Sermon by Rev. Lance Filio
God preserves, governs and concurs as a way of providence over his creation. He sovereignly plans and establishes the lives of every creature including his redeemed people. He allows adversity to happen so he can demonstrate to them his justice, mercy, as well as his grace and glory. As a result, two kinds of people emerges: the proud and the humble. The proud resists God and rebels against his will while the humble submits to God and embraces his will.
This Lord’s Day we will continue our study of God’s providence over our afflictions as God’s people. We will compare and contrast the world’s response and Christian’s response towards afflictions as the proud and the humble. In doing so, we will study God’s wisdom in Proverbs 16:19. We divided the preaching into three organizing points: 1) The Comparison between the Proud and the Humble; 2) The Humble Spirit; 3) The Proud Heart .
Before we continue, let us humble ourselves before God and pray for the Spirit’s guidance.
The Comparison between the Proud and the Humble
Proverbs 16:19 – “It is better to be of a lowly spirit with the poor than to divide the spoil with the proud.”
Our text, selected by Thomas Boston to expound on the subject of humility in afflictions, comes from one of Solomon’s proverbs. A proverb reflects God’s wisdom in this world. It tells us how live according to God’s law and under God’s grace. It instructs us towards godly living. Its wisdom shows us this path as the way of humility.
Verse 18 provides the context to our text: “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” Taken together, it compares the proud and with the humble by showing us their end. It also chooses for us the better way which is the way of the humble.
Pride leads to destruction as confirmed by verse 18 and by logical conclusion, humility its opposite, leads to life. The text also parallels for us pride with the haughty spirit. To be haughty means to be arrogant or to be conceited and snobbish. It describes the spirit so in a sense, it points to a kind of quality a person possess. Haughty spirit means to possess a kind of mean spirited way of dealing with life. It is applicable whichever state we are in, rich or poor, male or female, young or old. On the other hand, the humble is also a quality a person possess. To be humble means to be meek spirited. It is a way of humble that leads to life according to verse 18 and as text instructed, it is the way to promotion instead of a fall. Pride and humility are two completely opposite way of life that leads to a totally different end.
So which is better according to Wisdom? Verse 19 speaks God’s verdict over the matter. It says we are better off always to side the humble than with proud. In every circumstances, we are always in a better place if we are found among the humble that the proud. The text describes it as being low in spirit with the poor. It means to level our spirit with the condition we are in. Rather than forcing our condition to matching our haughty spirit, we are told it is wiser to lower down our spirit whenever we find ourselves in troubles and afflictions.
There are important things to remember in order to understand the wise advise of our teacher in Proverbs. The first thing we need consider is the fact our circumstances are dictated by God’s providence, both our lot and the crooks in it. He determines both the manner and timing of our crooks so regardless of our disposition towards it, God’s will prevails. He gives and takes according to his wise counsel. Therefore, our text assumes this and directs our attention towards the proper response when difficulties comes our way.
So in times of trial, as verse 18 describes as a fall, verse 19 advises us to follow the example of the poor who have a lowly spirit than the proud dividing the spoil.
The Humble Spirit
Now the poor here speaks of a particular estate. By way of example, our text does not necessary equate being materially poor as particularly spiritual. It simply chooses a lowly condition in order to explain the proper response to adversity is lowliness of spirit. This in some sense describes what Matthew 5:3 says about those poor in spirit. According to Thomas Watson, the person referred to here does not point to those who are materially poor or poor per se. It also does mean we are called to give up all our possession and vow to live a life of poverty. Poorness here points to an attitude towards God. It is the recognition of our own depravity before a holy God. The poor in spirit are those who see themselves as unworthy knowing they are sinners and undeserving of mercy and grace. And according to the wise judgment of Jesus in his sermon at the mount, they are the truly blessed. They are the meek who will inherit or receive the kingdom of God not because they deserve it but because God elected them for it.
As a result, the humble lower themselves to God whenever they encounter any crooks in their lot. They bow their spirits before Him knowing it is his hands that brought them their lot. They kiss the rod of their affliction understanding it is for their own good.
The Proud Heart
But the proud is unlike the humble. Rather than receiving God’s mercy, they receive God’s judgment. How? By allowing them to have their own way thinking their will determines their own circumstances. Verse 19 describes the proud dividing their spoil. Now, it is the language of ancient war. The victors in every war take home the possessions of those they conquered. It is part of their reward as winnings. So when the proud rebels before God during afflictions, they refuse to lower their spirits towards their lowered situation. Instead, they forces their situation to raise to match their inflated and egoistic mindset. There is matching idiom from Scripture that shows this folly. It is found primarily in Proverbs 3:34 and used by the apostles in the New Testament in James 4:6 and 1 Peter 5:5. In the Old Testament, it reads, “Toward the scorners he is scornful, but to the humble he gives favor.” How does God scorn the scorners? By allowing them to live according to their own foolish way or thinking. The proud thinks he can rescue himself during times of difficulty without God. In judgment, God does remove the crook but permits the proud to think it is because of their own efforts they were able to do so. And going back to verse 18, this kind of thinking leads to their destruction, it makes them responsible for their own fall.
Sharon Cuneta’s “Bukas Luluhod ang Mga Tala” taught me a lot about pride and humility. This Emmanuel Borlaza (director) and Nerissa Cabral (write) classic shows us a story of a poor protagonist who was mistreated by a rich family. As their fortunes get turned, Rebecca finally got her revenge. In the end, she realized she has become the oppressor she once hated. While the film teaches us to follow and admire the protagonist, I think Rebecca is the antagonist here. Even when her estate was poor, her spirit was always proud and when her condition finally matched her proud mindset, it revealed to us who she really is, a mean spirited and vengeful person. Pilar Pilapil was not the proud one in the movie or when disaster stuck her family, she was even willing to kiss the feet of the proud and taunting Rebecca. She was more willing to lower her spirit when she met her lowly condition. Worldly wisdom wants to admire Sharon Cuneta but Scripture teaches us to discern better. God’s teaches us to follow the way of the humble.
Finally after weeks at being in the neonatal ICU, Eli got the doctor’s clearance for an open heart surgery. At that point, we knew there are only two possible outcomes. He either dies or survives the operation. Praying the night before the day of operation was the hardest time for me. In my mind, I know the desired outcome was for Eli to survive. Everybody I know prays for it but back then I realized that the outcome that I need to prayer for is if Eli dies. I know my heart was proud because it took me sometime before I have come to terms with it. The prospect of losing my eldest son was the most agonizing thought I ever contemplated during that time. My proud heart took sometime to bow down before my Creator God and kiss the rod of my Father in heaven. I knew back then I was not humble. It took nothing but God’s grace to lower my spirit. He stripped me of my pride and gave me what I don’t deserve. He did not leave me in sin. He rescued me from pride and folly.
ZCRC(Imus), we are called to respond in humility when affliction comes our way. Let us not follow the path of the proud for that leads to destruction but choose to be numbered with lowly and submit to the providential hand of God. Amen.
Rev. Lance Filio is a minister of the Word and Sacraments at Zion Cornerstone Reformed Church (Imus). He finished his Bachelor Degree in Electronics Engineering at Mapua Institute of Technology and He is currently taking his Master of Arts in Theological Studies (MATS) at MINTS. He lives in Taguig City, Philippines with his wife and three children.