Before destruction the heart of a man is haughty, but humility goes before honor. (NASB)
This proverb is similar to Proverbs 16:18 showing us once again that having prideful character leads to destruction. Yet at the same time we see a little bit more about the contrast between the destructiveness of pride and the blessings of having the character of being poor in spirit.
The heart of a man is haughty. The meaning of the heart as used here in the Hebrew usually refers to some aspect of the immaterial inner self or being because the heart is considered to be the seat of one’s inner nature as well as one of its components. In other words, the heart as used here is the character of the man. In this case the haughty character is one of pride, which we have read leads to destruction.
Humility goes before honor. The word for honor in the Hebrew means glory, majesty, wealth. The honor from God is a special possession of those who are poor in spirit. This is contrary to the honor from man in which the Sermon on the Mount warns us not to seek. The honor of God is to be sought and how it is sought is through the process of our character transformation, transforming ourselves from the sinful innate character of pride to the character of humility – that is poor in spirit. Some passages to meditate on and pray to apply to our lives concerning the honor given from the Lord are as follows:
How is it possible for you to believe [how can you learn to believe], you who [are content to seek and] receive praise and honor and glory from one another, and yet do not seek the praise and honor and glory which come from Him Who alone is God? (John 5:44, Amplified, emphasis added)
And Jesus answered them, saying, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal. If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.” (John 12:23-26, NASB, what a vivid picture of transformed character presented in this passage)
Who (God) will render to each person according to his deeds: to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation. There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek, but glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. (Romans 2:6-10, NASB, emphasis added; note the contrasting choices and consequences)
Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same mass [lump] one vessel for beauty and distinction and honorable use, and another for menial or ignoble and dishonorable use? (Romans 9:21, Amplified)
Let the elders who perform the duties of their office well be considered doubly worthy of honor [and of adequate financial support], especially those who labor faithfully in preaching and teaching. (1 Timothy 5:17, Amplified)
Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver bowls, but also those of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. So if anyone purifies himself from anything dishonorable, he will be a special instrument, set apart, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work. (2 Timothy 2:20-21, HCSB, notice the choice)
Humility derives from a word in Hebrew indicating patience, mildness, tenderness: characteristics of God that foster growth in His subjects. In other words humility is being poor in spirit. Our passage places the act of developing the character of humility (being poor in spirit) as the action taken prior to receiving honor from the Lord. In order to receive honor from God we must submit ourselves to His will and develop our character as He desires for us.
Meditate on and pray to apply to your life the passages above concerning the honor given from the Lord.