What Does the Bible Say About Pride?

Our society encourages people to know their own worth, and in turn, to make their worth known. However, is this the view of the Bible?

What Does the Bible Say About Pride

The Bible’s View of Pride:

Many people think they have to be self-promoting and full of confidence to be successful. However, the Scriptures teach that Christians are to be filled with humility. Consider passages like Deuteronomy 8:17-18 which says we are in error when we think we have acquired our own success without God’s help.

“My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth….” Deuteronomy 8:17-18

While the world promotes pride as a positive trait, the Bible frequently claims that pride can be a sinful attitude. There are several passages that describe the attitude of humbleness that God desires:

All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” 1 Peter 5:5
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. ” Colossians 3:12
“He mocks proud mockers but shows favor to the humble and oppressed.” Proverbs 3:34

Is It Possible To Be Proud Of Who We Are And Not Sin?

Can someone have a positive self-image and still remain humble? Surprisingly, the Scriptures address the concept of pride in both a negative and positive way.

The Bible’s Negative View of Pride:

In the negative sense, pride is sinful when we possess an arrogant or over-inflated ego that refuses to submit to God or has no respect for others.

“In his pride the wicked man does not seek Him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.” Psalm 10:4 proclaims

Pride becomes sinful when we wrongly assume that we do not need God or anyone else. Sinful pride, therefore, is often boastful, conceited, and condescending.

“As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. ” James 4:16

When someone arrogantly believes that they alone have achieved or acquired something of value, then sinful pride has taken root in their heart.

“You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. ” Revelation 3:17

Prideful people will often look down upon other people by thinking they are better than them. They can be conceited, prejudiced, or judgmental.  

“Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. ” Romans 12:3

Sinful pride is a distorted and elevated since of worth over others. It is arrogantly assuming you are more important or worth more than someone else.

“Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.” Romans 12:16

The Bible’s Positive View of Pride:

While much of what the Bible says about pride can be described as negative and sinful, there is a positive quality of self-worth that is also mentioned in the Scriptures. For example, the Bible expresses the appropriateness of positive self-worth when we understand our value as children of God. For example, the Psalmist writes:

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful; I know that full well.” Psalm 139:14

Having a positive sense of your worth as one of God’s creations is both healthy and good. The phrase “positive self-esteem” could be used to describe this knowledge of our worth. In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul even made some statements that reveal a sense of positive pride in his ministry.

  • For instance, he said in Romans 11:13, “…I take pride in my ministry.”
  • In 2 Corinthians 7:4 he writes, “…I take great pride in you.”
  • In Galatians 6:4 Paul says, “Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else.”

In each of these examples, Paul uses the word “pride” to describe a positive trait rather than a sinful or negative attitude. Other Bible translations use words like honor or magnify instead of pride when translating these verses, but the idea is in recognizing a person’s true value as opposed to the false sense of worth that accompanies sinful pride. When correctly understood our value as God’s children results in a right view of self and others. #FearTheWonder

However, there are consequences for having an over-inflated ego that looks down upon others.

The Consequences of Sinful Pride:

God takes a very strong stance against the prideful person who considers himself better than others or who neglects to recognize God’s blessings upon their life. He has vowed to punish those who arrogantly boast in their own glory rather than honoring Him. Several passages indicate that there are serious consequences for exhibiting a prideful and arrogant attitude.

“I will punish the world for its evil, the wicked for their sins. I will put an end to the arrogance of the haughty and will humble the pride of the ruthless.”Isaiah 13:11
“Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. ”Proverbs 16:18
“You save the humble but bring low those whose eyes are haughty.”Psalm 18:27

The Bible further depicts the way in which the proud person who builds themselves up will ultimately be brought down by their sin.

“Pride brings a person low, but the lowly in spirit gain honor. ”Proverbs 29:23

Thus, the proud are often embarrassed or ashamed when they fail because of their great boasting. The Bible provides several stories of arrogant people who fell from their self-made lofty pedestal of pride.

What Does the Bible Say About Pride

Examples of Sinful Pride in the Bible:

There are several examples in the Bible of individuals who allowed a negative and sinful spirit of pride to result in their demise.

Lucifer fell from Heaven because of Pride: Lucifer, who was once an archangel in heaven, allowed a negative spirit of pride to lead him astray.

“How you have fallen from heaven, morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations! You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to the heavens; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of Mount Zaphon. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’ But you are brought down to the realm of the dead, to the depths of the pit. ”Isaiah 14:12-15

Uzziah’s pride caused him to lose his position as king – The Old Testament records the exploits of the kings of Israel detailing both their accomplishments as well as their prideful destructive moments. One of those kings, Uzziah, was sixteen years old when he became the monarch of Israel. (You can read about King Uzziah in 2 Chronicles 26). God helped him to become very successful and prosperous, and he amassed a great army. However, after Uzziah became very powerful, he also became prideful, and he stopped trusting in the Lord God. As a result, God inflicted him with leprosy and he had to give up the throne and live a life of solitude while his son ruled the kingdom in his stead. Uzziah’s story shows that negative sinful pride is rooted in a self-reliant attitude that fails to acknowledge that our self-worth and our blessings come from God.

Nebuchadnezzar lost his sanity until he humbled himself – Another example comes from the Book of Daniel when a Babylonian king named Nebuchadnezzar became filled with pride. He claimed that his vast kingdom, power, and wealth were all due to his own greatness rather than acknowledging the blessing of God upon his life. Through a prophetic dream, Nebuchadnezzar learned that he would be made as low as a dog and lose his kingdom for a time until he humbled himself before the Lord. According to the story in Daniel 4, the dream was fulfilled, and he became like a wild animal eating grass and driven into the countryside exposed to the elements until he acknowledged God.

“Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything He does is right, and all His ways are just. And those who walk in pride He is able to humble.”Daniel 4:37

Personal Qualities that are Indicators of Sinful Pride:

There are several qualities that prideful people possess that are indicators of a negative and sinful attitude.

Prideful people refuse to listen to the wise counsel of other people, arrogantly assuming they already know what is best.

“Where there is strife, there is pride, but wisdom is found in those who take advice.”Proverbs 13:10

Prideful people can often be bull-headed, pushy, confrontational, or unwilling to compromise. They are also full of boastful words, building themselves up to anyone who will listen.

“A fool’s mouth lashes out with pride, but the lips of the wise protect them.”Proverbs 14:3

Humility is the Trademark Quality of Positive Self-Worth:

The Bible repeatedly encourages us to be humble in our estimations of ourselves when comparing our worth to others. A person who exhibits humbleness is aware of their value, and yet, they encourage and build others up who do not believe in their own self-worth.

Humility can best be defined as knowing your worth, and yet serving others.

The Example of Jesus

Jesus is the best example of exhibiting humility even though He is above all creation and creatures as the Son of God.

“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, He made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! ”Philippians 2:5-8

The Bible’s Instructions for Overcoming Pride:

If you are struggling with a prideful spirit or want to overcome the temptation of arrogantly thinking you are better than others, the Bible offers some clear guidance.

“Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. ”Romans 12:10
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”Philippians 2:3-4

Ultimately, the acknowledgement that each person is equally valuable to God can help you to not become conceited. By having other people’s interest as equally important as your own, there will be less of a temptation to develop an attitude of pride or arrogance.

“For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?”1 Corinthians 4:7

In this passage, Paul is reminding the Corinthians that they are equal and therefore no one is better than someone else. He further notes that whatever blessings they may possess, they did not acquire them on their own; instead, every blessing is a gift from God. When we remember these two truths: that we are not better than others, and that every good thing we possess is from God, then we will not boast with a prideful or sinful heart.  

All Scripture quotations are to the Holy Bible. New International Version. Nashville: Zondervan, 2011.

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