Calvary Road Baptist Church

“THE GREAT HARM THAT IS DONE BY FEELING SORRY FOR SOMEONE” Part 2 

 

The world was shocked last Monday when it was reported that funny man and Academy Award winner Robin Williams was dead, having apparently hanged himself after suffering depression upon learning he had Parkinson’s Disease, complicated by addictions of various sorts, and early on there was speculation about serious financial troubles. He left his third wife, three children, and a former much younger mistress to deal with the problems he chose to leave behind.[15],[16],[17] The Robin Williams tragedy is heartbreaking. It is no doubt devastating to his loved ones. It is appropriate to extend heartfelt expressions of compassion to anyone whose life has been affected by the loss of a loved one due to the taking of his own life. I do not in this message seek to pile on and add woes to anyone suffering loss. I do, however, seek to shine the light of truth from God’s Word on such matters. Robin Williams was responsible for his own life. He alone is responsible for his own choices. No one forced him into show business, into failed marriages, into drug and alcohol addictions, or into depression. Those were each choices that he made, just as ending his life was a choice he made. I am profoundly sorry about the choices he chose of his own accord to make and implement.

Comment is necessary in response to the torrent of statements being made about Robin Williams’ depression as being worthy of blame for his death instead of recognizing his own responsibility for taking his own life. From the beginning sinful man has sought to shift responsibility for his actions to someone or something else. You will recall that Adam, when questioned by God about his disobedience, replied in Genesis 3.12, “The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.” We read Eve’s response to God’s question moments later, in Genesis 3.13: “The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.” Each, in turn, sought to shift responsibility for their actions to another, and ultimately to God, Who created the woman who tempted Adam and who created the serpent that tempted Eve. Since the Fall man has increasingly looked to avoid personal responsibility for his own actions and attitudes, choosing whenever possible to shift blame to someone else or to something else. As well, men choose to shift responsibility for the actions of others, somehow thinking they are qualified to overturn the assignment of responsibility by a merciful and all-wise God. Turn in your Bible to First Corinthians 6.9-10, where we see the Apostle Paul’s list of particularly heinous sins that are especially characteristic of unsaved people:

 

9      Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,

10    Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.

 

Notice that Paul lists idolatry, four types of sexual misconduct, theft, and drunkenness in his list of sinful behavior. Do you see sins here or do you see diseases in Paul’s list? You see sins, don’t you, including those who are drunkards guilty of getting drunk, not alcoholics afflicted with the disease of alcoholism? Why is this so? This is so because the individual who gets drunk, even the guy who finds himself engaged in the deeply habituated pattern of drunkenness seen so often on skid row, is not suffering from any disease called alcoholism. Alcoholism is an invention. It is no disease, but a cleverly designed ruse to conceal the fact that the sufferer is guilty of self-inflicted sin. He is suffering the effects of sinning, and no one forces him to do what he of his own free will chooses to do.

Another example of sinning passed off on people as a disease, Heroin addiction: Listen to the comments related to Heroin addiction written by Anthony Daniels, MD, formerly a physician and psychiatrist practicing in the UK, Africa, and various third world countries. He is also the author of more than twenty books and was a columnist for the London Spectator, for National Review, and for the Wall Street Journal:

 

Claiming the whole basis of the supposed treatment for the supposed disease of Heroin addiction is rooted in lies and misconceptions, he writes, “. . . research has shown that most addicts spend at least 18 months taking heroin intermittently before they become addicted. Nor are they ignorant while they take it intermittently of heroin’s addictive properties. In other words, they show considerable determination in becoming addicts. It is something, for whatever reason, that they want to become. It is something they do, rather than something that happens to them.”[18]

 

As with every other sin listed here by Paul, sinful deeds and seemingly overpowering sinful habits are the direct result of someone choosing on his own to do wrong, choosing on his own to do wrong again, and choosing on his own to do wrong so frequently that he develops a deeply ingrained destructive pattern of sin. Whose fault is it? Society’s? Or his own fault? Blame it on poverty or a bad environment? Then why isn’t everyone in the neighborhood a drunk or an addict? My friend, the problem is sin. The solution for that sin? Forgiveness and cleansing through the blood of Jesus Christ.

Having pointed out that the secular world’s approach to addressing sinful habits is diametrically opposed to the clear teaching of God’s Word, allow me to clarify what is behind their unscriptural stance. They deny accountability to God and want to recalibrate sins into behavior that is merely unfortunate while not being wicked. As well, they insist on calling them diseases so as to shift blame from the person who has made wicked and foolish choices to culture, or society, or religions that make people feel guilty for no reason, etc. With Robin Williams and others who suffer from what is usually termed depression, the obvious is typically denied. What is denied? Reality. “People feel bad because of bad behavior; feelings flow from actions. This relationship between feelings and behavior is set forth very clearly in Scripture. For example: Peter often pointed out that good living produces good feelings.”[19] First Peter 3.10:

 

“For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile.”

 

As well, Proverbs 16.13:

 

“Commit thy works unto the LORD, and thy thoughts shall be established.”

 

The correlation between right conduct and one’s healthy thought patterns is hereby established.

Not to deny that depression can sometimes be the result of genuine physical problems such as thyroid malfunction, a brain tumor, Parkinson’s Disease, or other issues that need medical attention, the fact remains that the majority of people suffering from what is termed depression, even clinical depression, is the result of sinful behavior producing guilt that afflicts the conscience. The majority of those suffering from depression, in my opinion, find themselves in unpleasant situations while believing they deserve better than they are getting. Thus, you commit sin against God for objecting to His treatment of you and the circumstances He has placed you into, you then develop guilt arising from your rebellion against God, which then results in feelings labeled depression.

In Part 1 I set before you five examples of individuals in the Bible who felt sorry for themselves, and whose self-pity was an obvious motivation to commit further sin. There was Cain, who murdered his brother Abel, Job, Elijah, Gehazi, and Lucifer. They were each shown to have felt sorry for themselves, to have engaged in self-pity, which then led to additional sinning.

 

Next, I WANT TO EXPLORE THE RELATIONSHIP OF SELF PITY TO PRIDE

 

The presence of pride in Lucifer’s rebellion against God is clearly seen. Who can read Isaiah 14.13-14, with his notorious and presumptuous five “I will” statements and not recognize the bloated arrogance, the insufferable pride?

 

13    . . . I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north:

14    I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.

 

And when it is recognized that the first four “I will” statements assert that Lucifer will show his autonomy from God by independently elevating his station from earth to the throne room of heaven, it is clear that his sinful pride (and is there any other kind?) was offended, that he became consumed with self-pity when he was not assigned a position he felt appropriate. The pattern established by Lucifer is tragically repeated so frequently. One finds himself in a situation he does not like, does not enjoy, feels is beneath his proper station, lacking the recognition he feels is due him, and he begins to feel sorry for himself. Of course, this is a manifestation of pride, thinking more highly of yourself than is warranted. What were Lucifer’s options? Only two: He might have humbled himself (treating it here as a theoretical possibility) and been grateful God had created him so marvelous a creature, content to serve wherever his wise Creator placed him. Or, and this is what he actually did, do something to remove yourself from the circumstance you object to. With Lucifer it was leading a rebellion against Almighty God, a rebellion doomed to fail. He sinned by proudly feeling sorry for himself and then he sinned by proudly revolting against God’s rule.

Do we see evidence of this Luciferian pattern in Cain? I think we do. Remember, Cain was already angry because his offering to God was rejected while Abel’s was accepted by God, Genesis 4.4-5. However, there is a consequence of Abel’s offering being accepted and Cain’s offering being rejected that is typically ignored, but which I think is key to really understanding Cain’s murder of his younger brother. Notice, please, the final sentence of God’s statement to Cain, in Genesis 4.7:

 

“And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.”

 

Though the popular interpretation of the final phrase “thou shalt rule over him” is taken to reference the prospect of Cain’s mastery over his sin, I am convinced of something else entirely. Cain had lost his position as Adam’s firstborn son relative to his younger brother because of his sin, and God here informing him that repentance would result in his restoration to the position he had once enjoyed relative to Abel once more. This view of the statement is held by Adam Clarke, whose commentary reads,

 

“That is, Thou shalt ever have the right of primogeniture, and in all things shall thy brother be subject unto thee. These words are not spoken of sin, as many have understood them, but of Abel’s submission to Cain as his superior, and the words are spoken to remove Cain’s envy.”[20]

 

A less well known commentator is Matthew Poole, who writes,

 

“. . . the sense is, and (as for thy brother Abel, to whose faith and piety I have given this public and honourable testimony, which thy naughty heart makes an occasion of envy and malice, and intention of murder, that thou mayst not by a mistake be led to the perpetration of so horrid a crime, know that this favour of mine concerns only his spiritual privilege, and the happiness of the life to come, which thou despisest; but it makes no change in civil rights, nor doth it transfer the dominion from thee, whose it is by birth, unto him; nor doth he so understand it; for notwithstanding this) unto thee shall be his desire, subject, i. e. he shall and will nevertheless yield to thee as his superior, and thou, according to thy own heart’s desire, shalt ride over him. If it be said the name of Abel is not here mentioned, it may be answered, that this is sufficiently included in the pronouns his and him, and it is not unusual to put those relative pronouns alone, the antecedent being not expressed, but to be gathered either from the foregoing or following words. . . .”[21]

 

Finally, the old Baptist, Dr. Gill writes,

 

“it refers to Abel; and the meaning is, that notwithstanding his offering was accepted of God, and not his brother Cain’s, this would not alienate his affections from him, nor cause him to refuse subjection to him; but he should still love him as his brother, and be subject to him as his elder brother, and not seek to get from him the birthright, or think that that belonged to him, being forfeited by his brother’s sin; and therefore Cain had no reason to be angry with his brother, or envious at him, since this would make no manner of alteration in their civil affairs: and thou shall rule over him, as thou hast done, being the firstborn.”[22]

 

Thus, Cain’s sin resulted in him suffering the loss of place he enjoyed as the firstborn of his father, a position he would likely have felt he was entitled to. This, of course, enraged him. God then confronted him and assured him of restoration if he repented of his sin. Thus, once again there are two options to remedy Cain’s sudden loss of status, leaving him in a position he did not enjoy: He could either repent and be restored by God, as promised, or once more become the senior son . . . by killing his younger brother. Of course, he chose the sinful option, the proud option, to resolve the self-pity issue he faced, without regard for the welfare of his younger brother Abel.

Third, we once again visit the Biblical record of Elijah, wondering if we will find the Luciferian template of conduct even in the life of a great prophet of God. You will remember that he stood strong for God against the prophets of Baal and against Israel’s wicked King Ahab. However, when the threat from Jezebel reached him he ran for dear life all the way to Beersheba, perhaps covering as much as 100 miles if his starting point was near Mount Carmel.[23] We learn from First Kings 19.4 that Elijah then went an additional day’s journey into the wilderness, “came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life.” We also learn that an angel ministered to him, fed him two meals of food and water that nurtured him for forty days, after which he had an encounter with God in which he claimed,

 

“I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.”[24]

 

Never mentions Jezebel in this complaint to God, does he? We notice that his complaint revolves around himself. Cut the references to others from First Kings 19.10 and this is what you have left:

 

“I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts . . . and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.”

 

If Elijah really wanted to die, why did he complain that God’s enemies wanted him dead? Was it that Elijah wanted to die, or that Elijah wanted to die if he could not live out his life in circumstances he found agreeable? I think Elijah only wanted to die because God’s plan for him was contrary to what he wanted for his life. Could it be that Elijah was shocked to discover that he had not become a popular hero after opposing King Ahab and standing against the prophets of Baal? Had he become disillusioned when Jezebel did not cower at the mention of his name, but instead issued a threat that caught him completely by surprise and frightened him? Is he now discouraged and despondent because rather than being thought by others that he is a hero he is instead a fugitive? This is the evidence of the prophet’s pride. For if he had been humble he would have been unconcerned about his reputation, about the esteem with which he was held by others. How then does God respond to Elijah, particularly to his pride? Tenderly, it seems. Gently, evidence suggests. Remember, God did provide food and water to sustain him. As well, God did take him into His veritable bosom and speak to him when he was in the cave. It was there Elijah rehearsed his complaint, twice.[25] What did God then do? He spoke very quietly to His servant, and gave him three assignments. He was to anoint a man named Hazael to be king over Syria.[26] He was to anoint a man named Jehu to be king over Israel.[27] Finally, he was directed to anoint Elisha to take Elijah’s place.[28] Oh, and there was one more thing. God said to him, recorded in First Kings 19.18,

 

“Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him.”

 

Elijah is informed that he is not the only one. There were 7,000 others that he didn’t know anything about. Thus, the basis for his discouragement was deeply flawed by his profound ignorance of reality. He did not know what he was talking about, which is commonly the case with discouragement and issues of pride. Did it end well for Elijah? He did anoint Elisha. He also continued to serve the LORD for several more years before he was taken to heaven in a whirlwind.[29] We learn in the gospels that he appeared to our Lord Jesus Christ on the Mount of Transfiguration along with Moses.[30] However, I am unaware of him ever completing the assignments of anointing Hazael and Jehu, and I am unaware of any indication in scripture that he repented of his sin of feeling sorry for himself, or of the pride that led to it. Was Elijah stubborn? Did he refuse to repent? I do not know.

Fourth, to search for a Luciferian template of sinful self-pity we take a look at Gehazi, the servant of Elisha. To remind you, Gehazi followed after the Syrian general, Naaman, after Elisha had refused his offer of money as a reward for being cleansed from the leprosy that had sorely afflicted him. Gehazi then lied to Naaman to secure a quantity of silver from the wealthy foreigner, and later lied to Elisha to cover up his sin. The result, of course, was that he was afflicted with the leprosy that Naaman was relieved of, Second Kings 5.27. Gehazi’s motive for seeking silver from Naaman and thereby risking Elisha’s reputation as a prophet of God by suggesting he conjured miracles for money, was his feeling that he deserved better than he was getting. Naaman had such opulent wealth and he was a Gentile. Elisha had access to great wealth but it meant nothing to him, because he enjoyed the respect of men because he was a prophet of the Most High God. What did Gehazi have? Apparently, he came to see himself not has being privileged to serve God by attending to God’s choice servant, but as being poor and living on handouts. He felt he deserved better. That, my friends, is pride. God responded to Gehazi’s proud pursuit and subsequent lies by giving him far more to feel sorry about than a lack of silver. As much as a person can feel sorry for himself for some distorted reason, it is always possible for a person to feel much sorrier for a much more serious reason. Having a low station in life as Elisha’s poor attendant, Gehazi’s foolish response to self-pity was met with . . . leprosy. The result? He fell from having a low station in life to having no station in life, since lepers were forbidden to have any contact with anyone not himself a leper. Lepers were required to wear nothing on their heads, wear only clothes that were torn, keep a cloth cover over their mouths, and shout “Unclean! Unclean!” whenever they saw someone so they could be avoided, under penalty of death if they did not.[31] How did Gehazi respond to this terrible affliction? We do not know. He passes from the Biblical record, recognizing that mention of him in Second Kings 8 is because Second Kings is not strictly chronological. Therefore, we have no information concerning Gehazi’s repentance, knowing only that Second Kings 5.27 indicates his leprosy would be lifelong. My friends, keep in mind that no matter how bad you might think it is, it can always get worse. Oh, how important the joy of the Holy Spirit is to the child of God.

We conclude with the patriarch Job. Remember, Satan was allowed by God to strip Job of his material possessions. He was then allowed by God to strip Job of his beloved children. He was then allowed by God to strip away Job’s physical health. The fourth thing Job lost was the love and support of his wife. Fifth, Job lost the support and understanding of his friends. All of these things worked to rob him of his sense of worth and dignity, then his sense of the justice of God, and finally his sense of the love of God.[32] Most of you are somewhat familiar with Job’s story. What suffering he endured. What integrity he displayed before falling into the sin of self-pity. I certainly could never pretend to duplicate the steadfastness or fidelity to God that Job exhibited. We should ever be mindful that these things did not befall Job because he had sinned, but because he had such a stellar reputation for godliness. However, he did succumb to Satan’s temptations to sin by feeling sorry for himself. And the motive for feeling sorry for himself? There can be no doubt of its cause, as we see in its remedy. After Job had been laid waste by Satan, by his friends, and by his isolation when he felt utterly alone, he was confronted by God. Keep in mind that God never actually stopped loving Job. Neither had God ever dealt with him in an unjust fashion. Job 38.1:

 

“Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind. . . ”

 

To be sure, God rebuked Job for pouting, corrected his considerations, and reminded him of his rightful place in God’s scheme of things. After all, Job had a diminished perception of God’s glory, majesty, might, sovereign prerogative, and right place in Job’s life, as well as having a somewhat inflated opinion of himself. That’s called pride. Oh, did the LORD hammer Job’s self-esteem (which is a good thing, after all). And what was the result of the LORD’s dealings with him? How did Job respond to the truth? How did he react to the revelation to him of reality, at least that portion of reality that he needed to address? Most importantly, how did Job respond to his LORD? In what way did Job deal with the self-pity that was produced by his pride? We look to Job 42.1-6:

 

1      Then Job answered the LORD, and said,

2      I know that thou canst do every thing, and that no thought can be withholden from thee.

3      Who is he that hideth counsel without knowledge? therefore have I uttered that I understood not; things too wonderful for me, which I knew not.

4      Hear, I beseech thee, and I will speak: I will demand of thee, and declare thou unto me.

5      I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee.

6      Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.

 

When someone feels sorry for himself because of his circumstance or situation, he is in effect complaining that his God is too small to affect his situation, or too unconcerned to agree with him about what should be happening to him. In other words, your estimation of yourself is too high and your appraisal of God is too low. Job is now over that. God can do anything. God knows everything. “Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes,” he said. There is now humility and repentance.

 

Be mindful that these five individuals are only a sampling. However, their actions and attitudes are very illustrative, showing us the relationship of pride to self-pity, of pride to feeling sorry for yourself. It is clearly seen in Lucifer, Cain, Elisha, Gehazi, and Job. With each one, his pride resulted in disagreement with God, denying in God both the right and the wisdom to deal with His creatures as He sees fit, and perhaps calling into question God’s motives, God’s goodness, and God’s love. With each it seems that a pattern emerges, first found in Lucifer, in which someone who feels sorry for himself is then faced with a fork in the road of life. He can either humbly repent of his sin of pride and the actions that pride fostered, or he can stubbornly refuse to humble himself and seek another resolution to the problem that is sinful and dishonoring to God.

Lucifer, of course, opted for rebellion against God, leading one-third of the heavenly host to defect and foolishly and impossibly seek the overthrow of God. Cain opted for murder instead of repentance. Elijah is not recorded to have repented of his sin, as was the case with Gehazi who immediately disappears from the Biblical record once he is afflicted with leprosy. Only Job humbly repents of his sinful pride that led to feeling sorry for himself. Job is a wonderful example for each of us to follow in this regard. Let us purpose to never question God’s power with respect to our circumstances, or His love and wisdom. Surely, in light of our Savior’s saving work on the cross of Calvary, we ought to never have occasion to question God regarding anything.



[3] Genesis 18.25

[4] 1 Kings 17-18

[5] 1 Kings 19.4

[6] 1 Kings 18.27

[7] 2 Kings 2.9-11

[8] 2 Kings 5.1-11

[9] 2 Kings 5.15-19

[10] 2 Kings 5.20-27

[11] Charles H. Spurgeon, Spurgeon Devotional Commentary, (Bronson, MI: Online Publishing, Inc., 2002), bible@mail.com

[12] Ezekiel 28.12-15

[13] Ezekiel 28.13

[14] Revelation 12.4

[18] Anthony Daniels, The Worldview That Makes The Underclass, “Imprimis: A Publication of Hillsdale College,” May/June 2014, Volume 43, Number 5/6, page 4.

[19] Jay E. Adams, Competent To Counsel: Introduction To Nouthetic Counseling, (Grand Rapids, MI: Ministry Resources Library, 1970), pages 93-94.

[20] Adam Clarke, Clarke’s Commentary, Vol I, (New York: Abingdon Press), page 59.

[21] Matthew Poole, A Commentary On The Whole Bible, Volume 1, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers), page 13.

[22] John Gill, The Baptist Commentary Series Volume I, John Gill’s Exposition Of The Old And New Testaments, Vol 1 (Paris, Arkansas: the Baptist Standard Bearer, Inc., reprinted 2006), page 34.

[24] 1 Kings 19.4-10

[25] 1 Kings 19.9-18

[26] 1 Kings 19.15

[27] 1 Kings 19.16

[28] 1 Kings 19.16

[29] 2 Kings 2.11

[30] Mark 9.4

[31] Leviticus 13.45-46

[32] J. Vernon McGee, Job, (Pasadena, CA: Thru The Bible Books, 1977), pages 33-36.


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pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org