Esther 3 – 7
The Bible addresses the issue of pride extensively, and it is no wonder as man is a deeply flawed and insecure creature since his estrangement with his Creator, and would do anything to enhance his own worth and security. This idolization is given its full expression in the character of Haman, in the historical record of the Book of Esther. King Ahasuerus had honoured Haman by an appointment well above any princes and noblemen in the Persian empire, and had decreed that everyone in his presence should bow to him. This obsequious order seemed rather superfluous given that that was already a culturally acceptable behaviour in the Middle East, unless Haman was such a despicable character that no one in his right mind would voluntarily respect him. One man, Mordecai the Jew, would not, nor pay homage to him, and this spawned Haman’s hateful indignation that set in motion the story that eventually led to Esther’s intercession and the salvation of her people.
Although it may take an awful lot more provocation to bring many of us to identify with Haman’s retributive revenge, the point is that pride forces a person to translate events beyond logical comprehension, with a concluding judgment that may be totally irrational. It essentially centralizes one’s thought processes with a high degree of self-absorption, well beyond the norm; that often makes such a person insufferable to be around with, as he claims its centre of gravity. This prideful exclusion of God’s involvement in the individual’s affairs is at the top of a list of seven things He most hates (Prov 6:16-19). Haman’s position and accomplishments were of no consequence to him except that it were a means to an interminable ego reckoning to gain approval and respect. This superior view of oneself is the most widespread recognized form of pride. The psychological flipside is the constant putting down of the self, an equally self-absorbed inferiority condition. Although the latter is not often viewed as pride, it nevertheless is, as the underlying motives parallel the superior air.
Haman’s vindictive pride not only motivated him to teach Mordecai a lesson, but also drove him to scheme towards the total destruction of the captive Jewish community within the realm. Pride has a peculiar attitude of attributing blame to others and absolving oneself whenever problems surface, and this blindsiding contributes towards an inability to accept criticisms, irrespective of their objectivity or graciousness. Sadly, like Haman, this is especially toxic when unrestrained pride surface in leaders. There will come a time when those who serve them will be sensitized only to voice opinions that they feel would be acceptable to them so as not to offend; and by doing so become complicit to their leader’s perspective on issues. In this extreme example, Haman’s wife and friends in the royal court sacrificed their own better judgment and placated his venomous pride by supporting his disastrous plan. Such opinionated perspectives make it difficult for a proud person to learn invaluable lessons to stay out of trouble and to get along; it is ultimately self-defeating and destructive as Haman learnt to his own regret. It is not unusual for pride to manifest itself in association with bitterness and anger, resentfulness and worry, arrogance and abrasiveness. Moreover, a great deal of social evils are connected with it (eg., prejudices, injustices, racism, religiosity). Religious pride takes the most subtle and hideous forms in its expression – the reason for Jesus’ condemnation of the Jewish religious hierarchy of His day.
Now, it would be foolish to think that we have been totally liberated from pride when we trust in God. Haman’s desire for recognition, approval, and love was not unreasonable; that is often the central motivation and desire of our hearts too. His great error was he sought to have his deepest needs met by his king: albeit any other human being(s) for that matter. Our righteous King sacrificed Himself for us that we may be reconciled to God (2 Cor 5:20-21; Col 1:13-20), and be part of His salvation plan for humanity and the world (John 17:6-26), and the way He did it was through perennial weakness as demonstrated by the cross. This eternal Biblical principle ensures that no one can boast, as Mordecai and Esther experienced in the Persian court, when God in His sovereignty intervened (1 Cor 1:26-31). Humility begins by one’s implicit and, if necessary, explicit admittance that pride is our Achilles’ heel as long as we are alive, and there is still much to work on in our lives with our Lord, as He transforms us to be more like Him. Let us continually abide in the vine.