The word of the day is “eyes.” How do you respond when someone points out your fault? Do you bristle with indignation, or do you respond to correction with appreciation? In our reading of Proverbs 12:8-22, the wise sage writes, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but he who heeds counsel is wise” (NKJV vs. 15). Today we learn that thinking that we are wise in our own wisdom is a sign of pride. And we suggest that this kind of deep self-conceit requires salvation and healing more than instruction.
A Law unto Themselves
The Old Testament Book of Judges ends with the social disintegration of the People of God. The writer explains the cause of the disorder, “In those days, there was no king in Israel; all the people did what was right in their own eyes” (OAB Judges 21:15). The lesson is plain: when everyone is a law to himself, then lawlessness reigns.
Because of the corruption of our human nature, people seek freedom to do as they please. And whatever they choose to do, they tend to call it “right and good.” Oh, they may feel a twinge of guilt, but their justification for their actions covers up their conscience.
Thus, many do not want a “king.” In other words, they reject a standard beyond their own measurement that would rule and judge them. They want to be their own “king,” and they call their ability to rule themselves and do whatever they like “freedom.”
Stuck in Pride
Of course, these people may think they are wise in their own wisdom. But they are stuck in their own pride. A sure sign of their folly is that they will take neither advice nor correction from anyone. If someone tries to guide them, they are indignant. And if the law should impose some restraint on them, they defend their right to rule themselves with anger and even violence.
In their conceit, these self-ruled persons isolate themselves from others. They separate themselves from their friends (George Valsamis. Old Testament. Elpinor: Septuagint Proverbs 18:1), “live alone” (NKJV 18:2) and are “unfriendly” (NIV Proverbs 18:1). They “show contempt for all who have sound judgment” (NKJV 18:1). But the sage observes that their pride will lead them into vanity, destruction (NKJV Proverbs 16:18), and shame and disgrace (NKJV Provers 11:2).
Advice and Correction Are Useless
What, then, is the antidote for the arrogant and self-destructive attitude of those who accept no law but their own? It is useless to point out a single fault or flaw. Offering friendly advice will provoke the fury of resentment. No, the dense overgrowth of self-righteous attitudes must be pulled out by the roots. It demands a change of heart from haughtiness to humility (NKJV 18:12).
How is such a transformation of character to be accomplished? The sage advises that the arrogant listen to his words and get wisdom. That is as far as the book of Proverbs can take us. The sage only describes our human condition; he neither treats it nor heals it.
The Humility of the Cross
Humankind needs salvation, not merely instruction. And that salvation is found in the Cross of Christ. The Apostle Paul wrote that the Lord Jesus Christ “… being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death on the Cross (NKJV Philippians 2:8). His was the ultimate act of humility, the acceptance of shame, disgrace, dishonor unto death. Who can look upon the Crucified and remain prideful? Who can realize that this mortification was for his or her sake and not be humbled by the Lord’s humility?
The sage taught that “before honor comes humility” (NKJV Psalm 18:12). Thus, because of the humility of the Cross, God exalted the Crucified Savior as Lord (Philippians 2:11) and Christ (Acts 2:36).
Here then is salvation from the conceit of self-righteousness. Here is healing from soul-destroying pride. Thus, if we are tempted to judge everything we do as “right in our own eyes,” then let us look again at Christ, who suffered the humiliation of the Cross for our sake.