As I continue my series addressing troubles we experience as Christians, I have become acutely aware of the main sources of our troubles – Satan, our own personal sin, and the sin of others. This week I will touch on trouble we experience as a result of pride – the sin of pride. We may not think of it often but pride is what keeps people from repenting of their sin and believing the gospel. Pride is the sin that compels unbelievers to continue in their rebellion against the Lord. So, when we as believers in Jesus Christ act in prideful ways, we are not living as God has called us to live. We are acting contrary to our new nature (Rom. 6:1-14; 2 Cor. 5:15-21).
Let’s take a moment to look at how God views pride, “In the same way, you younger men, be subject to the elders. And all of you clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble” (1 Pet. 5:5; cf. Jas. 5:6). He also says, “Though the Lordis exalted, He takes note of the humble; but He knows the haughty from a distance” (Ps. 138:6). Scripture also describes the inevitable result of pride, “Pride comes before destruction, and an arrogant spirit before a fall” (Prov. 16:18). It is clear biblically that God hates pride just as He hates all sin.
What is pride at its very essence? The Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible defines it, “A reasonable or justifiable self-respect; or improper and excessive self-esteem known as conceit or arrogance. The apostle Paul expresses a positive kind of pride when speaking of confidence in Christians (2 Cor 7:4) or of strength in the Lord (2 Cor 12:5, 9). However, it is the latter sinful meaning of pride which most frequently appears in the Bible, both in the OT and the NT.”1 I think that the following is also very helpful in understanding pride, “Undue confidence in and attention to one’s own skills, accomplishments, state, possessions, or position. Pride is easier to recognize than to define, easier to recognize in others than in oneself. Many biblical words describe this concept, each with its own emphasis. Some of the synonyms for pride include arrogance, presumption, conceit, self-satisfaction, boasting, and high-mindedness. It is the opposite of humility, the proper attitude one should have in relation to God. Pride is rebellion against God because it attributes to oneself the honor and glory due to God alone.”2
The sin of pride manifests itself in many different ways, but one area in which it is seen is an individual’s dependence solely upon himself – his knowledge, abilities, etc… When trials occur or challenges arise pride rises up, “I can handle this situation!” At least, we think so. This kind of self-sufficiency is sinful pride. The proper response would be to take the situation to God in prayer and to consider what His Word says (Prov. 3:5-6). Maybe it arises in our lack of diligence and preparation for ministry, worship, and so on. We may be tempted to think we can “wing it” or that we have been doing something for so long that we don’t need to spend time in prayer and God’s Word to prepare. This is sinful pride. We need God’s help and work in our lives as much now as we ever have.
Maybe sinful pride manifests itself in our advice and teaching. There are times when we are tempted to think we have better counsel than God’s Word. Peter says this about the proper use of spiritual gifts, “Based on the gift each one has received, use it to serve others, as good managers of the varied grace of God. If anyone speaks, it should be as one who speaks God’s words; if anyone serves, it should be from the strength God provides, so that God may be glorified through Jesus Christ in everything. To Him belong the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen” (1 Pet. 4:10–11). When you give advice or you are teaching – give the people what God’s Word says. When you serve – serve with God’s strength that He provides. How do we turn from the sin of pride? See it in the same way God sees it. Recognize that God’s Word is truth and it alone is infallible. Recognize that apart from God’s enablement we can do nothing of eternal consequence and value (John 15:4-5).
Next week, I will pick up with the issue of pride in our interactions with one another. We will look at what Scripture has to say about these things.
1 Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 1752.
2 Gerald Cowen, “Pride,” ed. Chad Brand et al., Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003), 1327.