“I’m proud of you.” It’s a notion we dish out and long to hear daily. But when is it sin? The Bible is clear that it’s ok to encourage and admonish each other and to take pride in the good works of God and His creation. We can be proud to be children of God. But we cross into sin when it revolves around ourselves.
John Piper reminds us, that pride is universal; we all deal with it. Philippians 4:6a says, "Do not be anxious about anything.” Paul is describing self-centered anxieties and counterproductive worries unconcerned with the spread of the Gospel. Pride filters down into the core of worry and anxiety, exposing a lack of trust in God. It is an over-concern with ourselves, a disposition to exalt self, to get above others, to hide our defects, and to pass for more than we are.
Pride is a high or inordinate opinion of one’s own dignity, importance, merit, or superiority, whether as cherished in the mind or as displayed in conduct. Whether craving compliments, fearing our own image, or entertaining an overly critical view of ourselves, pride can be both glaringly obvious and deceptively sneaky.
What Does the Bible Say about Pride?
“To fear the LORD is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, even behavior and perverse speech.” Proverbs 8:13
Hannah prayed, “Do not keep talking so proudly or let your mouth speak such arrogance, for the LORD is a God who knows, and by him deeds are weighed” (1 Samuel 2:3).
Proverbs 16:18 says, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” God’s word assures us pride is the root of the rubble in our lives. 1 Corinthians 10:12 warns, “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” Psalm 10:2-11 describes the oppressive result of pride, and a plea to God for justice and defense for those caught in its tailspin.
Pride is at the heart of bullying and entitlement. It’s deceptive tendency leaves a wake of destruction. The very nature of human conflict is rooted in elements of pride. Proverbs 13:10 says, “Pride only breeds quarrels, but wisdom is found in those who take advice.”
What Causes Pride?
Adam and Eve fell for the temptation to believe they could be like God. Ever since, people have an innate problem relinquishing control of life and circumstance into the capable hands of God, our Creator and Father.
Our sinful nature manifests itself in three ways: self-reliance, self-centeredness, and self-condemnation. Witnesses to Jesus’ miracles led to people believing He was who He said He was, but “But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men. He did not need man’s testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man” (John 2:24-25).
“There is a giant difference between being ‘proud’ of someone else and having ‘pride’ in yourself …” wrote Pastor Roger Barrier, “and it’s a spiritual difference worth studying.”
Types of Pride in the Bible
“In God we make our boast all day long, and we will praise your name forever” (Psalm 44:11).
There are two basic types of pride in the Bible, legitimate and sinful.
The first swells from an appreciation of God’s character and faithful action in our lives. Many of the Psalms praise God for His protection, provision, answer to prayer (Psalm 34:1-7), and unfailing love. When all else falters and fades away, He remains. Galatians 6:14 says, “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Paul credited his integrity to Christ, boasting in a clear, Christ-led conscience. We can boast about what God, through Christ and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, is doing through us with what He put in and activated in His time according to His will. Philippians 2:16 says, “as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain.” Legitimate, godly pride has nothing to do with ourselves. (Romans 15:17)
Sinful pride attempts to be God. Genesis 3:5 says, “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” The devil’s greatest lie: that we could possess the ability to rightfully judge good and evil in ourselves, and each other. Pride hijacks our focus from loving our neighbor to competing and comparing. When we let sinful pride take over, we forget God created us equally, and subsequently gifts, purposes, views and treats us justly. We start to credit ourselves with our accomplishments.
1 Corinthians 4:7 states, “For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?” Our sinful pride tempts us to be self-sufficient rather than God reliant.
Why is Pride Such an Important Issue in the Bible?
Pride is disobedience to God’s most important command to love Him above all else, and love our neighbors as ourselves. Our faithful Father, as He sanctifies our hearts, disciplines us as any good Father would. Isaiah 13:11 says, “I will punish the world for its evil, the wicked for their sins. I will put an end to the arrogance of the haughty and will humble the pride of the ruthless.” We don’t often identify these tendencies in ourselves, but we are very good at detecting them in the lives of others. Beware, for when we can see it in someone else it’s often reflecting a piece of our own pride.
Isaiah 2:18, after three different warnings in the same chapter about prideful humanity being humbled in judgement on the day of the LORD, says “and all the idols will totally disappear.” This is the true danger in pride. It seeks to set idols, anything we loft in importance over God, on the throne of our hearts. Tangible things, worldly accomplishments, an unhealthy dependance on and/or admiration of another person/people will all be stripped away …and we will stand humbled before God who will undoubtably remain. He is all we will ever need.
Prides seeks to convince us otherwise, sending us on a wild and never-ending goose chase that steals the peace that Christ died to wash our lives clean in.
Bible Characters Who Struggled with Pride
Adam and Eve’s struggle with pride led to the fall of humanity when they entertained the devil’s deceitful promise that the apple would give them the same ability to discern good from evil as God. (Genesis 3:5-6)
King David struggled with pride when he called for an unnecessary census of Israel’s army. “He seemed inclined to trust in a strong army rather than in an all-powerful God.”
King Uzziah presumed himself worthy of priestly duties, and was cursed with leprosy. (2 Chronicles 26:16) King Hezekiah’s pride prompted disobedience (2 Chronicles 32:25), Nebuchadnezzar was driven from his kingdom for taking credit for building Babylon (Daniel 4:30), and Herod was struck dead and eaten by worms because he assumed the status of a god rather than praising the One True God.
5 Ways Christians Can Recognize Pride in Their Lives
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:4-7).
“We know the disease,”Jaquelle Crowe writes, “but we don’t recognize the symptoms. And that’s why we need the insight of our Great Physician and to reveal its symptoms and release us from it’s grip.” She warns of the following signs: fear, entitlement, ingratitude, people-pleasing, prayerlessness, hypocrisy and rebellion. Faith, a gift from God, kills pride. Faith, by nature, looks away from ourselves. We can recognize pride by staying connected to Christ. Through prayer and study of God’s word, the Holy Spirit will alert and convict us to the chains of sin in our lives, and walk us through the steps of sanctification to breaks us free. But we have to have ears to hear, and the gumption to follow His lead.
- Pray. Ask God to reveal and remove pride in our hearts, minds, and lives.
- Read the Word. In order to hear God, we have to listen. This happens through the reading of His word.
- Do what it says. Obedience ushers blessing into our lives. Gratefulness and generosity keep pride at bay.
- Look for connections. God faithfully connects His Word to our lives daily to prepare and sanctify our hearts. He places people purposefully in our lives.
- Repent and repeat. Repetition can build strong habits and healthy life practices. Faith is a daily discipline. To thwart off pride in our lives, we must continually confess and repent of our sin.
Healing Pride by Praying for Humility: A Devotion
“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up” (James 4:10).
Humility is the antidote to pride. James admonishes, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” (James 1:22). We walk a humble path when we follow Christ. His life is our example. He was confident in God’s purpose for His life. The Word made flesh, Jesus chose humility.
How can we take our prideful thoughts captive and steer them into humble obedience? Paul gives us a major tool in Philippians 4:8: “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy- think about such things.” Faith takes focus. Keeping our hearts locked in focus on Christ is paramount to winning the war on pride.
A Prayer to Submit Our Pride to God
In You, and Your character alone, we take pride! Praise You for giving us an example in Christ to follow and a way through Him to submit our prideful ways to you. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we pray your truth over our lives today. Hold us accountable, cause us to remember, and lead us to lean in and learn from and depend on you daily. Protect us from the destructive ramifications of pride, Father. May we boast only in what You are doing in our redeemed circumstances.
In Jesus’ Name,
Meg writes about everyday life within the love of Christ. She stepped out of her comfort zone, and her marketing career, to obey God’s call to stay home and be “Mom” in 2011. From that step of obedience her blog, Sunny&80, was born, a way to retain the funny everyday moments of motherhood. Meg is also a freelance writer and author of “Friends with Everyone.” She loves teaching God’s Word and leading her Monday morning Bible study, being a mom, distance running and photography. Meg resides in Northern Ohio with her husband, two daughters, and Golden-Doodle … all avid Cleveland Browns fans.
Photo credit: Unsplash/Nathan Dumlao