Some thoughts on pride

10 Mar 2012

How would you define pride? The following examples show the different aspects of the word as we find them in the New Testament (definitions from Strong's Concordance):  

  • Mark 7:22 arrogant, haughty, “appearing above others”
  • 1 Timothy 3:6 envelop with smoke, inflate with self-conceit” from a word meaning “to slowly consume without flame” 
  • 1 John 2:16 pride of life: “self-confidence, boasting”

Biblically, then, pride is shown by being self-confident, arrogant, and proud in one's own achievements, boasting or thinking it. An attitude that says “I did it my way”.

Examples of pride in the Bible

The Pharisee and the Publican by James Tissot (1894)

Hezekiah was a Godly man who fell into the sin of pride.

  • 2 Chronicles 32:25 Hezekiah was  “lifted up” in pride.
  • 2 Chronicles 32:26 “humbled” - being brought low, the opposite of pride.
  • 2 Chronicles 32:31 reveals this was in fact a trial of his faith. Circumstances appeared favourable to start with – but actually exposed a flaw in his character. Someone saying something nice to us or about us can be a trap.

Luke 18:10-11 Jesus' powerful example: the Pharisee and Publican. 

Why does it matter?

Psalm 10:4 Pride is a barrier to fellowship with God. There is only one sort of boasting that is safe: 1 Corinthians 1:27-31.

1 Corinthians 13:4,5 Pride is not a manifestation of true love. 

What sort of things might we be proud about?

1 Corinthians 4:7 Anything you have or are is given to you: why be proud about it? This was the problem Hezekiah had. He mistakenly attributed his wealth and power to his own efforts instead of to God.

Something we accomplish is in a different category, because it has required effort on our part. But even then, it is only possible because God has given us the life and intelligence to do it. And the Bible makes plain that we owe all to Him.

Such is the deceptiveness of our nature that even doing something genuinely good or kind can bring with it the shadow of pride - and thereby bring us into sin. When a member of the congregation thanked the speaker for his excellent sermon he replied "I know - the devil has already told me!".

If the essence of pride is being above others who are lower it follows this is flawed thinking: like others who are richer/poorer, there will be others who are more virtuous! 2 Corinthians 10:12. As the writer C.S. Lewis once said, "A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and, of course, as long as you're looking down, you can't see something that's above you". In truth, the only comparison worth anything is with Christ – and before him we are all so very weak and failing! 

What's the solution?

Humility. The Bible is full of this:

  • Isaiah 57:15 humble = lit. low, contrite = crushed, broken; 
  • Isaiah 66:2 Human thinking being what it is, however, we must be careful not to let it become false pride!
  • 1 Peter 5:5-6 Submit to God. Let Him be the One to determine our true standing.

Take-home points

  • Look for the good in others rather than the bad.
  • Recognise that we all have weaknesses – it’s just someone else might struggle with something different from you.
  • Be harder on yourself than others.
  • It’s easy to think of oneself as others because of their obvious flaws. But what about the secret goodness of others that we don’t even see?
  • Compared the perfection of the Lord Jesus Christ in his every thought, word and deed, is there really any room for pride in any of us? 
  • Galatians 6:14 There is only one thing to boast about - and we should, giving glory to God!