Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit
before a fall.
The dictionary defines pride as self-esteem, arrogance, high opinion of one’s own importance or worth, undue sense of superiority, consciousness of power, pomp, glory, exalted or elevated feeling. Pride is the exaltation of self over others and has been recognized since ancient times as a root cause of cruelty and evil.
“Pride is unique among the so-called ‘seven deadly sins’ in that we are often unaware of our arrogance, though we readily know when we are angry, greedy, gluttonous, etc. Unlike the other sins, when pride is pointed out to us, we do not even realize that it is there. This is because it is difficult for us to admit that we are of less worth than we imagine ourselves to be.”—Solomon Schimmel, The Seven Deadly Sins, p. 36.
Pride can be a poisonous manifestation of selfishness. Someone has well said it is selfishness gone to seed. Inappropriate pride can cause considerable emotional distress.
The Lord’s hatred of evil is intense and far-reaching. In Proverbs 8:13 we read that the fear [reverence] of the Lord is shown by our hatred of evil. That verse continues by mentioning pride, arrogance, and evil-speaking as specific things the Lord hates.
We have learned something of God’s character, and to love the things he loves—righteousness, truth, equity, etc. But we are also expected to hate the things he hates.
According to Proverbs 6:17,
the first thing the Lord hates is a proud look (“Haughty eyes” is the literal
rendering of the Hebrew). It refers largely to self-exaltation, to those who
boast themselves above others. These individuals not only pride themselves upon
their own advantages, but also look down on others. In some it is pride of
wealth, in others the spirit may be that of sectarian pride, the pride of
belonging to something; and to others it may be family, cultural, or personal
In the Bible we have two dramatic and contrasting examples. The first example of pride was Lucifer, the “son of the morning” (Isaiah 14:12). He was one of the most beautiful heavenly creatures and was “lifted up” because of his beauty: “Thine heart was lifted up.” A sudden rise to power and position without a legitimate right to it generally results in pride of heart: “Thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness” (Ezekiel 28:17). Lucifer exalted himself: “I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; and I will sit upon the mount of congregation, in the uttermost sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High” (Isaiah 14:13, 14). No person on earth, not even a king, would use such words. Lucifer aspired to be equal in position and power to the creator of all things, ignoring the fact he owed his life and all that he had to that creator. There is such a vivid contrast between this overwhelming pride and ambition and the attitude of the faithful Logos. The Logos found no greater aspiration than to be loyal to the Father’s will.
Paul’s language in Philippians 2:6-9 suggests a direct contrast between the course of the one who sought to exalt himself by saying he would be as the most high, and the other who willingly moved to a lower, human plane of existence to accomplish obediently the will of God.
Pride was Satan’s choice; humility was the choice of the Logos who was the beginning of the creation of God. “God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble” (James 4:6). God highly exalted our Lord Jesus, and gave him a name which is above every name because he rightly used what he had in harmony with God’s will. Jesus did receive the high exaltation to be as the most high. God says of Satan that destruction will be his reward because pride goeth before destruction.
Jesus never aspired to be like God; he humbled himself to assist in the implementation of God’s plan.
Another contrast between the
humble and the arrogant is found in the self-righteous Pharisee and the poor
publican. With a proud look, the Pharisee thanked God that he had not
fallen as low as others; the publican, conscious of his guilt, cried, “God be
merciful to me a sinner” (Luke 18:10-14).
Pride in the Disciples
Pride raised its ugly head when the disciples began to discuss which of them would be the greatest in the kingdom. “When Jesus saw the reasoning of their heart, he took a little child, and set him by his side” (Luke 9:47,48, ASV). This would be a child not yet old enough to have been contaminated by the pride of those who were older. Our Lord then taught a lesson of humility, a lesson needed by every Christian throughout this age: “Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child [thus taking an active part himself in cultivating this virtue, not leaving it entirely to the Lord or circumstances], the same is the greatest in the kingdom” (Matthew 18:4).
Our Lord’s lesson on humility was given shortly after Peter, James, and John had been with Jesus in the Mount of Transfiguration. This and other similar favors shown to them could easily have caused those three to succumb to the temptation of pride. The words of Micah would have been more helpful: “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good … do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God” (Micah 6:8). All who would enter into his presence must be humble.
The one who is humble is inured to pomp, to foolish show, and is safe from the danger of pride caused by whatever honors the world wants to grant. One who is humble is without malice, without rivalry or competitiveness.
Can we honestly say that it
gives us greater pleasure to see others taking a higher place than we are
granted in the Lord’s service? If we can, we are reaching maturity in our
Christian development (Philippians 2:3).
Humility is Essential
Pride takes pleasure in the weaknesses of others. Humility rejoices in covering “all sins” with the mantle of love, absolutely essential if profitable fellowship is to be enjoyed with our brethren. Peter points out that humility is the quality essential for all, not pride: “Be clothed with humility” (1 Peter 5:5). Outside of every other adornment of character, and covering all the others, we should have this robe of humble-mindedness, the opposite disposition of pride.
All who are actuated by pride may be sure that the Lord will not lead them or bless them; he will resist and reject them. And if resisted by the Lord, such as come under the influence of a spirit of pride and ambition will be led further and further away from developing the fruits and graces of the spirit. Peter counsels the brethren to cultivate this humility which the Lord so greatly loves, appreciates, and promises to reward. He writes: “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time” (1 Peter 5:6).
Humble yourself, become like a little child devoid of self-ambition. Be actuated by a desire to serve the Lord and his flock; serve his cause, the truth, and forget yourself completely.
Of the four sins of Sodom described in Ezekiel 16:49, pride is mentioned first. Perhaps prosperity affected her pride; arrogance and injustice followed. The cities of the plain were destroyed by fire from heaven, a picture of the destruction of the wicked. “Pride goeth before destruction” (Proverbs 16:18).
The rebellion of Korah described in Numbers 16 describes the consequences of exalting one’s self; it resulted in the destruction of him and his followers (Numbers 16:49).
Nebuchadnezzar became swollen with pride at his own achievements, both militarily and in the magnificence of the city he built. Egypt could have been his final victory, making him master of the middle-eastern world. This is what caused his inordinate pride which in turn led to his punishment. While boasting of his achievements, he was seized with a mental malady that today is called lycanthropy, a condition in which a person imagines he is a wild animal. Daniel’s account shows clearly that for a time the king was unfit to rule; he roamed the area, eating grass and sleeping in dens at night. He remained completely irrational until the punishment was lifted. Eventually the king’s reason returned and he was restored to his position. He had learned his lesson: “I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and his ways judgment: and those that walk in pride he is able to abase” (Daniel 4:37).
Then there was Herod
Agrippa. A vast multitude assembled to see the festive games. Before the
assembled throng, the king, in all pride of high state, appeared in a robe
containing silver threads. According to Josephus the time of his appearance in
the early morning hours was carefully chosen so the silver in his garment was
illuminated by the first of the sun’s rays. We read: “And the people gave a
shout saying, It is the voice of a god, and not of a man” (Acts 12:22, ASV). Instead of rebuking such
words the king enjoyed this newly-declared status. It was short lived because
an angel of the Lord smote him and he was eaten of worms (verse 23).
Pride a Cause of Much Irritability
Pride is connected with nearly everything that is injurious to the people of God. Where pride exists, a person is susceptible to evil influences from every quarter. Pride manifests itself in many ways. Sometimes it manifests itself as self-esteem, leading one to think too highly of himself and too lightly of others, even to the extent of imagining one’s self to be superior. A conceited person has just one ardent admirer: himself. The folly of this is concisely described in the proverb: “Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? there is more hope of a fool than of him” (Proverbs 26:12). Humility leads people to serve others; conceit leads them to serve themselves. Sometimes pride manifests itself in a love of praise or fame; anything that conflicts with a desire to appear special before others touches a tender spot.
We should not be proud of
having the truth or of our ability to serve the truth. All pride is
objectionable in the sight of God and shows that its possessor has a small
mind. Self- laudation and a striving for preeminence are to be thoroughly put
away as the greatest enemies to the spirit of the Lord and the blessing of the
church. We have nothing of which to be proud, nothing of which to boast. If we
have received anything of the Lord, we should be thankful indeed for the favors
bestowed upon us, instead of glorying as though we had attained it ourselves (1
How to Control Pride
If we have pride or ambition, we must seek to control it with the spirit of love and sympathy for others, instead of letting the wrong spirit control us. The best way to do this is to practice generosity and to provoke others to love and good works and not to anger. Let us remember that humility is one of the greatest and most important lessons to be learned in the school of Christ. Obedience to the instructions of the Teacher along this line has much to do with whether we will attain the kingdom.
One of the best aids to learning this important lesson is to judge ourselves and scrutinize our own motives. If we find we have acted unjustly toward another, we should immediately make amends to the best of our ability. We should properly examine our own minds, and seek to make matters right with the one we have wronged. For a person who is proud or who is insensitive to the good opinion of others, it is difficult to apologize. But the best thing to do is to set the matter right as quickly as possible. Thus we may have help along the line where we should have it, by overcoming our pride and vanity.
The members of the body of Christ are all to be copies of God’s dear son. This does not mean that God’s people will be able always to control their words, looks, and actions. One who has some weakness associated with pride or vanity will apologize for any wrong done; by that act he will show both God and man that his heart recognizes the right principle. A great blessing will come to him because he is strictly following the divine word and thus he will gradually overcome his weakness and strengthen his character.
Pride is absolutely a great enemy of the new creation. It always produces a loss and a disadvantage. It is our heavenly Father’s purpose to make this so evident that eventually no creature in heaven or earth will ever allow pride to control him.
Christians should be on the alert to resist pride, for if it is allowed to influence one’s thoughts and actions, it will do great damage to the peace and joy one has in the Lord.
Our Lord Jesus gave us a perfect example of humility. Let us all strive to be like him, clothed with humility. May we never allow the seeds of pride to enter into our hearts.