Most of us are familiar with the puffer fish. We’ve seen pictures of them in their bloated state where they look like they are auditioning for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. (Not surprisingly, balloon fish is another name for them). Blowing themselves up is a defensive response the fish make to any perceived danger—they quickly ingest water and puff themselves up making it difficult for a predator to swallow or even bite them. Additionally, some of the puffers have spikes in their bloated state which further discourages pursuit from a predator. Then there is the issue of toxicity—some have enough poison to kill thirty humans. In short, the puffer fish is not really something you want to mess with.
A prideful person is like that. Someone has defined pride as the only disease known to man that makes everyone sick but the person who has it. In Luke 18:9 Jesus tells a parable touching on pride when He speaks “To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else.” He goes to tell of a Pharisee and a tax collector who stood in the temple praying. The Pharisee tells God, “I thank You I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector” (v. 11). Being around someone who thinks they are better than everyone else is not something many people want to do.
The prideful person is like the puffer fish—they are puffed up with an exaggerated view of their own importance. Like the puffer, it’s often a defense mechanism because many times pride is a front people put on to mask their insecurities. They point us to this accomplishment or that success because they are deathly afraid we might look at some other area where they don’t feel like they measure up. And that’s where the saying about pride being the only disease that makes everyone else sick breaks down. The truth is that prideful person is full of toxins that may irritate others but will ultimately do the most harm to the one who has it. That why the proverb says, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall” (16:18).
Matthew’s record of the Sermon on the Mount opens with Jesus saying, “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs in the kingdom of God” (Matthew 5:3). There’s a reason it is the first beatitude—God will never be able to reign in our lives until we have stepped off the throne. That necessitates us realizing our spiritual poverty and living humbly before God and man.
That’s not always an easy thing to do—we live in a world where calling attention to yourself seems to be the thing to do. In sports, a good play is an occasion to strut. Social media is used too many times to say in one form or another— “Hey, look at me!” Then there’s our celebrity culture that consists of people who devote their lives to trying to be the center of attention. The truth is, we don’t look very good when we’re all puffed up and full of ourselves. We look much better when we realize that we weren’t put here on earth to see how important we could become but to see how much difference we can make in the lives of others (Gordon Hinckley).
Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom” (James 3:13)