The next thing we learn about charity is Charity…is not puffed up. In the scriptures, the term – puffed-up is synonymous with having pride.
The term “puffed up” is used a little bit in the New Testament and more commonly used in the Book of Mormon. But in each of the standard works, we learn that charity is not proud.
“The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts.” – Psalms 10:4
Already, it is obvious that we cannot possibly have the love that never fails — Christ’s pure love — if we are not remembering Him. The proud do not remember God nor do they seek God. They are busy with something else. Now, the question is why don’t the proud seek God?
“O that cunning plan of the evil one! O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish.” – 2 Nephi 9:28
The proud don’t seek God because they don’t think that they need Him. They are puffed up by their own knowledge, riches, or power. I can see how this would happen. I mean, it kind of makes sense. Often, when we are successful, we forget what it is like to need someone or something else. We are filled with the false sense of our own power or ability. And the thing is: we are all just people. We all come to earth and leave it the same way. It is kind of funny that we are so apt to pride, but we are.
Pride – causes us to ignore the counsels of God, and that is when the problems begin.
Let’s take a look at the Nephites. They cycled through periods of righteousness and wickedness. This pattern is called the Pride Cycle.
1. Righteousness and Prosperity
“And it came to pass that in this same year there was exceedingly great prosperity in the church, insomuch that there were thousands who did join themselves unto the church and were baptized unto repentance.
And so great was the prosperity of the church, and so many the blessings which were poured out upon the people, that even the high priests and the teachers were themselves astonished beyond measure.
And it came to pass that the work of the Lord did prosper unto the baptizing and uniting to the church of God, many souls, yea, even tens of thousands.
And it came to pass that there was peace and exceedingly great joy in the remainder of the forty and ninth year; yea, and also there was continual peace and great joy in the fiftieth year of the reign of the judges.” – Helaman 3:24-32
At this time, the church was prospering. People were happy. Blessings were being poured out upon the people. This was because of their faith in God. Heavenly Father blesses us when we keep His commandments. The Nephites were faithful, and Heavenly Father was blessing them accordingly.
2. Pride Begins to Enter into the Hearts of the People
“And in the fifty and first year of the reign of the judges there was peace also, save it were the pride which began to enter into the church—not into the church of God, but into the hearts of the people who professed to belong to the church of God—
And they were lifted up in pride, even to the persecution of many of their brethren. Now this was a great evil, which did cause the more humble part of the people to suffer great persecutions, and to wade through much affliction.
And it came to pass that the fifty and second year ended in peace also, save it were the exceedingly great pride which had gotten into the hearts of the people; and it was because of their exceedingly great riches and their prosperity in the land; and it did grow upon them from day to day.” – Helaman 3:33-36
While most of the people were living in peace, pride begins to creep into the hearts of some of those who profess to be saints.
I find this interesting. The Church wasn’t threatened by an outside force. Instead, it was threatened by what was coming from within – pride. And this from people who professed to belong to the Church of God. These so-called saints began persecuting others.
Not everyone was filled with pride, but those that were became a big problem for the church and even the faithful.
The thing that is most interesting is how these people became proud – because of their riches – the blessings that they had received from God based on their prior faith and humility.
I feel like I’ve seen this in my life: pride creeping up on me. I know that I have a problem with it. I don’t generally judge people because of their money or lack of money, but I do have a problem with forgetting that I can’t see the heart of another. Because the Lord has seen fit to bless me, I often foolishly forget that I am reliant on Him. I forget that those who are suffering are not necessarily wading through affliction because of unworthiness. Even in my most prosperous moment, I need the Lord. It is important to remember this. Again, it goes back to what was said in the Psalms…To combat pride, I need to seek after God. It is interesting to me – that this is essentially the covenant I made at baptism: to always remember Him. It seems impossible to be puffed-up if I’m truly keeping the covenant I’ve made.
3. War, Famine, or Destruction
“And it came to pass in the fifty and fourth year there were many dissensions in the church, and there was also a contention among the people, insomuch that there was much bloodshed.
But it came to pass in the fifty and sixth year of the reign of the judges, there were dissenters who went up from the Nephites unto the Lamanites; and they succeeded with those others in stirring them up to anger against the Nephites; and they were all that year preparing for war.
And in the fifty and seventh year they did come down against the Nephites to battle, and they did commence the work of death; yea, insomuch that in the fifty and eighth year of the reign of the judges they succeeded in obtaining possession of the land of Zarahemla; yea, and also all the lands, even unto the land which was near the land Bountiful.” – Helaman 4:1-10
After increasing in pride and wickedness, the people lost love towards one another (charity!), which caused dissension and contention. Problems!!!
Helaman teaches us the cause of such loss:
“Now this great loss of the Nephites, and the great slaughter which was among them, would not have happened had it not been for their wickedness and their abomination which was among them; yea, and it was among those also who professed to belong to the church of God.
And it was because of the pride of their hearts, because of their exceeding riches, yea, it was because of their oppression to the poor, withholding their food from the hungry, withholding their clothing from the naked, and smiting their humble brethren upon the cheek, making a mock of that which was sacred, denying the spirit of prophecy and of revelation, murdering, plundering, lying, stealing, committing adultery, rising up in great contentions, and deserting away into the land of Nephi, among the Lamanites—” – Helaman 4:1-10
The pride of the wicked caused the plight of the people. Because of their riches, they grew proud. They oppressed the poor, withheld food from the hungry, refused to clothe the naked, and mocked what was sacred. They abused others, denied the Spirit, murdered, plundered, lied, stole, and committed adultery. All of these things are horrible.
Truly, pride is enmity toward God – and all things godly.
The state of the people at this time seem vaguely familiar. Even though many of us may not feel “rich”, it has dawned on me that most Americans really are rich. We have been abundantly blessed. Even if we are going through hard times – they are only “hard times” compared to some of the luxuries we have experienced in the past. Most of us do not have to endure difficulties like many throughout the world or in the history of time have. We are a rich and blessed culture.
And it seems like we have a hard time remembering our reliance on God – until things fall apart.
“And because of this their great wickedness, and their boastings in their own strength, they were left in their own strength; therefore they did not prosper, but were afflicted and smitten, and driven before the Lamanites, until they had lost possession of almost all their lands.” – Helaman 4:13
Humility and Repentance
“But behold, Moronihah did preach many things unto the people because of their iniquity, and also Nephi and Lehi, who were the sons of Helaman, did preach many things unto the people, yea, and did prophesy many things unto them concerning their iniquities, and what should come unto them if they did not repent of their sins.
And it came to pass that they did repent, and inasmuch as they did repent they did begin to prosper.” – Helaman 4:14-15
Finally, the people, beat down by their own pride, wickedness, and destruction become humble. They have to endure the difficulty that came by their own greed and pride. They repent, and experience the Love God has for them (charity!), grow in faith, and once again are prospered.
This is an interesting pattern to see, and I think that we’ve witnessed it in our own lives. Sometimes, you can see it on a big scale – for example: in a nation. There are other times when we see it in our own specific lives. I know that when I have grown proud, in my own ability, I begin to cut myself off of God’s love. I forget Him. When I forget the Lord, I forget what His love feels like. I forget that I need Him. I forget about His tender mercies.
When I forget His love, I have no hope in sharing it with others.
When we are proud, and we cut ourselves off from God, we cut ourselves off from obtaining Charity. We are then left to our own devices: which always results in sadness and failure.
So…I’m going to do more to try to remember the Lord, remember my nothingness, and my need for Him. What do you do to remember God and keep from getting “puffed-up?”