The Sin of Presumptuousness
Presumptuousness is one of those words that sounds very highbrow when you say it. “He’s guilty of presumptuousness.” “She’s being presumptuous.” It is almost….presumptuous…to use the word at all. It is the kind of word that, when you hear it, you think, “He may know what he’s saying, but I don’t.” It is the kind of word that, when someone says it over and over, you start to think that maybe they’re a little proud that they can just drop that word into a sentence. Presumptuousness.
In Numbers 15:30, the LORD says, according to the KJV, “But the soul that does ought presumptuously, whether he be born in the land, or a stranger, the same reproaches the LORD.” The ESV translates it this way: “But the person who does anything with a high hand, whether he is a native or a sojourner, reviles the LORD.” It goes on to say that person shall be cut off from among the Lord’s people because he has “despised the word of the LORD and has broken his commandment” and “his inquity shall be on him.”
That scares the daylights out of me. It is supposed to. The “high handedness” of Numbers 15:30, the sin of “presumptuousness”, appears in Hebrew as the word “rum”. I don’t know if there is any word history connected with the liquor, and I don’t try to make one here. But, the word is “rum” and it means to sin against God consciously.
The 19th century preacher, Anglican priest and evangelical writer Henry Melvill, gave three types of presumptuousness or high-handedness. First, we “bear down a consciousness of what is right … walk[ing] one way whil[e] the voice of the internal monitor summons [us] to walk another.” The king who, watching from his bedroom alone, ignores God’s word and becomes a voyeur to a beautiful woman naked on a rooftop across the way. The dad who, watching his computer alone in an hour of frustration, ignores God’s word and the inner voice of the Holy Spirit saying, “Flee lust” and clicks and taps onto a pornographic web site. Presumptuousness. He has despised the word of the LORD, broken God’s commandment and his iniquity is on him.
Melvill offers a second kind of high-handedness. He says that, generally, people “scarcely need any temptation at all to induce them to sin … with such contempt of God that [they] will obey His despisers even without strong inducement.” This is the kind of high-handedness that doesn’t even require overcoming a strong inner witness of the Spirit to flee or repent. People are just so given to it that they will do it. This is the kind of presumptuousness that is given first and foremost to the antichrist spirit of the world. The legalist who, for all of his biblical talk, is so in love with himself and the sound of his own voice that long ago quit hearing the Spirit of God and now he excels in neglecting the love of the saints, and in doing so, rejects the testimony of Jesus. These are the antichrist Pharisees that Jesus addressed in the gospels. Or, conversely, the one who is so consumed with the affection of those around him that he caters to their whims for his own affirmation, and in so doing neglects their sin and need for repentance and correction, and because he glosses over sin, he tacitly approves it, misleading people into a taste of the heavenly gift yet onto crucifying to themselves the Savior and over the edge. These are the antichrist false teachers whom Jesus, Peter, Jude and Paul warned us about, who are actively sought and approved by the mass of the evangelical church today.
Thirdly, Melvill glances at a third sort of presumptuous sin. He writes, “If I wantonly expose myself to temptation, then, though I may afterwards struggle hard before I yield, I shall sin presumptuously. It were better to see Christians … so distrustful of themselves that they might pass for timid, than so overweening of their own strength as to thrust themselves into danger.” Oh, how this reaches to the core of my soul! I confess that I am guilty of self-confidence. I am guilty of so much of my own counsel and my own mind uninformed immediately by the Spirit and the Word. I take my own advice too quickly. I follow my own instincts too surely. How much better it is for me to stop and even as if to curl up in a ball to shield myself from all my own inclinations – even the “good” ones – than to continue unabated to my own ways, my own thoughts, my own impulses that will surely lead me to despise the Cross of Christ. Melvill is right about me!!
Whatever kind of high-handed, presumptuous, defiant sin of my heart, my body, my mind, or my mouth, however it comes out of me, I stand guilty before God of listening to myself and rejecting Him. How merciful is He that He would assure me still, even today, that I have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous! But, I do not allow myself to bask in the assurance of that promise, because it is itself not merely a promise, but a warning. It is a warning that if I go on sinning presumptuously, I may so reject Him that my ears to hear are deaf to His warning and wooing.
Oh, that I --- that you --- may guard against temptation. Watch out for its many subtleties. And, above all, condemn immediately any confidence that swells even slightly within yourself except it be a confidence in Christ alone, lest iniquity be upon any of us and we be found, even now, as despisers of Him who embraced a cross for our sakes.