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Spiritual Pride Goes Before the Believer’s Fall

July 14, 2020

I wonder if you have encountered a biblical figure that leaves you scratching your head. Perhaps there is a person in the Old or New Testament narrative who you would say is foolish in a way you would never be. For me, that person was Samson. I simply could not conceive of how he could get himself into such a bind.

When reading the story of Samson, I would white-knuckle my way through Delilah’s repeated appeals for him to reveal the secret of his strength, knowing she planned to turn him over to the Philistines at her first opportunity. If I could watch that episode of Samson’s life as a sporting event, I would be the armchair quarterback screaming, “Samson! How blind can you be? This woman doesn’t care about you. She’s playing you, and she isn’t being subtle about it. Run for your life!”

Samson’s foolishness was painfully obvious, yet he did not have eyes to see impending danger. As I have journeyed further in my Christian walk, I have come to understand that I am not so different from Samson after all. Just like him, I have underestimated sin’s power and overestimated my strength.

God set Samson apart to accomplish his purposes. He gave Samson supernatural strength to deliver God’s people from their enemies. God specifically instructed Samson never to cut his hair. It wasn’t that Samson’s hair had any power in and of itself, but it signified God’s special blessing on Samson’s life.

Samson single-handedly tore a lion limb from limb, and the book of Judges tells us he struck down a thousand men in one go. Neither ferocious beasts nor armies of men could defeat him. Samson seemed invincible, but we are never so vulnerable as when we think ourselves strong.

Spiritual Pride is Sin

Sin exploits our vulnerabilities, and this is made all the easier when our guard is down. As Christians, we are in particular danger when we begin to think that our spiritual maturity makes us invincible to specific temptations and sin. When we become Christians, we start to experience victories over sin. This is evidence of the Holy Spirit’s power in our lives. As we continue to grow in our walk with the Lord, we may be encouraged at how far the Lord has brought us from the people we once were.

But our spiritual growth can make us uniquely susceptible to the sin of spiritual pride. When spiritual pride takes up residence in our hearts, we begin to think we are stronger than we are. We begin to think that perhaps there are some temptations worth entertaining, because they are interesting, if not compelling. And of course, we presume that our spiritual maturity will enable us to walk away before we are in any real danger. We forget that the devil is crafty, the world is relentless, and the appetite of the flesh is insatiable.

For Samson, foreign women were a particular vulnerability. Samson defied the Lord by becoming entangled with them. Delilah was the third of such women to come into Samson’s life, and he fell hard for her. When Delilah pressed Samson for the secret of his strength, she made no bones about her intentions to turn him over to his enemies, but Samson chose to remain in her company. This is what caused my incredulity about Samson. I couldn’t understand him because I didn’t appreciate the effects sin had on his ability to think clearly. I was missing the fact that sin can make a person stupid.

Sinners Drift and Defy

The deeper we sink into sin, the more clouded our judgment becomes and the farther we drift from the Lord. The book of Judges tells us that Samson was “vexed to death” trying to decide whether to tell Delilah the truth about his strength, yet at no time did he consult the Lord. Samson thought he could handle the situation on his own. We read that after Samson told Delilah the real secret of his strength, he said, “’I will go out as at other times and shake myself free.’ But he did not know that the Lord had left him” (Judg. 16:22).

The Lord loves his children and is exceedingly patient and kind to us, but when we insist on our own way, we choose to move outside the Lord’s protection and open ourselves up to the often devastating consequences of our choices. When Delilah called in the Philistines, they seized Samson, gouged out his eyes, and put him in prison to grind at a mill. This illustrates well the effects of sin on a life—it blinds and enslaves us.

When we linger, instead of fleeing from temptation, we defy God’s wisdom. When we make allowance for sin and assume we will have the strength to resist its ever-increasing demands in our own strength, destruction is not far off.

Sinners Need Deliverance

Samson’s failings made it clear that not only God’s people needed a better deliverer, but so did Samson himself. The ability to defeat human enemies would not be enough. We are all in need of someone who can defeat the enemy of our souls. That better deliverer is Jesus Christ, who chose to set aside his strength and take the ultimate consequence of our sin upon himself. When Jesus went to the cross and died, everything changed. Before we became Christians, sin was our master. We were blind and enslaved to sin. But when Jesus Christ rose from the grave, sin and death lost their power forever. “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Gal. 5:1).

If you are a follower of Christ, he will not let you go! He will allow what is necessary, so that you will again come to see the goodness of the Lord and pursue a right relationship with him. Sin will not have the final word, because it is no longer our master. If we choose to turn our backs on the Lord and his call on our lives, he will not obligate us to follow him. But even when we wander and the Lord seems to have left us to our own devices, he longs for our return.

Sinners Can Be Faithful

Samson, despite his grave failings, is remembered in the book of Hebrews, not for his failures, but as a man of faith. He is mentioned among those who “through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions” (Heb. 11:33). The Lord sought to rekindle his relationship with Samson. We read that Samson’s hair began to grow again and Samson cried to the Lord to restore his strength for a final time, so that he might be avenged.

When we, as Christians, find ourselves defeated by sin, know that not all is lost, for our “Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love” (Ps. 145:8). If we will turn from our sin and seek the Lord once again, he is only too glad to deliver us from all manner of spiritual pride, and use our failures to strengthen our faith for our good and his glory.

Photo: Picryl, sourced from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Public Domain.

The Author
Lisa Jeffrey

Lisa Jeffrey is Canadian-born and has been a U.S. resident for over 15 years. She works in the finance industry for corporate America, and previously worked full-time in college campus ministry at Princeton University. Lisa has never been married and has no children of her own, but loves getting back to Canada to spend time with her nieces and nephew. Lisa became a member of The Orchard Evangelical Free Church in 2006, and loves studying God's Word, serving as a small group leader, and mentoring younger women.

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