Proverbs 16:18 says, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” There are many other biblical warnings about the sin of pride.
But why is pride so strongly warned against? Why is pride a sin? Is it always a sin to feel proud of something you have accomplished?
It is very important to understand what precisely is the pride that God hates (Proverbs 8:13).
Several years ago, when my first book was published, I had the opportunity to meet Beth Moore and have her sign it. I stood in line just beaming as I held my precious book.
It smelled of freshly printed pages and the cover was a beautiful glossy green. I was so immensely proud of fulfilling my calling. I was even more proud that I could call myself an author.
When it was my turn to meet Beth, I showed her my book and we chatted for a bit. Then, she turned to her assistant and asked her to hold the line because apparently, I was in serious need of an eye-opening, come-to-Jesus-moment.
She pulled me aside and grabbed both of my shoulders. She made sure I was looking her square in the eye when she said, “Heather, keep seeking Jesus far more than your calling.” She went on to tell me, time spent with Christ was far more important than the things I do for Christ or any title I hold.
Because if I wasn’t careful, it would be my downfall. She even shared personal examples in her own life. I walked away that day filled with conviction and humility because she cared enough to keep my pride in check.
There wasn’t anything wrong with being proud of all my hard work. Just like there isn’t anything wrong with being proud of your children, or your home, or getting a promotion.
In fact, we’re supposed to take pride in these things — to an extent. The Bible encourages us to work hard so we’ll be satisfied with the results. It says, “The diligent man prizes his possessions” (Proverbs 12:27).
When Pride Becomes a Sin
But even this kind of pride can be a slippery slope — if we end up taking credit for what we’ve done instead of thanking God for helping us. Pride is the deadliest of all sins because it leads to all other sins. Pride is delusional, spiteful, and bitter. At its root, it declares, “I don’t want God to be God. I want to be God!”
Sinful pride is refusing to recognize God’s sovereign role in everything. “Good pride” is recognizing that apart from God, you can do nothing (John 15:5), and, therefore, giving God the glory for the things you accomplish.
In other words, anything that dethrones God from your heart is deadly. Anything that makes us sit on the throne of our hearts is definitely an issue.
It was the sin of pride, which first led Eve to eat of the forbidden fruit. In Genesis, we read,
Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave it to her husband who was with her and ate it (Genesis 3:4-6).
Who do you think the serpent really was? It was the enemy himself, Satan. In fact, pride led to his downfall too. Pride transformed Lucifer, an anointed cherub of God, the very “seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty,” into Satan, the devil, the father of lies, the one for whom Hell itself was created. (Isaiah 14:12-15; John 8:44; Matthew 25:41)
Despite the fact that God had created Satan and gave him all of the power and beauty he possessed, Satan wanted all of the glory. He turned into the enemy of God when he chose not to worship God in response to the gifts he was given.
Instead, he wanted all of God’s power, glory, and the throne. He viewed himself as better than God instead of choosing to embrace his reflection of God himself.
In the Book of Matthew, we see an example of pride in the Pharisees. They were self-righteous (Matthew 6:1-2). Jesus tells them, “You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every impurity” (Matthew 23:27). Their goal was to impress others with external materials and performance.
The main reason why each of us is on this earth is that our mission is to reflect God in all that we say and do. It is our goal to be image-bearers of Christ! But this is what pride does, it sets you before a very haughty fall.
1 Corinthians 4:7 summarizes this nicely: “What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?” St. Mariam Baouardy describes pride this way:
The proud person is like a grain of wheat thrown into water: it swells, it gets big. Expose that grain to the fire: it dries up, it burns. The humble soul is like a grain of wheat thrown into the earth: it descends, it hides itself, it disappears, it dies; but to revive in heaven.
Everything we have, we have received from God. Therefore, we should not act as if we have accomplished anything on our own. It is not wrong to feel good about something you have accomplished as long as you recognize, and admit, that you could not have done so without him.
We need to make it a goal to live for Christ every day. The Bible says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5).
Scripture to Help Us Keep Our Pride in Check
We would do well to check our spirits when it comes to pride. While God opposes the proud, he gives immense grace to the humble. Humility comes when we internalize the truth that nothing in the life of a Christian is to be about us.
It is all about Jesus Christ and Him only. Here are four reminders to help you eliminate pride:
1. But he gives more grace. Therefore, it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6).
2. Pride comes before destruction, and an arrogant spirit before a fall. Better to be lowly of spirit with the humble than to divide plunder with the proud (Proverbs 16:18-19).
3. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted (Luke 14:11).
4. And all of you clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that He may lift you up at the proper time, casting all your care on Him, because He cares about you (1 Peter 5:5-7).
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Heather Riggleman is an author, national speaker, former award-winning journalist and podcast co-host of the Moms Together Podcast. She calls Nebraska home with her three kids and a husband of 21 years. She believes Jazzercise, Jesus, and tacos can fix anything and not necessarily in that order! She is author of I Call Him By Name Bible Study, the Bold Truths Prayer Journal, Mama Needs a Time Out, and Let’s Talk About Prayer and a contributor to several books. Her work has been featured on Proverbs 31 Ministries, MOPS, Today's Christian Woman, and Focus On the Family. You can find her at www.heatherriggleman.com or on Facebook.