a rare evening with my sister, Jeanie, I realized how true that verse is above.”
There were all little things throughout the day or so I thought. One by one, the Holy Spirit brought them to mind as I walked back to the hotel.
I remember ignoring the man in the wheelchair going through security. Caring more about my place in line than demonstrating servanthood or concern. I even secretly thought, he doesn’t need that chair, he’s just doing this to dish everybody. Yeah, I’m sure you’ve never had those thoughts.
Second, being so consumed by my work on the plane, I ignored the man next to me named Michael. Then, when he asked, what do you do? I postured something about being an author and returning to the local church as a pastor. But fundamentally, I was just seeking to please men. I didn’t want to be viewed as just a pastor. I wanted to be important and significant, because of my miles I got bumped up to first class and I wanted to impress.
God brought Galatians 1:10 and Luke 16:15 to mind as I recalled those events.
Later that night, I had dinner with my sister and realized that I took away one of the few opportunities my sister could have to be my big sister and take care of me, and give to me and be blessed - and I insisted I had to pay for the dinner.
Pride in its many insidious forms is so ugly. All of this insensitivity, self-focus, self-absorption. All the while, I was writing a new introduction for the book, the Genius of Generosity. How ironic and sad.
Father, where would I be apart from your great mercy and steadfast, loyal love and forgiveness. Thank you for applying the work of your Son Jesus to my sin, and forgiving and cleansing me last night after I became aware of it. Help me today to please you not people. Help me today to be a man whose life and motives are highly esteemed in your eyes, not seeking to be highly esteemed in the eyes of men.
Help me today to love people and not impress them. Help me today to not compare myself with anyone in any way, or judge or evaluate others based on their outward appearance, wealth, position, or perceived value to me or our ministry.
Help me from any and all false humility or posturing that communicates that I’m more than I am. Finally, Lord, help me today to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with you.
Now, that’s ugly. But it was in comparing myself with others that I was arrogant. And therefore, I was unloving to my sister. I was unloving to a man who God may have wanted to hear the Gospel. I was unloving, because in my comparison, I compared downward and me and mine, and what I had to do was here. Instead of considering others more important than myself.
Where are you on the journey?