I had to write this relatively quickly and it may seem disorganized and perhaps difficult to understand (though hopefully not). I apologize beforehand.
The Biblical History and Evaluation of Pride
The Bible directly and repeatedly exposes and condemns pride. Pride, I would argue (and many others would as well), is present in every sin. Sin cannot be committed without pride.
Pride was the first sin. Or, at the very least, it was the source of the first sin. The prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel both talk about kings using poetic construction, with their language being understood by many to be alluding to the fall of Satan, the first to sin. Ezekiel 28:17 says, “Your heart was proud because of your beauty, you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor.” The pride present in Satan’s rebellion is also talked about in Isaiah 14:12-14, in which the last part says, “I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.”
Pride is talked about all over Scripture. In Proverbs chapter 6, there is a list of things that “the LORD hates,” and that are “an abomination to him,” with “haughty eyes” at the beginning of the list. In chapter 8, God’s personified wisdom is speaking, and says, “Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate” (Proverbs 8:13). “Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the LORD; be assured, he will not go unpunished” (Proverbs 16:5). “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18). “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5). Beyond these explicit condemnations of pride, we see examples of pride in the stories of the Bible.
Why does God hate pride so much? Pride offends God’s infinite worth by regarding Him as small and insignificant. God is infinite and deserves all worship and reverence, while pride takes all of it for itself. God deserves all of our lives, while pride gives Him none of it. God is the holy Creator that holds the entire universe in the palm of His hand, and He has proper authority over us. God sustains us and we are completely dependent on Him. God is the only Being that can provide true fulfillment and satisfaction and joy. There is nothing more awesome and grander than God. Pride basically says, “You are not enough to fulfill me. You have no worth. I don’t need you. I will find joy and satisfaction separate from you. I deserve adoration and to be the center of everything, not you. And your authority? Take it and shove it.”
What is Pride?
We know that that God hates pride and we all have an understanding of what pride is, but what is a biblical definition of pride? Pastor and author C. J. Mahaney, in his book Humility: True Greatness, writes a kind of definition: “Pride is when sinful human beings aspire to the status and position of God and refuse to acknowledge their dependence upon Him.” I don’t think this is a bad definition of pride, but it is very general and is unhelpful in understanding specific instances of pride.
In a book titled What Jesus Demands from the World, John Piper says, “Pride is difficult to define because its manifestations are subtle and often do not look like arrogance.” I think this is of more help in seeing how pride can show itself, though Mahaney’s definition works for a general understanding. Something that all manifestations of pride seek is self-glorification. What are some examples of different manifestations of pride?
Piper goes on to compare two manifestations of pride: boasting and self-pity. Boasting is a prideful response to success while self-pity is a response to one’s sense of worth being wounded. Pride using boasting as a way to blatantly draw attention to itself, it’s obvious how this is pride. Examine self-pity for a moment. It could be that someone feels they are a victim, and so all of their thoughts and speech are directed towards themselves. This is pride. Someone may have sacrificed much but gets no recognition for it, and so is full of self-pity. This is pride. Self-pity doesn’t always look like pride because it seems needy. But its real desire is not to be seen as needy, but to have all of the attention on itself and to be a hero.
Pride is defiant towards God and causes one to see one’s self as being above others. Pride does not always have to be obvious to be pride. A person can be passive, almost entirely quiet, yet be defiant and prideful. Or a person can seem to feel unworthy by always speaking lowly of themselves while being angry that others do not acknowledge them for doing so.
Jesus also points out prideful attitudes and dispositions and actions. In Luke 18:9-14, Jesus tells a parable of a Pharisee that is so self-righteous that he boasts about himself to God! Prayer is an act that can and should be incredibly humble and is even supposed to express dependence on God. Yet the Pharisee used this as a way to glorify himself. In Matthew 6, Jesus shows how pride seeks the praise of others. He gives examples of giving, praying, and fasting in order to be seen by others, contrasting each one with the proper way to do these acts for God.
There are a thousand ways that pride can be positioned to receive praise from others, from the way we carry ourselves before others, to what kind of clothes we wear and why we wear them, to how we respond to others when they speak to us, and on and on.
There are too many examples to write about in a post such as this. I could go on about how ugly pride is and all of the different ways it dishonors God, but I will have to write more about it later. For now, I hope I have been able to demonstrate some ways that pride is present and get you to think about all of the different manifestations of it.
What about the damage pride can cause?
Some Consequences of Pride
We will do well to remember Proverbs 16:5, already quoted above: “Pride goes before destruction.”
Pride is deceptive, ignoring logic and reason and giving the person who has it a false sense of sufficiency, entitlement and worth. Pride lies and promises joy, contentment and good results from things that in reality are destructive. Pride protects itself. In fact, pride is so deceptive that it convinces us that we are not prideful. Pride left unattended results in a hardened heart towards God. Keep in mind that hearts harden gradually, not instantly. We must be careful.
Pride is destructive to relationships: ignoring others in favor of one’s self, casting insignificance on others, using others to meet the needs of one’s self, drawing attention to the faults of others while minimizing your own. Pride always seeks how to serve itself which, if I understand the relevant biblical teachings correctly, is the opposite attitude of what characterizes a godly, fulfilling, healthy, pleasurable, joyful and God-honoring relationship with another person.
Again, the examples to list are too many. Pride is the source of all discontent and loveless action and attitude.
We Need to Make War Against Pride
Pride is not something that goes away on its own. We are all sinful, wretched people full of pride. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the only cure. Apart from the gospel, each of us desires to glorify ourselves and pursue that which is in our own interest without loving regard for others. Saved people have pride, too, and we must constantly make war against it.
John Owen has a famous quote that you’ve perhaps heard before: “Be killing sin lest sin be killing you.” Sin never stops working, and if you do not actively fight it, it is going to dominate. Christians are not people who never sin but are people who make war against sin. Here are some practical steps that I think will help everyone fight against pride.
1. Consider the Gospel Daily
The gospel shows us how much God hates sin. If pride, or any other sin, is not something that you take seriously, then taking deliberate time to think about what God did in order to make salvation available to you will help. God sent His Son to be murdered on a cross. Crucifixion is not a quick and relatively painless death: crucifixion involves getting your skin torn apart by whips made of glass and bone. It involves having shame cast upon you by making you carry the object of your own death while being mocked. It involves being nailed and raised up so that even the very drawing of breath exacts pain from your body while birds eat your ripped flesh. This is what Jesus went through in humble obedience to the Father’s will. This is how God views sin. If you stand in front of the cross, it is not possible to keep a high view of oneself. If the cross of Christ is big in your life, sin will be as ugly to you like it is ugly to God, and your pride will be displaced.
2. Spend Time in God’s Word Daily
Another important point of application is spending time with God by reading His Word. God reveals sin that is within our hearts through His Word. You and me, on our own, will be blind to some sin. We need the Bible. We need to pray for God to reveal to us areas in our lives that are not being lived in submission to Him and that He would grant us repentance. And, related to the point above, the more time we spend in God’s Word the more aware of God’s character we become. When God becomes big in your life, the weight and depth of your sin is exposed, and this results in humility displacing pride.
3. Keep Other Believers Close
If you try to do everything on your own, you will fail. We need other people. God has set up the church and biblical community as a way that He exposes sin and sanctifies us. God also designed community so that we would be encouraged and comforted, and also so we could encourage and comfort others. Community is the context in which growth is supposed to happen, according to the New Testament. If you don’t like people being deeply involved in your life or if you don’t like opening up to people, suck it up. God designed and commands community and Christian fellowship for your good and for your growth.
Again, I apologize for the disorganization of this post. I am busy with many responsibilities at the moment. But I hope that it helps in some way. I hope to later expound on the observations briefly made about pride in this writing, when I have more time to write in a clearer way.