Yet, sadly, a great many people in this world would answer the question “What three things most define individuals?” in a remarkably similar way: “appearance, possessions, success.” Although many are not so shallow, of course, hundreds of millions of people would agree that these are perhaps the three physical things that “define” an individual in the eyes of others more than anything else.
But the Christian realizes that these three things are ultimately meaningless, and that in the long run – at the end of our physical lives – our looks, money, influence, and all such things will certainly not define who we are in the eyes of God. So what qualities do affect how God sees us?
The answer is a surprisingly simple one and is found repeatedly throughout the Bible. The three things that define us in God’s eyes are our attitudes, our actions, and our words. We see this many times in scriptures such as this example in the Book of Proverbs in which God, in the personification of Wisdom, states: “… I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech” (Proverbs 8:13B) – in other words: attitudes, actions, and words.
What is especially interesting about this particular verse is that it does not say that Wisdom hates “evil thoughts,” in addition to evil behavior and evil speech, but elaborates on the area of attitude by singling out the example of pride and arrogance. The verse makes it clear that the God who looks on the heart (1 Samuel 16:7) particularly dislikes a proud attitude – something which is underscored by many other verses in Proverbs and elsewhere (Proverbs 16:5, etc.). In fact, if we study the many biblical verses that deal with our thoughts and mental state, we find one of the most commonly mentioned problematic attitudes is that of rebellious pride that puts itself before God.
This is worth thinking about. It is considerably easier to be aware of the problem when we have fallen down in deed or in word than it is when we have slipped in the area of attitude. Secondly, there are many possible failings of attitude – selfishness, self-pity, lack of concern, etc. – but perhaps none is so hard to see in ourselves as pride. And this is an important thing to remember. Pride has been called the worst of all sins by Christian thinkers from Augustine to C.S. Lewis and beyond. The fact that pride is so bad and yet is the hardest attitude to detect in ourselves may well be the reason it is singled out so often in Proverbs and elsewhere in the Bible.
But why is pride so bad? From a biblical perspective, pride is often an “invisible” form of hate itself, the very opposite of love. In fact, we find in the apostle Paul’s great “Love” chapter, 1 Corinthians 13: “Love is kind… it does not boast, it is not proud” (1 Corinthians 13:4). These are in fact, examples of the very opposites of the qualities hated by Wisdom in the Book of Proverbs: Love is kind – actions, love does not boast – words, love is not proud – attitude. It is clear that if we are to follow the way of Wisdom, the Way preached by Paul and found throughout the Scriptures, we must remember that the three things that truly define us are – our actions, our words, and our attitudes.