In the Bible, the term pride is typically (though not exclusively) used to mean “inordinate self-esteem” (www.merriam-webster.com), that is, a self-image that considers oneself to be better and more important than others. Pride need not be flagrantly egotistical.
On the contrary, it is most often that quiet selfishness that places one’s own needs and desires ahead of others’ whenever possible because the self is considered supreme. It should come as no surprise, then, that the Bible warns against the sin of pride.
What does the Bible say about pride?
God hates pride.
The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate. – Proverbs 8:13
The first thing to consider is that God hates pride. Because “the fear of the Lord,” is to hate evil, and pride is associated with “the way of evil,” it must be an object of hatred for the Christian just as it is for God. Thus, the Christian is not permitted to indulge in pride, because it is opposite to the “fear of the Lord.”
Why does God hate pride so much?
Pride fails to recognize human sinfulness.
Haughty eyes and a proud heart, the lamp of the wicked, are sin. – Proverbs 21:4
In this verse, God designates a “proud heart” as sin. This is not merely because God thinks it is a bad idea, or that it is self-destructive (though it is both of those things). It is sin because it places the self on a pedestal, making pride a form of self-idolatry. One doesn’t have to look far in the Bible to find teaching about idolatry. It is consistently and frequently condemned as a high-handed sin against God.
Pride is the sin that caused Satan to fall.
He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. – 1 Timothy 3:6
In 1 Timothy 3:1-7, the Apostle Paul is writing to Timothy, a young pastor, about the qualifications for a pastor. Among other qualifications, he says, they should not be a “recent convert” because they may become “puffed up with conceit” (pride) which Paul says will cause them to fall into the same condemnation as the devil. There are hints throughout the Scriptures that Satan’s great sin was pride, and in this passage, we have what amounts to a direct reference to it.
Pride is destructive to one’s relationship with God.
Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” – James 4:5-6
In this passage, pride is said to be incompatible with the presence of the Holy Spirit that lives in believers. Because of this, God “opposes the proud.” He doesn’t merely ignore them, or withhold blessing from them, He actively opposes them. Pride is thus seen to be destructive to one’s relationship with God.
Pride is self-destructive.
These verses teach that pride is also self-destructive. The truth of this is evident everywhere one looks. One can read about this or that public figure whose life was characterized by criminal debauchery or corruption. Though they thought they were too smart/rich/powerful to get caught, they have now been brought down, their lives, reputations, and careers utterly ruined.
Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. – Proverbs 16:18
One’s pride will bring him low, but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor. – Proverbs 29:23
This is directly related to the previous point. In fact, it is not too much of a stretch to say that anything destructive to our relationship with God, is by definition, self-destructive as well. Again, this is because God hates human pride.
Pride is destructive to human relationships.
Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. – Galatians 5:26
In addition to being destructive to ourselves and our relationship with God, it is also destructive to other human relationships. “Conceit,” another word for “pride,” can provoke others to become angry and envious of each other’s power, influence, or success.
In addition, the results of the destruction caused by the exposure of one’s sin often affect our relationships with others in more practical ways. Consider the man who has spent his life cheating on his wife, thinking (in his pride) that he would never get caught. What happens to his marriage when he is exposed?
Pride fails to recognize God’s sovereignty.
Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.” – Jeremiah 9:23-24
In Jeremiah 9:23-24, the Lord gives us indirect instruction about the sin of pride. Our natural inclination – driven by our sinful nature – is to be proud of our possession of things that bring success in this world, namely, wisdom, power, and wealth. If nothing else is evident in these verses, however, it is that God sets the agenda.
God lists the things that delight him, and they do not include wisdom, power, and wealth, so we are not free to boast in anything we want. We are to boast in knowing about God and knowing God, because that is what God says He wants. Deviating from this is an implicit denial of His sovereignty.
Pride indicates that one is unsaved.
…They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful… – Romans 1:29-30
In the first chapter of Romans, Paul begins a long section (that will eventually cover three chapters) in which he delivers the bad news that all people are sinful and thus fall under the condemnation of God’s law. In Romans 1:29-30, he culminates a section about the downward spiral of sin by providing a list of sins that characterize the unsaved person.
Among these sins are listed insolence, haughtiness, and boastfulness – all of which are sins that are expressions of pride. It is striking that Paul lists three different expressions of pride as if to emphasize the seriousness of this sin. While no one is righteous (Rom. 3:10), this should never cause us to either throw up our hands in defeat or to excuse our sin merely because “everyone is a sinner.”
The reality is that the sins that Paul lists here are ones that the Christian has no business dabbling in or excusing. The Christian is a “new person” in Christ, and we must be what we are. Refusal to fight against pride is a sin that shows we are unconverted.
Christian counseling for growing in humility.
Do you struggle with pride? If so, talk to your pastor or a trusted friend to help you develop humility in your life. If these are unavailable, a Christian counselor can be a good option. Sometimes it is easier to talk to someone you don’t know well about your problems.
A Christian counselor will come alongside you and by applying the Scriptures to your situation and relying on the power of the Holy Spirit, help you conquer the sin of pride and find true humility and peace in Jesus Christ.
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