Beware of Presumptuousness!
WHO does not want to avoid making mistakes? They can be quite embarrassing, often costly and so regrettable! Do we want to avoid distressing errors? Then we must guard against a trait that easily leads to them. We must beware of presumptuousness!
What is presumptuousness? It is “assuming a prerogative, privilege, or permission without warrant”; “overstepping due bounds”; “readiness to presume in conduct or thought.” Indeed, presumptuousness makes a person proceed according to his own ideas and makes him resist counsel or correction.
But who are the presumptuous ones? Are they only the obviously wicked? Who really needs to beware of presumptuousness?
Foremost among mankind’s presumptuous ones are the persecutors of God’s people. They insist that they, rather than Jehovah, should be obeyed. Could any act of presumption exceed that?
The ancient world power of Babylon was guilty of such presumptuousness. So, by his prophets, God pronounced Babylon’s doom. “I shall actually cause the pride of the presumptuous ones to cease, and the haughtiness of the tyrants I shall abase,” declared God. And we read: “‘Look! I am against you, O Presumptuousness,’ is the utterance of the Sovereign Lord, Jehovah of armies, ‘for your day must come, the time that I must give you attention.’”—Isaiah 13:11; Jeremiah 50:31.
In modern times, many similarly presumptuous ones have persecuted Jehovah’s Witnesses. But these arrogant persecutors have not fared well. Where are such presumptuous persecutors as the Nazi Adolf Hitler and notorious Duplessis of Canada?
Warnings From the Past
Yet, others besides persecutors of God’s people have fallen into the snare of presumptuousness. How evident this is from the case of Saul, the first human king over the 12 tribes of ancient Israel! When first chosen, he was a modest man. In fact, when he was to be presented to them as their king, he went into hiding. (1 Samuel 10:17-24) In time, however, this signal honor caused Saul to take himself too seriously. The result? He became guilty of one presumptuous act after another.
The first instance was during war with the Philistines. Samuel the prophet had arranged to meet Saul at a certain time in order to offer a sacrifice to Jehovah. But as the situation seemed to get desperate, and Samuel failed to come on the scene, Saul presumptuously offered the sacrifice himself. What were the consequences? Why, he was told that his presumptuous act would cost him the kingship!—1 Samuel 13:5-14.
Some time thereafter, Jehovah commanded Saul to avenge the dastardly attack that the Amalekites had made upon the Israelites during their wilderness journey. Saul was to wipe out Amalek, but he greedily spared the choicest of the Amalekite flock and herd, afterward claiming that these animals had been preserved for sacrificial purposes. He also spared the Amalekite king Agag. Because of this presumptuous course, Samuel told Saul: “Since you have [presumptuously] rejected the word of Jehovah, he accordingly rejects you from being king.” (1 Samuel 15:1-23) What a price to pay for presumptuousness!
Another warning example is that of presumptuous King Uzziah, or Azariah. He improperly endeavored to offer incense at Jehovah’s temple. With what result? Why, for his presumptuous act, Uzziah was stricken with dreaded leprosy! Yes, “Jehovah plagued the king, and he continued to be a leper until the day of his death.” (2 Kings 15:5; 2 Chronicles 26:16-23) What a warning to beware of presumptuousness!
Heed Scriptural Precepts
Persecutors of Jehovah’s people, and even some individuals dedicated to God, in the past have succumbed to the snare of presumptuousness. But what about us today? The danger of becoming presumptuous still exists. Due to inherited sinful tendencies, the temptations of this wicked world and the “designs” of Satan the Devil, we all need to guard against acting presumptuously.—2 Corinthians 2:11; Psalm 51:5; 1 John 2:15-17.
Through his Word, Jehovah God lovingly warns us against presumptuousness. For instance, we read: “Has presumptuousness come? Then dishonor will come; but wisdom is with the modest ones.” (Proverbs 11:2) Appreciating how bad presumptuousness really is, King David wisely prayed: “From presumptuous acts hold your servant back; do not let them dominate me. In that case I shall . . . have remained innocent from much transgression.”—Psalm 19:13.
Pride Fosters Presumptuousness
If we are to avoid presumptuousness, however, we must shun pride. You may recall that Saul started out being modest when chosen as Israel’s king. But that is not the way he ended up. True, he acted presumptuously on various occasions. Yet, in at least one case it was pride that led him to a presumptuous and wicked act.
On one occasion Saul heard the women of Israel singing: “Saul has struck down his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.” So much did this wound Saul’s pride that he eyed David with suspicion and envy. In fact, Saul began pursuing David, intent on destroying him. In pride and rage, Saul even wiped out 85 priests and the men, women and children of Nob—all because one of their number had befriended David.—1 Samuel 18:6-9; 21:1-10; 22:16-19.
Continuing in his proud, presumptuous course, Saul eventually committed suicide. (1 Samuel 31:4) What a tragic end for a once-modest man!
May we avoid the presumptuous course of Saul and Uzziah. Rather, let us heed Scriptural counsel and benefit from the warning examples found in God’s Word. (Romans 15:4) Moreover, let us wisely cultivate the quality of modesty, which will be discussed in the succeeding articles. This godly trait will help us to avoid proud, sinful presumptuousness.