What is pride and why is it bad?

Last updated on December 2, 2023

What is pride?

The Bible condemns proud men and women in the strongest terms (Proverbs 16:5). This is because human pride directly undermines everything God created us to be.

God made us “in His image” (Genesis 1:27): we are like mirrors, and our purpose in life is to turn toward God in love (Mark 12:30) and reflect His glory to the world (Psalm 115:1). The opposite of this is sin: turning away from God (Romans 3:10-12), so that we don’t reflect God’s glory any more (Romans 3:23).

Pride: turning away from God

Why would humans turn away from God? Part of the answer is pride: our desire not to praise God (1 Corinthians 1:31), but to boast about ourselves (Philippians 3:4-9); not to promote God’s name (Matthew 6:9), but to make a name for ourselves (Genesis 11:4). Satan appealed to human pride in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:5), and throughout the Bible there are countless more examples of people taking pride in things rather than in God. We take pride in our wealth (Deuteronomy 8:13-14); in our jewellery (Ezekiel 7:20); in our salary (Ezekiel 28:5); in our health and strength (Psalm 73:4-6); in our beauty (Ezekiel 28:17); in our power (2 Chronicles 26:16); in our successes (Psalm 140:8) and in our victories (2 Chronicles 25:19). But instead of humbly thanking God for all these good gifts (Romans 1:21), we proudly refuse to respond to His kindness (2 Chronicles 32:24-25) and instead try to take for ourselves the credit for what God has done in and through us (Isaiah 10:12-15; 37:23-26).

Proud people have no interest in listening seriously to God and obeying what He commands them (Leviticus 26:18-19), because they have put their confidence in themselves (Isaiah 9:9-10). Rather than seeking God or even thinking about him (Psalm 10:4), proud people act as though they themselves sit on God’s throne (Ezekiel 28:2), assuming that God is powerless to stop their plans (2 Kings 19:10-13, 22).

Pride deceives

Pride, however, deceives us (Jeremiah 49:16) and corrupts our wisdom (Ezekiel 28:17): all our proud boasts are empty (Isaiah 16:6). When we turn away from God seeking freedom to live life our own way, we are quickly enslaved to false gods and to our own stubborn desires (Jeremiah 13:9-10). The results are catastrophic. First, since God designed us as mirrors to reflect the One we worship (Psalm 115:8), when we swap the glorious God for an unworthy substitute (Romans 1:21-23) we increasingly degrade ourselves (Romans 1:24-32). But second, and even worse: since God is worthy of our worship, when we proudly turn away from Him we insult Him and invite His punishment for our faithlessness and disloyalty (Isaiah 2:12-18). Pride comes before destruction (Proverbs 16:18), and the Bible is full of examples of how God may even bring this destruction in this life, upon individuals (e.g. Nebuchadnezzar – Daniel 4; Haman – Esther 5-7) and upon nations (Tyre – Isaiah 23:9; Babylon – Isaiah 13:19; Moab – Jeremiah 48:29-47; Edom – Obadiah 1:3; Egypt – Ezekiel 32:12; Assyria – Zechariah 10:11; Philistia – Zechariah 9:6; Israel – Amos 6:8).

Pride vs humility

The opposite of pride is humility (Proverbs 11:2) that trusts in the LORD (Zephaniah 3:11-12) and obeys His word (Isaiah 66:2). Abraham is a good example of this kind of humble faith (Hebrews 11:8-12). Unlike people who work hard to build their own reputation (Genesis 11:4), Abraham trusted God to make his name great if he simply obeyed Him (Genesis 12:2). God richly rewarded Abraham’s faith: through Abraham’s descendants came the Lord Jesus Christ, Who, through His own perfect humility, brought blessing for all nations of the earth (Romans 3:21-24), just as God had promised Abraham in the beginning (Genesis 12:3)! Stooping down from heaven itself (Philippians 2:5-11), the Son of God humbly washed the feet of sinners (John 13:1-11) and freely gave His life for those who were His enemies (Romans 5:10). In this way, God showed us how much He loves us (John 3:16), so that we could learn to trust Him again (Romans 8:31-39), surrender our pride (Mark 8:34-38), and inherit the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 5:3).

Forgiveness of pride

Today, Jesus freely offers the gift of forgiveness to all who will humbly receive it like a little child (Mark 10:13-27). Ask God for the gift of faith, so that you can learn to humbly trust God, and so enter into fullness of life (John 10:10) for which God created you in the very beginning: a life overflowing with joy, because we no longer boast of our own proud achievements for God, but instead, of God’s humble achievement, in Christ, for us (Galatians 6:14).

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