In January, I began a series of blog posts summarizing what I'm calling my 52 word journey of Bible study. I'm taking one word from Scripture a week and studying it as part of my personal Bible study. As a means of helping to organize my jumbled notes (and often equally jumbled mind!), I'm sharing my journey of study on my blog. Over the last two weeks, I've studied the words goodness and pride.
One of the reasons I wanted to study the word "goodness" in the Bible was because I struggle to clearly distinguish between the ideas of goodness, kindness, and righteousness. If someone is good, how is that different from that person being kind or righteous? To be sure, if someone portrays any one of those attribute in their lives, they are likely going to display the others. They aren't exclusive of each other, but how are they different? My study showed me that goodness is truly an attribute of God, but that we have the opportunity to reflect that in our lives because of His Spirit. I've read the story of Moses and his encounter with God in Exodus 33 many times, but discovered something I hadn't realized before in verses 17-23 (emphasis mine):
17 And the Lord said to Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.” 18 Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.” 19 And the Lord said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.” 21 Then the Lord said, “There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. 22 When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.”Notice that in verses 18 and 19, Moses asks for God to show His glory, and God responds by indicating that His goodness will pass in front of Moses. In verse 22, God says that He will allow His glory to pass by. Interestingly, the Hebrew words Moses uses in the book of Exodus for "goodness" and "glory" are different words. This may all seem like abstract semantics, but in my quest to discover what goodness is, this helps to make it distinct from kindness. It makes it a truly godly attribute--as if God's goodness and glory are one in the same.
David notes God's goodness throughout the Psalms as well, as does Solomon in his dedication of the temple (2 Chronicles 6:41). "Goodness" is in the NIV Old Testament only 12 times, and of those, 8 are from either David or Solomon.
In the New Testament, interestingly, like I discussed in my last post regarding the word "kindness", the word "goodness" does not appear in the Gospels either. However, it is mentioned other times in the New Testament, including twice being mentioned by Paul--in Ephesians 5 and Galatians 5--as a fruit of either light or the Spirit. It is something that God produces through us in our lives.
About a year ago, I read John Piper's book What Jesus Demands from the World which discusses 50+ things that Jesus "demanded" in the Gospels. One of the sections in that book--on pride and humility-- continues to challenge me. It made me realize that I struggle with a certain type of pride--unapplauded pride. As Piper writes in his book (a PDF version is found on his website here):
Boasting is the response of pride to success. Self-pity is the response of pride to suffering. Boasting says, “I deserve admiration because I have achieved so much.” Self-pity says, “I deserve admiration because I have sacriﬁced so much.” Boasting is the voice of pride in the heart of the strong. Self-pity is the voice of pride in the heart of the weak. Boasting sounds self-sufficient. Self-pity sounds self-sacriﬁcing. The reason self-pity does not look like pride is that it appears to be needy. But the need arises from a wounded ego, and the desire is not really for others to see them as helpless but as heroes. The need that self-pity feels does not come from a sense of unworthiness but from a sense of unrecognized worthiness. It is the response of unapplauded pride.I'll consider my spiritual toes stepped on with Piper's words. I do not want to, however, put Piper's words over God-breathed Scripture. Scripture has a lot to say on the topic of pride, too.The Old Testament writers identified that pride leads to bad things including downfall (2 Chronicles 26:16), disgrace (Psalm 11:22), destruction (Proverbs 16:18), and forgetting God (Deuteronomy 8:14). It almost sounds like a list of side effects for a drug, and perhaps, in some sense, it is. We often self-medicate with pride.
There is another (and very different) context in which the word "pride" is used--in the phrase "take pride". People often say they are proud of their children or proud of a family member's or friend's success. We even may have a sense of pride in something we have achieved personally. This is different than a sinful pride. In Scripture, the phrase "take pride" is used in 6 verses. As an example, Galatians 6:4 discusses how we should test our own actions so that we can "take pride" in ourselves without comparing ourselves to others. We are to "take pride" in ourselves, but only as part of a honest introspection. The Greek translated to the phrase "take pride" is kauchēma, which means to glory in or boast. This is not the kind of pride that Piper discusses in which we're seeking recognition from others for either our accomplishments or sacrifices. In this context, we can quietly glory in our spiritual growth. This provides a clear contrast from a pride that seeks a response from others.
Introduction to the 52 Word Journey
Words 1 and 2: Confidence and Peace
Words 3 and 4: Perseverance and Works
Words 5 and 6: Humility and Compassion
Words 7 and 8: Kindness and Faithfulness