The study of pride in the Bible can be an exhaustive task as pride is one of the most significant problems in our lives. In this brief overview, there are two observations.
When I study pride in the Bible, I find that there are no verses that describe pride in a positive way. Every time the word "pride" is used in the Bible, it is always used negatively. That tells me how God views pride. We need to understand that pride is an awful and destructive thing.
The book of Proverbs describes a “haughty look” and “a proud heart” as “sin.” (Prov. 21.4).
Later in the same book, the writer makes a list of things that “the Lord hates” and that are “an abomination to Him.” The very first item on the list is “a proud look” (Prov. 6.16,17).
Pride is one of the three ways that are defined as worldliness and are responsible for leading man into sin. John identifies these three as the “lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” (1 John 2.16). By inspiration, John says that we are not to love these things, and if we do, the love of God is not in us.
Let's begin our pride Bible study by looking as some examples of pride.
If we were to go all the way back to the book of Genesis, we would see that the first sin man committed was due in part to pride. Notice how Satan used pride to tempt Eve to eat the forbidden fruit.
Satan told Eve that if she ate the fruit, she would have the wisdom and knowledge God.
When Eve saw the tree, she saw that it would be good food, it looked good to the eyes, and it was “desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate” (Gen. 3.6). I find it extremely interesting that sin was invited into the world because Adam and Eve were filled with pride and wanted to be like God. In contrast, a solution for sin was given because Jesus, the Son of God, humbled Himself and became like man (Phil. 2.4ff).
She and her husband were cast out of the garden and condemned as sinners all because of Eve’s pride.
If we move forward to the New Testament, we find Satan now tempting Jesus to sin.
Satan tried to use pride to tempt Jesus. He challenged His identity as the Son of God and told Him to prove it. The Old Testament says that angels would watch over Jesus and not let Him even hit His foot on a stone.
Satan told Jesus to prove that He was the Son of God by jumping off the highest point of the temple. If the angels rescue Him, then He has proven His identity.
Jesus refused to give into the devil’s attempt to use pride to tempt Him to sin. Instead, Jesus responded, “It is written again, 'You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’” (Matt. 4.7).
Herod enjoyed the spotlight. When the people shouted praises to Herod, he did not deflect any praise, and give credit to God. He basked in the shouts of accolades heaped on him by the people.
As a result of his pride, an angel came down and struck him with worms, so that he was eaten alive by them. I cannot imagine many more unpleasant ways to die. However, this was Herod’s end, and all because of his pride.
Pride is always described in a negative way and is one of the three primary ways the devil tempts us to sin. You and I would be living in a very different world if Eve had not given into pride and sinned. The study of scripture is not just about reading some interesting stories. Bible study does no good unless I can take what I read and invite it into my own life. Let’s look at some passages that really bring home the problem of pride to our lives.
This is a passage referring to the rulers. The rulers could be referring to members of the Sanhedrin, a group of Pharisees and Sadducees who served as the religious supreme court of that day.
It could be referring to those who were in charge of the synagogue. But these were rulers who had a high place among the Jews, and they refused to confess the name of Jesus because of their pride.
Pride will prevent conversion and change in your life. There are those who have heard the gospel. They know what to do in order to be saved. They have sat in as assembly or Bible study and have heard about faith, repentance, confession, and baptism. They have heard what is required by God.
However, they respond by saying that this is not what I was always taught, or this is not the way that I interpret those verses. And it is all about what they want. It is about pride.
Pride will get in the way of a sinner taking that first step to obey the gospel. It gets in the way of someone going to church and saying, “I want to be saved.”
You hear all kinds of excuses.
All these excuses can be summed up in one word – pride. They are so determined to have what they want and not give up what they have in order to let the Lord into their lives.
Notice how important unity is within the congregation. In the verses above, there are several statements emphasizing unity.
Five times Paul emphasized unity, and it was all by the authority of Jesus Christ. This was a command.
Notice also the focus on self. “I am of Paul.” “I am of Cephas.” “I am of Apollos.” It was all about “I”. Divisions often exist within the church when it is all about me. I believe this. I think that. I am following him. When it is all about what I want, and what I do, and what I believe, unity is not going to be achieved.
Unity will only be achieved when we humble ourselves, go to the Bible, and see what it says. When it is all about me there is no room for God.
Do you know who the hardest is person to reach? Of all the people who are lost in sin, do you know who is the hardest to convert to Christ? It is the one who is filled with pride. That is a person that will never change because, in their view, they see no need for change. Is that not the attitude of the Pharisee in the parable of the tax collector and the Pharisee?
The one filled with pride is the one who says, “I have no sin.” He is the one who refuses to acknowledge his sin because there is too much pride in his heart. To confess your sins is to acknowledge a weakness. It is to admit that you have made a mistake and the prideful heart doesn’t want to do that.
In the context, we have set before us the qualifications of an elder in the church. Among those qualifications, an elder is not to be a novice. He is not to be a new Christian who does not have a lot of experience living the life of faith and serving in the church.
The reason? Advancing too quickly may result in his being “puffed up.” In other words, it may lead him to being filled with pride.
The one who is filled with pride will experience the same condemnation as the devil. When I read the book of Revelation, I learn about what kind of condemnation the devil will face. In reference to the final Day of Judgment, we read that the devil will be “cast into the lake of fire and brimstone” where he will be “tormented day and night forever and ever” (Rev. 20.10).
I can only speak for myself, but I can honestly say that such an end is not the way I want to spend eternity. Yet this is the end that is awaiting those who are filled with pride.
Let’s look at one last verse…
It is only when I humble myself to the will of God and esteem others better than myself that I can be pleasing to God.
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