The LORD detests all the proud of heart.
Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished. — Proverbs 16:5
I was driving down a highway one day when a billboard caught my eye. I don’t remember what product the sign was advertising, but I do remember the words used to market what I remembered to be an expensive product: “You deserve it.”
It dawned on me that so much of the advertising business is built upon making us feel that we deserve everything. We are seduced into thinking that we are better than others, and therefore, especially deserving of luxury items. The advertisements that surround us encourage us to focus on ourselves as opposed to the needs of others. We are encouraged to be arrogant and prideful. The greater we believe we are, the more we believe we deserve.
Ironically, in the spiritual realm, things work in the exact opposite way. The less prideful we are, the more we receive.
In Proverbs, King Solomon taught, “The LORD detests all the proud of heart.” Those are pretty harsh words. The Jewish sages take this idea further and reference Psalm 101:5, which reads: “whoever has haughty eyes and a proud heart, I will not tolerate.” According to Jewish tradition, however, the verse is translated as God saying, “Whoever has haughty eyes and a proud heart, I cannot live with him.”
Why is God so hard on the prideful? We don’t see this attitude toward any other vice. God doesn’t say that He can’t live with the adulterer, the thief, or the murderer. When it comes to the arrogant and proud, why is it that God says: “It’s either me or you; we cannot exist together”?
In English, we have a phrase that we use to describe a prideful person. We say, “He is full of himself.” This phrase explains exactly why God cannot be with the arrogant; there is simply no room for Him. The person is filled to the brim with his or her own ego. Even the most horrible sinner can feel remorse, even broken, and within the broken, there are plenty of spaces for God to enter. Yet, when a person is full of pride, there is nowhere for God to reside.
The Bible describes Moses as the humblest of all men (Numbers 12:3). No wonder he was the one who received the most from God — the Bible itself. The more we are empty of ourselves, the more we can receive.
Let’s remember this teaching as we go about our day today. The less we are full of ourselves, the more we can receive from God. So let’s aim to be selfless, thoughtful of others, and mindful of God’s will. It is only when we make space for God that He may come and fill it.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President