Habakkuk 2:4a “The Root of All Evil” July 24, 2011
There is a verse of scripture that is often misquoted; virtually everyone here has heard it: “Money is the root of all evil.” But I Timothy 6:10 actually does NOT say “money is the root of all evil.” What it says is, “the LOVE of money is a root of all KINDS of evil” (NASB). There is a big difference. Money itself is not the root of all evil. Loving money can lead to all kinds of ill effects. But money is not the root of all evil.
There is another sin, however, that I would suggest to you IS the root of all evil. I believe a strong scriptural argument can be made that the root of all evil is the sin of pride.
Last Sunday morning we saw the importance of waiting on a word from God – especially in times of crisis. Habakkuk said he was going to stand watch until he saw what God would speak to him. Well, God rewarded Habakkuk’s commitment to wait on His word. In verse 4, we see that God DID indeed speak to him, and it begins in a very interesting way: :4a “Behold as for the proud one, his soul is not right within him …”
Now, I will admit to you that I did not initially intend to preach this sermon today – it was not on my “list” of planned sermons. I thought that we were going to focus on the concept of justification by faith from here in :4, which goes on to say, “But the righteous shall live by his faith.” But as I began to study this verse last Tuesday, I saw that I could NOT lightly skip over the very first words of this verse, because they are SO at the heart of our problems: “As for the proud one, his soul is not right within him.” We need to look at this sentence together, for pride is indeed “The Root of All Evil”.
I. Pride: the root of all evil.
This is the first thing we see in the first part of Habakkuk 2:4, “Behold as for the proud one, his soul is not right within him.” Before we ever get to justification by faith, we see what it is that defiles a man before God; what makes “his soul not right within him.” And that sin that makes our souls not right with God, is pride. “As for the proud one, his soul is not right within him.” Pride is the root of all evil.
A. Pride was the root of Satan’s sin. Many believe that it was Satan whose words are reflected in Isaiah 14; that “I will be like the Most High” was his thought when he rebelled in heaven in eternity past. Though scholars debate whether that passage is speaking of Satan or not, we see in I Timothy 3 that the pastor is warned to avoid becoming “conceited, and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil.” So the root of Satan’s sin was indeed pride, the Bible tells us. He wanted to take the place of God. His rebellion, and all sin that followed it, came from the root of pride.
John Milton, writing in his epic poem, “Paradise Lost”, portrays the character of Satan as unwilling to worship God in heaven, and, wanting to take His place, he begins a rebellion. Cast out of heaven, he is unrepentant, but still cries out: “Better to rule in hell than serve in heaven”. Milton’s poem was a work of fiction, but in his God-given genius, he hit the nail right on the head: it was pride that was at the root of Satan’s rebellion. HE wanted to rule; HE wanted to sit in the place of the Most High; HE wanted to be the center of attention. Satan’s rebellion, and the fall of 1/3 of the angels from heaven, and all of the evil and destruction that has come from it, sprung forth from the sin of pride. “Pride is the root of all evil.”
B. Pride was at the heart of man’s fall as well. “You will be like God!”, Satan tempted Eve. He appealed to her pride – SHE could be like God! And she responded by putting something ahead of God: she wanted that fruit more than she wanted Him; she wanted to be a god more than she wanted fellowship with Him. Pride was at the root of that first sin.
And pride is the root of all sin. It is the very heart of sin itself: sin says, I want to do what I want to do, instead of what God has commanded. I want to be the center of my life, instead of putting God at the center of my life. This is idolatry, and it is based on pride. Sin is self-will, instead of God’s will. Every time you choose to sin, at the root of it is selfishness and pride.
I can still remember the very first sin I was consciously aware of in my life. I took a white grape from grocery store shelf and ate it. You may think that was not a “big sin”, but it doesn’t matter how “big” we think it is, it was a sin, and pride was at the heart of it. I knew very well that you had to pay for what you got at the store. And I knew that God had said, “Thou shalt not steal.” But I just wanted that grape anyway, so I took it, and I ate it. Self-will, pride was at the heart of it – doing what I wanted, instead of what God had commanded.
And I am not the only one who has done this; we all have. Every single one of us has come to a time in our lives when you knew what God said, but you wanted to do what YOU wanted to instead. And in your self-will and pride you chose to disobey. That is the very essence of sin. Pride is the root of all evil. Pride is the root of sin. “Behold as for the proud one, his soul is not right within him.” “Our souls are not right within us”, the Bible says, because of pride. It is the root of all sin.
II. Pride & Salvation
:4a “Behold, as for the proud one, his soul is not right within him.” This has tremendous implications regarding salvation. If you are proud in your heart, then your soul is not right within you – that is, you cannot be saved with an attitude of pride about how you achieved your salvation. You cannot be saved by any personal efforts which you could boast about.
And that is exactly what most people are basing their hope for heaven on: some achievement of goodness or good deeds in their lives. A survey a couple of years ago asked Americans what they were trusting for their salvation, and a vast majority of them said something like: “Keeping the 10 Commandments”, or “my good deeds outweigh my bad”, or “I try to be a good person.” But all of these things are self-efforts; they would all lead to boasting of what THEY accomplished to make themselves right with God.
Romans 4:2 says, “For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God.” Using the example of Abraham, Romans says if he was made right with God by all the good things he did, he could have boasted: “look what a good guy I am; I have earned my salvation!” But Romans says, “Not before God”! NONE of us can stand before God and boast about what WE did to earn our salvation. There cannot be a drop of pride in salvation. “It is by grace that you are saved, through faith.” If you are proud of something that you did for your salvation, it shows that you are not saved: as Habakkuk says, “your soul is not right within you.”
One of my favorite salvation testimonies from our church is that of Mike Viator. Mike shared during our “This Is My Story” emphasis that he used to attend our church with his daughter, because he felt like it was good for HER; he didn’t think HE needed it. He was a pretty good guy; he did a lot of good things. But he said one Sunday as I was preaching on the topic of Good Works, I spoke on how good works were important, for helping others, and for affirming our salvation – and he said he sat there very contentedly in his good works. But he shares that I then said, “But if you think that your good works are going to make you right with God, you are sadly mistaken.” God’s Holy Spirit touched his heart with the words of that message. Mike had thought he was going to heaven because of the good things he did; he was proud of who he was and what he had done, and he thought it was going to get him to heaven. That pride in his works was a giveaway sign: “his soul was not right within him.” Mike had to realize that there were no good works that HE could accomplish to earn his salvation; his trust had to be totally in what Jesus accomplished for him on the cross. And God showed him that, that Sunday, and Mike was subsequently saved and baptized here.
Listen, the Bible says, “Examine yourself; test yourself to see whether you are in the faith.” Many, many people assume that they are “Christians” because they go to church and try to live a good life. They think that they are going to heaven, but it is all based on their own righteousness; their own good works & deeds. This is pride. Do you think that you are going to have anything to boast about before God?! NO! Some of you have a convicting, sinking feeling in your heart right now; you know your soul is not right with God. If you want to be saved, you must humble yourself, admit that you can do absolutely NOTHING to save yourself, and put your trust entirely in Jesus as your Savior. If you do not, you will be lost forever. Habakkuk and the rest of the scriptures are very clear: “As for the proud one, his soul is not right within him.”
III. Pride & the Church
These words: “As for the proud one, his soul is not right within him”, have incredible implications in the church as well. If you exhibit pride in the church, it demonstrates that “your soul is not right within you.” And it may well indicate that you do not understand Biblical salvation at all. Let me give you an example of how that is true:
Afshin Ziafat is a young man who grew up in a Moslem home, but came to faith in Jesus. His father disowned him as a result of his faith, but he continued to grow, went to seminary, and now is an evangelist who shares his story all over the nation. Some time ago, I heard him share of an experience he had in an airport. He said he was getting on a plane that was part of a particular airline (some of you may be familiar with it) in which you do NOT get specific seat reservations; they board you in 1 of 3 “categories”: A, B, or C. People with “A” reservations get first-come, first serve seating, then all the B’s get to choose a seat, and after that the poor C’s get whatever seats are leftover! Well, Afshin said that he was getting on with the C’s, and a man and his son came on to the plane at the same time. He said the man turned to a woman who had gotten on with the “A’s”, and asked her if she would move so that he and his son could sit together. Afshin said a collective “gasp” went up from the plane – and the woman was incensed. Why, she had her “A” seating, and it was “just not done” that someone who had a “C” would take “her spot”! She had planned ahead; she had gotten an early reservation and gotten her “A” seating; she “deserved” the seat that she had – and no one was going to take it away from her!
But then he said, it would have been entirely different, for example, if the woman had arrived at the airport late, and missed a flight due to her own neglect — and at the last minute, a man gave up his own ticket to allow her to get on the plane. In this case if someone had asked her if she might move for their son, she just might have had a different attitude, huh? She didn’t “deserve” to be on that plane; she didn’t have any “right” to be there; she was only there by someone else’s grace! The way she treated others on that plane depended a lot on the way she felt she got there. She’d be harsh and unforgiving towards others if she felt she deserved it; but she’d be humble and gracious if she knew she didn’t.
And of course it is just that way in the church, too. If you think that you are here in the church – on the “plane to heaven”, in a sense — because you have earned it, then you are going to have an attitude of entitlement: “I deserve this; I should get that; who is going to serve ME?” But if, on the other hand, you know that you are here only by the grace of God, and that you only are “on this plane” of salvation by grace through faith, then you are going to have an entirely different attitude. You know it’s not all about you. You know you don’t deserve what you have. You don’t expect anything, or get angry when something doesn’t go your way. You know that YOU are only here by grace.
See, your attitude in the church betrays your heart! If you say, “I deserve attention”, or “I deserve a visit”, or “I deserve my opinion”, or “I deserve my way”, or “I deserve certain rights and privileges” — just what is it that you think you have “done” to “deserve” these “rights” and entitlements? It betrays a spirit of pride in your heart; you think you “deserve” certain things because of your achievements.
On the other hand, the humble person – the genuinely Christian person – understands that if we get anything better than hell, it is more than we deserve. And so they have an attitude of thankfulness for whatever they DO receive, instead of an attitude of bitterness for what they do NOT. But it all starts with the heart attitude: Pride in the church is a tell-tale sign that “(your) soul is not right within (you).”
IV. Pride in Times of Trial
This sin of pride is especially relevant to the trying times that Habakkuk is addressing here in his book. Many of us are personally in difficult times right now. It may be that we will all soon be facing times of trial as our nation comes into a time of judgment. We need to understand that pride can be very harmful to our relationship with the Lord in times of difficulty. “As for the proud one, his soul is not right within him.” Our attitudes in difficult times often DO reveal a spirit of pride, in several ways:
A. First of all, in our trials, many of us demonstrate that we are really only concerned for ourselves. Our thoughts and considerations are only about ourselves. We usually fail to consider that there may be some purpose bigger and more important than our own personal comfort and happiness! God may be doing something that will benefit others, or advance His kingdom in some way – but we are only thinking of the impact on US!
This is in fact one of the great flaws of American Christianity; we have made Christianity SO individual. Now, Christianity IS very personal. You must personally admit your sins; you must personally trust Christ as your Savior. Nothing is more personal than that. But we have made Christianity so individual inAmerica; we act as if everything revolves around us: the “gospel” that some people preach is basically all about US: “God wants you to have Your Best Life Now”. Listen, God’s plan is not necessarily for you personally to have the best of everything right now. God has a plan that is a little bigger than our personal happiness and well-being! That is SO self-centered. That is so proud. This world does not revolve around you. It is not all about you. Some of us need to understand that God has bigger things going in this universe that your wants and wishes and well-being! He DOES love you, and He does care for you – but it is NOT all about you! But the way that we respond in our times of difficulty shows that our souls are not right with God, because our pride raises its ugly head.
B. Others of us reveal our pride by thinking that we know better than God! You might SAY, “Oh, no, pastor, I would never say that I know better than God.” You’re right; you would never SAY it, but the truth is, deep down within your heart, you DO think you know better than God! You show that by your attitude in your time of difficulty. Do you humbly receive the difficult experiences that God has planned for you – or do you question Him, and think you know better and that you would do things in a different way?
Will you take just a moment to really think about your heart attitudes during hard times? If you do, then you may just see that really deep down, you DO think you know better than God! You would do it differently than He is. You think you deserve better than what He is giving you. You think you have a better plan than He does. The heart of the attitude that many of us have in our times of difficulty, is pride. You really think, deep down, that you know better than God. And what God wants you to know today is that your biggest problem today is not what you think it is! You think that a certain need or trial or difficulty is your problem – and it isn’t. Your biggest problem is that “your soul is not right within you” because of your pride!
Many of us today need the kind of attitude adjustment that God gave Job. You remember how Job questioned God about why he was having to go through all that he did, when he didn’t think he had done anything wrong. At the end of the book, God finally speaks to Job out of the whirlwind in Job 38, and He basically says, ok, son, you’ve asked ME some questions, now I am gong to ask YOU some! And God said:
“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who set its measurements, since you know? … Or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together, and the sons of God shouted with joy? … Have you ever in your life commanded the morning, and caused the dawn to know its place? … Have the gates of death been revealed to you, or have you seen the gates of deep darkness? Have you understood the expanse of the earth? Tell Me, if you know all this! … Can you lift up your voice to the clouds, so that an abundance of water will cover you? Can you send forth lightnings that they may go and say to you, ‘here we are!’ … is it by your understanding that the hawk soars, stretching his wings towards the south? Is it at your command that the eagle mounts up, and makes his nest on high? … Will the fault-finder contend with the Almighty? Let him who reproves God answer it.” (Job 38-39)
The Bible says that when God had spoken, “Job answered the Lord and said, ‘Behold, I am insignificant. What can I reply to You? I lay my hand on my mouth … I have declared that which I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know … YOU instruct ME … therefore I retract, and I repent in dust and ashes.”
Some of us today may have found ourselves in the place of Job – or we feel like we have been. And our responses have been like his – questioning God, feeling like we knew better than Him, feeling that we deserve better. And today God is making it clear: this trial is revealing something about you: it is revealing a spirit of pride. “Your soul is not right within you.” Today, some of us need to respond to the word of God like Job did, and put your hand over your mouth, and repent in dust and ashes. We need to humble our proud, arrogant questioning, and submit to the wisdom and plan of One who is infinitely higher and wiser than we are.
God is doing something big in this world; and He is doing something important in your life too. But you are never going to be right with Him, if you don’t humble your pride, and trust that He knows best. Will you hear God’s word today, and respond to Him, and humble yourself? Some of you will. But “as for the proud one, his soul is not right within him.”