As seriously dangerous as pride is, it’s equally hard to spot. When it comes to diagnosing our hearts, those of us who have the disease of pride have a challenging time identifying our sickness. Pride infects our eyesight, causing us to view ourselves through a lens that colors and distorts reality. Pride will paint even our ugliness in sin as beautiful and commendable.
We can’t conclude that we don’t struggle with pride because we don’t see pride in our hearts. The comfortable moments when I pat myself on the back for how well I am doing are the moments that should alarm me the most. I need to reach for the glasses of Christ-like humility, remembering that nothing good dwells in my flesh, and search my heart for secret pride and its symptoms.
In his essay on undetected pride, Jonathan Edwards points out seven sneaky symptoms of the infection of pride.
While pride causes us to filter out the evil we see in ourselves, it also causes us to filter out God’s goodness in others. We sift them, letting only their faults fall into our perception of them.
When I’m sitting in a sermon or studying a passage, it’s pride that prompts the terrible temptation to skip the Spirit’s surgery on my own heart and instead draft a mental blog post or plan a potential conversation for the people who “really need to hear this.”
The spiritually proud person shows it in his finding fault with other saints. . . . The eminently humble Christian has so much to do at home and sees so much evil in his own that he is not apt to be very busy with other hearts.
2. A Harsh Spirit
Those who have the sickness of pride in their hearts speak of others’ sins with contempt, irritation, frustration, or judgment. Pride is crouching inside our belittling of the struggles of others. It’s cowering in our jokes about the ‘craziness’ of our spouse. It may even be lurking in the prayers we throw upward for our friends that are — subtly or not — tainted with exasperated irritation.
Again Edwards writes, “Christians who are but fellow-worms ought at least to treat one another with as much humility and gentleness as Christ treats them.”
When pride lives in our hearts, we’re far more concerned with others’ perceptions of us than the reality of our hearts. We fight the sins that have an impact on how others view us, and make peace with the ones that no one sees. We have great success in the areas of holiness that have highly visible accountability, but little concern for the disciplines that happen in secret.
Those who stand in the strength of Christ’s righteousness alone find a confident hiding place from the attacks of men and Satan alike. True humility is not knocked off balance and thrown into a defensive posture by challenge or rebuke, but instead continues in doing good, entrusting the soul to our faithful Creator.
Edwards says, “For the humble Christian, the more the world is against him, the more silent and still he will be, unless it is in his prayer closet, and there he will not be still.”
5. Presumption Before God
Humility approaches God with humble assurance in Christ Jesus. If either the “humble” or the “assurance” are missing in that equation, our hearts very well might be infected with pride. Some of us have no shortage of boldness before God, but if we’re not careful, we can forget that he is God.
Edwards writes, “Some, in their great rejoicing before God, have not paid sufficient regard to that rule in Psalm 2:11 — ‘Worship the Lord with reverence, and rejoice with trembling.’”
Others of us feel no confidence before God. Which sounds like humility, but in reality it’s another symptom of pride. In those moments, we’re testifying that we believe our sins are greater than his grace. We doubt the power of Christ’s blood and we’re stuck staring at ourselves instead of Christ.
6. Desperation for Attention
Pride is hungry for attention, respect, and worship in all its forms.
Maybe it sounds like shameless boasting about ourselves. Maybe it’s being unable to say “no” to anyone because we need to be needed. Maybe it looks like obsessively thirsting for marriage — or fantasizing about a better marriage — because you’re hungry to be adored. Maybe it looks like being haunted by your desire for the right car or the right house or the right title at work: all because you seek the glory that comes from men, not God.
7. Neglecting Others
Pride prefers some people over others. It honors those who the world deems worthy of honor, giving more weight to their words, their wants, and their needs. There’s a thrill that goes through me when people with “power” acknowledge me. We consciously or unconsciously pass over the weak, the inconvenient, and the unattractive, because they don’t seem to offer us much.
Maybe more of us struggle with pride than we thought.
There’s good news for the prideful. Confession of pride signals the beginning of the end for pride. It indicates the war is already being waged. For only when the Spirit of God is moving, already humbling us, can we remove the lenses of pride from our eyes and see ourselves clearly, identifying the sickness and seeking the cure.
By God’s grace, we can turn once again to the glorious gospel in which we stand and make much of him even through identifying our pride in all its hiding places inside of us. Just as my concealed pride once moved me toward death, so the acknowledgement of my own pride moves me toward life by causing me to cling more fiercely to the righteousness of Christ.
Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! (Psalm 139:23–24)
What Does God Say About Pride?
Pride is a heart-attitude sin that overflows into a person’s motivation, decision-making, and activities. Pride is at the root of nearly every problem we struggle with in counseling!
You are reading part one of a two-part series on the prideful heart by biblical counselor Julie Ganschow, the founder and director of Reigning Grace Counseling Center in Kansas City, MO.
The heart of pride is focused on “self.” Prideful people believe they deserve better than what life has brought them. They become sorrowful, resentful, and even jealous of other people and their successes. Pride breeds self pity, which is a major component in depression. Typically, people who struggle with pride will live life based on how they feel and expect everyone else to accommodate them and adapt to their moods.
Two key characteristics of pride are independence and rebellion. It should not be too difficult for us to understand why this is so. The truth is we all want our own way about things, and we usually will do almost anything to have it our way. The sinful nature leads us to desire independence, and we rebel at the thought of being under anyone’s control or authority.
In his pride the wicked does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God. Psalm 10:4 (NIV)
In our hearts we say as Pharaoh did, “Who is the Lord that I should obey Him?” Exodus 5:2
God Hates Pride
All who fear the LORD will hate evil. That is why I hate pride, arrogance, corruption, and perverted speech. Proverbs 8:13 (NLT)
The heart of pride brings devastating consequences that God ordains: a hardened heart and consequences of this sin.
Scripture shows us the results of pride through the examples of two kings: King Nebuchadnezzar and King Herod. They both became prideful and consequently were humbled by God.
But when [Nebuchadnezzar’s] heart became arrogant and hardened with pride, he was deposed from his royal throne and stripped of his glory. He was driven away from people and given the mind of an animal; he lived with the wild donkeys and ate grass like cattle; and his body was drenched with the dew of heaven, until he acknowledged that the Most High God is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and sets over them anyone he wishes. Daniel 5:20-21 (NIV)
King Nebuchadnezzar lived like an animal until he came to his senses and repented of his sin. God then restored the kingdom to him.
On the appointed day Herod, wearing his royal robes, sat on his throne and delivered a public address to the people. They shouted, “This is the voice of a god, not of a man.” Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died. Acts 12:2-23 (NIV)
In your life, pride will cause your heart to harden toward God. Consequently, God will not allow you to prosper. He will bring you dishonor, which is the last thing a prideful person wants.
When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.Proverbs 11:2 (NIV)
Pride brings opposition from God. He will not share His glory with anyone or anything.
All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 1 Peter 5:5 (NIV)
The prideful person is self-deceived.
For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.” Galatians 6:3 (NKJV)
Pride May Look Like ‘Low Self-Esteem’
Often prideful people are mistakenly diagnosed with “low self-esteem” because their actions and attitudes appear to be self-depreciating. Low self-esteem is defined as “a person’s belief regarding the degree to which he is worthy of praise.”
The prideful person already thinks very highly of himself or herself! People infected by pride typically think so much of themselves that they believe the world should revolve around them.
The only thing important to prideful people is getting their needs filled. It may be an emotional need, a desire for attention, or a resistance to conform to social norms in order to be seen as an individual. Prideful people struggle with bitterness, revenge, conceit, self pity, a competitive nature, gossip, slander, and vanity. They display a desire to be noticed, which is disguised as shyness. They typically have a lust for attention, approval, and praise. Those who attempt to build them up psychologically only assist them in further self-indulgence.
“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” Ps. 51:17
The world defines “pride” as: “a feeling or deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements, the achievements of those with whom one is closely associated, or from qualities or possessions that are widely admired.” Yet the Word of God says a person’s pride is followed by disgrace (Prov. 11:2); pride is arrogance (Prov. 21:24); pride will bring a person low (Prov. 29:23). The Word of God says pride is something evil that comes from a person’s heart (Mark 7:21-23), and that God is opposed to prideful people (James 4:6). God sees pride the same way He sees so many other behaviors—as sinful (2 Tim. 3:1-4). God sees pride as evil because it is contrary to who He is. Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, humbled Himself to take on human flesh and then humbled Himself even further when He sacrificed His life in the most humiliating way—death on a cross. What awaits prideful people? What comes after pride? Destruction (Prov. 16:18)—God’s judgment of sin, the punishment for which is eternity in hell. Your only hope is to turn from your sinful pride, turn toward God and, by faith alone, receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. Jesus Christ—fully God and fully man, yet without sin, voluntarily shed his innocent blood and died on the cross, taking upon Himself the punishment you rightly deserve for your sins against God. Three days later, He forever defeated sin and death when He rose from the grave. Yes, God is opposed to the proud, but He gives grace to the humble (James 4:6). Humble yourself. Repent and believe the gospel, today.
How Pride Poisons the Soul
The most important thing we need to understand about pride is that God hates it. Lest you think I should soften my language, consider these texts:
There are six things that the LORD hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers. (Prov. 6:16-19)
Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the LORD; be assured, he will not go unpunished. (Prov. 16:5)
Observe in Proverbs 16:5 that it is not merely arrogance itself that is an abomination to the Lord; the arrogant person is an abomination as well.
If you would take the time to excavate your sin, beneath it all you would discover the rotting bones of pride and arrogance.
Of all that God hates, of all that is an abomination to him, what is first on the list? Haughty eyes, which is to say, prideful, arrogant eyes. Haughty eyes does not refer to how a person’s eyes look to others but how a person views himself and others. He views them as less than himself, as essentially worthless. He is arrogant and puffed up with his own sense of value.
The word hate is an unpleasant one that we typically instruct our children to avoid. It’s vicious, venomous, and destructive. When we experience “hatred” it usually means we loathe certain things, we seek to avoid them, we desire to destroy them, we speak ill of them, and we vote against them. We do everything possible to forget them. Hatred in the heart of God is righteous hatred, pure, unalloyed, unmitigated disgust and revulsion. For something to be an “abomination” to God means that it is a stench in his nostrils. Such is what God feels about pride: he hates it; it is an utter abomination.
Think about James 4:6—“God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” James doesn’t say that God simply ignores the proud or avoids them or keeps his distance from them. No, he resists them. He works in open opposition to them. He wages war against them and thwarts them. Pride provokes God to wrath and indignation; it irritates him, agitates him, and displeases him beyond words.
Taproot of All Sin
Scripture also teaches that pride is a precursor to all other forms of sin. Pride is the soil in which all manner of sin germinates and grows. Consider Proverbs 16:18-19—“Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. It is better to be of a lowly spirit with the poor than to divide the spoil with the proud.” I could mulitiply verses many times that say essentially the same thing about pride. First comes pride, then destruction of the proud person.
Pride is that ugly part of your heart that causes you to be more concerned about yourself and your own reputation than you are about Christ and his.
Is it an exaggeration to say that pride is the underlying cause of all sin? I don’t think so. If you would take the time to excavate your sin, beneath it all you would discover the rotting bones of pride and arrogance. Numerous sins are the direct fallout of pride:
Envy. Envy is the resentful awareness of an advantage enjoyed by another, an advantage that you are convinced ought rightfully to be yours. But why should someone else’s success or promotion or praise provoke envy in our hearts? Why not joy, instead? The answer is because we don’t want others to appear better than ourselves; we are convinced that we are more worthy and more deserving of the advantage.
Bitterness. Bitterness is that sour feeling in our souls when someone has offended us or defrauded us or failed to deliver on what we thought they owed us. But why should that provoke bitterness? Because it makes us look bad in the eyes of others, or it deprives us of something we think we deserve.
Strife. Strife flows out of a competitive desire to be number one, the desire to be acknowledged by others, the desire for power and authority and praise.
Deceit. Why do we lie and mislead others and speak in fuzzy rather than forthright terms? Typically, it is because we hope to gain something for ourselves that we think we deserve, or we do it to hide something from others that we fear might make us look bad.
Hypocrisy. We are motivated to pretend to be something we are not because we fear being seen and known for what we really are.
Slander. Why do we speak negatively of others? Why do we slander them? Perhaps because we’ve been hurt ourselves, and we want revenge, or we want to gain acceptance with others, and the only way is to diminish them in the minds of those people whose favor or respect we must have.
Greed. Greed at its core is the desire to make more of and for ourselves than God wishes or permits. And pride is the poker that stokes the fires of materialism. We can’t stand the thought of people thinking we aren’t as rich and successful and talented and deserving and sophisticated as others.
The proud heart is impervious to rebuke and insensitive to conviction.
Every one of these sins grows from the same deadly taproot: pride. Simply put, pride is that ugly part of your heart that causes you to be more concerned about yourself and your own reputation than you are about Christ and his.
Grace Uproots Pride
Perhaps the most sobering summary of pride is found in Proverbs 26:12—“Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him” (Prov. 26:12). Why is there little hope for him? Because pride puts a person beyond the perceived need for instruction. The proud heart is impervious to rebuke and insensitive to conviction. That’s why he’s more hopeless than the fool.
So how do we uproot pride from our hearts? How do we overcome its insidious influence? There are many answers, but none more helpful than the principle we find in 1 Corinthians 4:7. Paul asks the arrogant Corinthians, “For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?”
It is difficult for the person who understands the sovereignty of God’s grace to be prideful, unless of course he takes credit for understanding it. Pride is taking credit for what God has done. To know that all we have is a gift, that all we experience and enjoy is an expression of God’s goodness and not ours, to know that everything in our possession—especially our salvation—comes from the hand of God is to take the first step in defeating and dethroning pride from our hearts.
Brokenness: The Heart God Revives
by Nancy Leigh DeMoss
- Proud people focus on the failures of others. Broken people are overwhelmed with a sense of their own spiritual need.
- Proud people have a critical, fault-finding spirit; they look at everyone else’s faults with a microscope but their own with a telescope. Broken people are compassionate; they can forgive much because they know how much they have been forgiven.
- Proud people are self-righteous; they look down on others. Broken people esteem all others better than themselves.
- Proud people have an independent, self-sufficient spirit. Broken people have a dependent spirit; they recognize their need for others.
- Proud people have to prove that they are right. Broken people are willing to yield the right to be right.
- Proud people claim rights; they have a demanding spirit. Broken people yield their rights; they have a meek spirit.
- Proud people are self-protective of their time, their rights, and their reputation. Broken people are self-denying.
- Proud people desire to be served. Broken people are motivated to serve others.
- Proud people desire to be a success. Broken people are motivated to be faithful and to make others a success.
- Proud people desire self-advancement. Broken people desire to promote others.
- Proud people have a drive to be recognized and appreciated. Broken people have a sense of their own unworthiness; they are thrilled that God would use them at all.
- Proud people are wounded when others are promoted and they are overlooked. Broken people are eager for others to get the credit; they rejoice when others are lifted up.
- Proud people have a subconscious feeling, “This ministry/church is privileged to have me and my gifts”; they think of what they can do for God. Broken people’s heart attitude is, “I don’t deserve to have a part in any ministry”; they know that they have nothing to offer God except the life of Jesus flowing through their broken lives.
- Proud people feel confident in how much they know. Broken people are humbled by how very much they have to learn.
- Proud people are self-conscious. Broken people are not concerned with self at all.
- Proud people keep others at arms’ length. Broken people are willing to risk getting close to others and to take risks of loving intimately.
- Proud people are quick to blame others. Broken people accept personal responsibility and can see where they are wrong in a situation.
- Proud people are unapproachable or defensive when criticized. Broken people receive criticism with a humble, open spirit.
- Proud people are concerned with being respectable, with what others think; they work to protect their own image and reputation. Broken people are concerned with being real; what matters to them is not what others think but what God knows; they are willing to die to their own reputation.
- Proud people find it difficult to share their spiritual need with others. Broken people are willing to be open and transparent with others as God directs.
- Proud people want to be sure that no one finds out when they have sinned; their instinct is to cover up. Broken people, once broken, don’t care who knows or who finds out; they are willing to be exposed because they have nothing to lose.
- Proud people have a hard time saying, “I was wrong; will you please forgive me?” Broken people are quick to admit failure and to seek forgiveness when necessary.
- Proud people tend to deal in generalities when confessing sin. Broken people are able to acknowledge specifics when confessing their sin.
- Proud people are concerned about the consequences of their sin. Broken people are grieved over the cause, the root of their sin.
- Proud people are remorseful over their sin, sorry that they got found out or caught. Broken people are truly, genuinely repentant over their sin, evidenced in the fact that they forsake that sin.
- Proud people wait for the other to come and ask forgiveness when there is a misunderstanding or conflict in a relationship. Broken people take the initiative to be reconciled when there is misunderstanding or conflict in relationships; they race to the cross; they see if they can get there first, no matter how wrong the other may have been.
- Proud people compare themselves with others and feel worthy of honor. Broken people compare themselves to the holiness of God and feel a desperate need for His mercy.
- Proud people are blind to their true heart condition. Broken people walk in the light.
- Proud people don’t think they have anything to repent of. Broken people realize they have need of a continual heart attitude of repentance.
- Proud people don’t think they need revival, but they are sure that everyone else does. Broken people continually sense their need for a fresh encounter with God and for a fresh filling of His Holy Spirit.
Five Things to Know About Pride & Humility
1. Pride Is the Root of All Evil (Genesis 3:5; 1 Timothy 3:6; 1 John 2:15-17)
2. God Hates Pride (Proverbs 8:13; 16:5; Isaiah 23:9; Daniel 4:29-37; James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5)
3. God Loves Humility (Proverbs 11:2, 15:33, 18:12, 29:23; Isaiah 57:15, 66:2; Micah 6:8; Luke 14:11; 1 Peter 5:6)
4. What Is Not Pride
a. Acknowledging and appreciating the gifts and abilities God has given you.
b. The presence of godly desire, ambition and purposeful direction in your life (1 Timothy 3:1)
c. Acknowledging the work of God within you.
d. The pursuit of excellence.
e. Defending and proclaiming the truth of Scripture.
5. Pride Is Deceptive (John 8:31-36; Jeremiah 49:16; Proverbs 16:2, 21:2)
The Fifty Fruits of Pride
1. Want to be Well Known or Important (Isaiah 14:13-15; James 3:13-16; Romans 12:6)
- · “I am selfishly ambitious. I really want to get ahead and make a name for myself. I want to be someone important in life. I like having a position or title. I far prefer leading to following.”
- · “I am overly competitive. I always want to win or come out on top and it bothers me when I don’t.”
- · “I want people to be impressed with me. I like to make my accomplishments known.”
2. Sinfully Competitive
3. Want to Impress People (Luke 10:38-42)
a. Clothes or jewelry you wear.
b. Vehicle you drive.
c. Furniture you own.
d. House you live in.
e. Place you live.
f. Company you work for.
g. Amount of money you earn.
h. Food you eat.
i. How spiritual you are.
j. What you look like (physical appearance).
k. What you have accomplished.
l. What you know.
m. Where you went to School.
n. Who you know.
o. What your background is.
4. Draw Attention to Myself (Proverbs 27:2)
- · “I like to be the center of attention and will say or do things to draw attention to myself.”
- · “I like to talk, especially about myself or persons or things I am involved with. I want people to know what I am doing or thinking. I would rather speak than listen. I have a hard time being succinct.”
- · “I tend to be deceptive about myself. I find myself lying to preserve my reputation. I find myself hiding the truth about myself, especially about sins, weaknesses, etc. I don’t want people to know who I really am.”
- · “I desire to receive recognition and credit for what I do. I like people to see what I do and let me know that they noticed. I feel hurt or offended when they don’t. I am overly concerned about my reputation and hate being misunderstood.”
- · “I am not very excited about seeing or making others successful. I tend to feel envious, jealous or critical towards those who are doing well or being honored.”
- · “I tend to be self sufficient in the way I live my life. I don’t live with a constant awareness that my every breath is dependent upon the will of God. I tend to think I have enough strength, ability and wisdom to live and manage my life. My practice of the spiritual disciplines is inconsistent and superficial. I don’t like to ask others for help.”
5. Like to Talk About Myself
6. Deceitful and Pretentious (Psalm 24:3-4, 26:2-4; Jeremiah 48:10; Proverbs 26:20-26)
7. Desire Recognition and Praise (John 5:41-44; Matthew 6:1, 23:5-7)
8. Not Fulfilled Serving Others (John 3:30)
9. Self Sufficient (Matthew 4:4; John 15:5; Acts 17:25; 2 Corinthians 12:7-10)
10. Anxious (Psalm 4:8; Philippians 4:6-7; 1 Peter 5:6-7)
- · “I am often anxious about my life and the future. I tend not to trust God and rarely experience his abiding and transcendent peace in my soul. I have a hard time sleeping at night because of fearful thoughts and burdens I carry.”
- · “I am overly self-conscious. I tend to replay in my mind how I did, what I said, and how I came across to others. I am very concerned about my appearance and what people think of me. I think about these things constantly.”
- · “I fear man more than God. I am afraid of others and make decisions about what I will say or do based upon this fear. I am afraid to take a stand for things that are right. I am concerned with how people will react to me or perceive my actions or words. I don’t often think about God’s opinion in a matter and rarely think there could be consequences for disobeying him. I primarily seek the approval of man and not of God.”
- · “I often feel insecure. I don’t want to try new things or step out into uncomfortable situations because I’m afraid I’ll fail or look foolish. I am easily embarrassed.”
- · “I regularly compare myself to others. I am “performance oriented.” I feel that I have greater worth if I do well.”
- · “I am self-critical. I tend to be a perfectionist. I can’t stand for little things to be wrong because they reflect poorly on me. I have a hard time putting my mistakes behind me.”
- · “I am self-serving. When asked to do something, I find myself asking, ‘How will doing this help me?’ or ‘Will I be inconvenienced?’ I am not focused on the needs and interests of others.”
- · “I feel special or superior because of what I have or do.”
11. Self Focused (Exodus 4:11; Job 10:8-11; Psalm 139:13-16; Isaiah 53:2; Jeremiah 1:5)
12. Fear Man (Proverbs 29:25)
14. Compare Myself
16. Self Serving (Philippians 2:19-22)
17. Feel Better or Superior
18. Think Highly of Myself (Romans 12:3, 16; James 2:1-4)
- · “I think highly of myself. In relation to others I typically see myself as more mature and more gifted. In most situations, I have more to offer than others even though I may not say so. I don’t consider myself average or ordinary.”
- · “I tend to give myself credit for who I am and what I accomplish. I only occasionally think about or recognize that all that I am or have comes from God. I don’t’ consciously transfer all glory to God for any good I have or any good I do.”
- · “I tend to be self-righteous. I can think that I really have something to offer God. I would never say so, but I think God did well to save me. I seldom think about or recognize my total depravity and helplessness apart from God. I regularly focus on the sins of others. I don’t credit God for any degree of holiness in my life.”
- · “I feel deserving. I think I deserve what I have. In fact, I think I ought to have more considering how well I have lived or in light of all I have done.”
19. Credit Myself (1 Corinthians 4:6-7; 15:10)
20. Self Righteous (Luke 18:9-14)
21. Feel Deserving
22. Ungrateful (Luke 17:11-19; Ephesians 5:19-20; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18; Colossians 3:15-17; Philippians 2:14)
- · “I often feel ungrateful. I tend to grumble about what I have or my lot in life. I am not amazed by grace on a regular basis.”
- · “I find myself wallowing in self-pity. I am consumed with how I am treated by God and others. I tend to feel mistreated and hate being misunderstood. I seldom recognize or sympathize with what’s going on with others around me because I feel that I have it worse than they do.”
- · “I can be jealous or envious of others abilities, possessions, positions, accomplishments or friends. I want to be what others are or want to have what others have. I think I deserve or should have the good things other people do. I find it hard to rejoice when others are blessed by God.”
23. Captive to Self Pity
24. Jealous and Envious (James 3:13-16)
25. Unkind and Harsh (Ezekiel 16:49; Psalm 17:10; Proverbs 24:17-18; Luke 10:25-37)
- · “I am pretty insensitive to others. I feel some people just aren’t worth caring about. I have a hard time showing compassion or extending mercy to others. Some people aren’t worth my time and attention.”
- · “I like to reveal my own mind. I have an answer for practically every situation and an opinion on every subject. I feel compelled to balance everyone else out and let them know my thoughts.”
- · “I have a know-it-all attitude. I am impressed by my own knowledge and understanding of things. I feel like there isn’t much I can learn from other people, especially those less mature than me.”
- · “I feel compelled to stop people when they start to share something with me I already know.”
- · “I find it hard to admit it when I don’t know something. When someone asks me something I don’t know, I will make up an answer rather than admit I don’t know.”
- · “I have a hard time listening to ordinary people. I listen better to those I respect or people I am wanting to leave with a good impression. I don’t honestly listen when someone else is speaking because I am usually planning what I am going to say next.”
- · “I interrupt people regularly. I don’t let people finish what they are saying.”
- · “I don’t get much out of the teaching. I tend to evaluate the speaker rather than my own life. I grumble about hearing something a second time.”
- · “I listen to teaching with other people in mind. I constantly think of those folks who need to hear and apply this teaching and wish they were here.”
26. Love to Reveal My Mind (Proverbs 18:2)
27. Know It All (1 Corinthians 8:1)
28. Like People to Know I Know
29. Hard to Admit I Don’t Know
30. Don’t Listen to Ordinary People
32. Don’t Get Much Out of Teaching
33. Thinking of Others During Teaching
34. Not Teachable (Proverbs 12:1)
- · “I’m not very open to input. I don’t pursue correction for my life. I tend to be unteachable and slow to repent when corrected. I don’t really see correction as a positive thing. I am offended when people probe the motivations of my heart or seek to adjust me.”
- · “I have a hard time admitting that I am wrong. I find myself covering up or excusing my sins. It is hard for me to confess my sins to others or to ask for forgiveness.”
- · “I view correction as an intrusion into my privacy rather than an instrument of God for my welfare. I can’t identify anyone who would feel welcome to correct me.”
- · “I resent people who attempt to correct me. I don’t respond with gratefulness and sincere appreciation for their input. Instead I am tempted to accuse them and dwell on their faults. I get bitter and withdraw.”
- · “When corrected, I become contentious and argumentative. I don’t take people’s observations seriously. I minimize and make excuses or give explanations.”
- · “I am easily angered and offended. I don’t like being crossed or disagreed with. I find myself thinking, “I can’t believe they did that to me.” I often feel wronged. I hate to be misunderstood by others especially those I respect and desire to think highly of me.”
- · “I have “personality conflicts” with others. I have a hard time getting along with certain kinds of people. People regularly tell me they struggle with me.”
- · “I lack respect for other people. I don’t think very highly of most people. I have a hard time encouraging and honoring others unless they really do something great.”
35. Don’t Admit Wrong Doing (Proverbs 28:13; James 5:16)
36. Do Not Welcome Correction (Proverbs 15:12)
37. Resent People Who Correct Me (Proverbs 9:7-9)
38. Contentious and Argumentative (James 1:19-20)
39. Get Angry or Offended With Others (1 Corinthians 6:7)
40. Constantly in Conflicts (Proverbs 13:10)
41. Have Little Esteem or Respect for Others (Numbers 16:1-3)
42. Do Violence with My Mouth (Psalm 101:5; Romans 3:13-14; 3 John 1:9-10)
- · “I am a slanderer. I find myself either giving or receiving evil reports about others. I am not concerned about the effect of slander on me because of my maturity level. I think I can handle it. I only share with others the things I think they really need to know. I don’t tell all. Anyway, the things I say or hear about people are usually true.”
- · “I am divisive. My actions and attitudes separate people rather than unite people. My words frequently undermined the confidence and trust people have in one another. I also tend to resist or resent authority. I don’t like other people to give me orders or directions.”
- · “With a motivation to put people in their place or look good myself, I like to demean or put others down. They need my adjustment. This includes leaders. Other people need to be humble and have a “sober” assessment of themselves.”
- · “I tend to be critical of others. I find myself feeling or talking negatively about people. I subtly feel better about myself when I see how bad someone else is. I find it far easier to evaluate than to encourage someone else.”
- · “I am self-willed and stubborn. I have a hard time cooperating with others. I really prefer my own way and often insist on getting it.”
- · “I am independent and uncommitted. I don’t really see why I need other people. I can easily separate myself from others. I don’t get much out of the small group meetings.”
- · “I am unaccountable. I don’t ask others to hold me responsible to follow through on my commitments. I don’t really need accountability for my words and actions.”
- · “I am unsubmissive. I don’t like being under the authority of another person. I don’t see submission as a good and necessary provision from God for my life. I have a hard time supporting and serving those over me. I don’t “look up” to people and I like to be 8 in charge. Other people may need leaders but I don’t. It is important that my voice is always heard.”
- · “I really appreciate somebody taking the time to put this paper together. It will really be a big help to my friends and family. However, I don’t really need this because I think I’m pretty humble already.”
43. Sow Discord (Proverbs 28:25)
44. Demean or Belittle Others
46. Self Willed and Stubborn
47. Independent (Proverbs 18:1; Luke 1:51-52)
48. Unaccountable (Acts 2:42; Hebrews 10:25)
49. Unsubmissive (Hebrews 13:17; 1 Peter 5:5)
50. Feel Mature
How to Deal with Pride in Your Life
1. Ask God to illuminate your heart so you can begin to see the fruits of pride in your life.
Ask friends to point out the fruits of pride in your life realizing your heart is exceedingly deceitful. Be self-suspicious.
2. Ask God to convict you point by point (Psalm 139:23-24) and trust that he will. You don’t want or need general condemnation, only specific, godly conviction.
3. Confess your pride to God point by point and ask for his forgiveness. Just as importantly, ask him to cleanse you of all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).
4. Don’t ask God to humble you – the Scripture says to humble yourself (1 Peter 5:6).
Humility isn’t an emotion; it’s a decision of the will to think and act differently.
5. Confess your sins of pride to those you have affected and to your friends. They can help to hold you accountable and bring the on-going encouragement and correction you will need.
6. Ask God to give you a holy hatred for pride and its fruits in your life. Be continually on the alert. Don’t allow pride to grow in your heart.
7. Ask God to give you a love for anonymity. Encourage and serve others each and every day. Associate with the lowly.
8. Think much about God and little about yourself. Regularly study the goodness and greatness of God.
9. Live to promote the reputation of God and not your own. Be impressed with God – don’t be impressed with yourself. Find your satisfaction in him and not in your vain accomplishments.
10. Remember your war against pride is life-long. It is not a battle won in a day. But as you faithfully put pride to death and put on humility, you will experience greater freedom and more importantly greater conformity to image and likeness of Christ. In so doing, God will be glorified in your life!
Pursue the Servant’s Mindset
by Stuart Scott
When we counsel, we often encounter an underlying attitude to one degree or another. At times our counselees are defensive, resistant, stubborn, or disrespectful. Some debate whether or not they will obey God. Others grow poorly or not at all. Those we counsel display anger, impatience, fear, anxiety, and depression. All these are symptomatic of pride.
The fact is, we also face pride on the other side of the desk. As counselors, pastors, and disciplers, we often convey a neo-gnostic attitude, as if we’re the experts or the professionals. Some of us talk down to those to whom we minister, rather than coming alongside of them. We may say things like, “I can’t understand why you believe that!,” “I can’t believe you do such a thing!” or “I can’t believe you think like that!” Some in ministry give the excuse, “I’m just not the compassionate type.” Such counselors are not like Christ: He is full of compassion. We, too, need to exercise kindness and gentleness in ministering to others.
Some of us may believe or act as if we are the local Apostle, that everyone in the whole city with problems should call us. That’s pride! We can be so critical that we act more like a guard dog than a shepherd. We know exactly what we’re against, but people don’t know we’re for them. Some counselors emphasize doctrine and the exegesis of God’s word as if they could stand alone, divorced from life. That’s pride: knowledge by itself puffs up. Others of us may emphasize practical application to life without careful study of how God’s word must undergird practice, thus offering mere morality without a vital connection to life in Christ. With such an epidemic of pride, the virtue of humility is perennially on the endangered list.
Consider Philippians 1:27-2:11: Conduct yourself in a manner worthy of the gospel… Do nothing from selfishness—the word meant someone who didn’t want to work, but just wanted the money—or empty conceit, literally, empty praise. With humility of mind, let each of you regard one another as more important than himself…Have this attitude in yourselves, which was also in Christ Jesus…who humbled Himself. The church in Philippi was near and dear to the apostle Paul’s heart. He pleads for unity, and he teaches that unity can only be based on humility. The servant’s mindset puts off the epidemic vice, pride, and puts on Christ’s virtue, humility.
C.S. Lewis says, “Well, now, we have come to the center. According to Christian teachers, the essential vice, the utmost evil, is pride. Unchastity, anger, grief, drunkenness and all that are mere flea bites in comparison. It was through pride that the devil became the devil. Pride leads to every vice. It is a complete anti-God state of mind.”1
We know from 2 Timothy 3 that in the last time we will see people who are lovers of self, boastful, and arrogant. If pride characterizes your life, you can’t be saved: only the poor in spirit are able to enter the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 5:3). God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble (James 4:6). Chrysostom said, “Pride is the mother of hell.” More recently it has been said that the world’s smallest package is a man wrapped up in himself. Pride is a root issue, deeply planted as the innermost layer of an onion. Many problems in life are just symptoms of the root issue, pride.
Scriptural references to pride abound:
• The temptation to Eve and Adam was, “Take this, disobey, and you will be like God” (Gen. 3:5).
• “In his pride the wicked does not seek God; in all his thoughts there is no room for God” (Ps. 10:4).
• “To fear the Lord is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech” (Prov. 8:13).
• “The Lord detests all the proud in heart. Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished” (Prov. 16:5).
• “Stop trusting in man, who has but a breath in his nostrils; of what account is he?” (Isa. 2:22).
Illustration after illustration of pride appears in Scripture. Uzziah served God for many years, growing prosperous, famous, and strong: “but when he became strong, his heart was so proud that he acted corruptly” (2 Chron. 26:16). Nebuchadnezzar’s arrogance ruined his life, until he humbled himself before the Most High, praising the One who “is able to humble those who walk in pride” (Dan. 4:37). Belshazzar failed to learn his father’s lesson, exalting himself, not God, and was destroyed for his pride (Dan. 5:18-30). The Pharisee in Luke 18:10-14 ended up praying only to himself because he considered himself so superior and righteous. The danger is always in thinking too highly of yourself. We never find the Scriptures saying, “You’re thinking too poorly of yourself.”
In 1 Corinthians 4:7, Paul says, “What do you have that you did not receive?” So why do we boast of our achievements and abilities? Why do we rely on ourselves? In Ephesians 4:2, Paul tells us to live in a manner worthy of our calling, in humility, gentleness, patience, and long-suffering. So why are we proud, hard, impatient, and irritable? In 1 Timothy 3 we are warned not to bring new converts into leadership too quickly lest they become conceited, boastful and proud. James and Peter both say God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble (James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5).
Interestingly, six different Hebrew words are used for pride. All of them convey the lifting up of self, to be high, majestic, presumptuous, or rebellious. In the Greek, the words for pride occur in two different categories. One particular word group suggests the meaning of “strains the neck,” “being held up high because of what one thinks he has made of himself or accomplished,” “to magnify,” or “haughty.” The other word group in the Greek conveys a blindness, “to envelop with smoke.” Throughout the Scriptures, in both languages, we find people portrayed as having a high view of themselves. While they’re up there (on high) in their own thinking, they’re blind. Biblical synonyms are vainglory, conceit, boasting, arrogance, sloppiness, presumption, haughtiness, being puffed up, high-mindedness, scoffing.
What’s the definition of pride? If we could sum it up, it’s the mindset of self, the pursuit of self-exaltation, a focus on the desire to control all things for self. In exalting himself, the person actually believes, “I am valuable and worthy. I am the source of anything good or wise or successful. I deserve the credit for whatever I achieve or acquire. I deserve love, admiration, and respect. All good things are from me, through me and to me. All honor and glory should go to me for my enjoyment and pleasure.” Our instinct is to say, as Nebuchadnezzar did when he walked on the rooftop overlooking Babylon, “Isn’t this Babylon that I have built by the power of my hands and for my glory?” Most people don’t say those things out loud, but that is what they are thinking and how they are living.
That describes the arrogant. But what about those who are caught up in self-pity, who are self-absorbed with a sense of failure? Well, they are just on the flip side: they want to be good in and of themselves. They want to do things in and by their own power and might. They want everyone to serve them, like them, and approve of them. Both the haves and the have-nots are eaten up with pride. The whole self-esteem movement consists of have-nots hoping to be the haves. “Low self-esteem” is pride failing to get what it wants. The lustful cravings are still simply pride. Many, if they have God in mind at all, say He is here for them as a cosmic genie. They seek to domesticate God to their ends, or they just invent a totally different god of their own making.
Pride can be labeled as “practical atheism.” Thomas Watson in Body of Divinity says that every man is a would-be God. Pride amounts to seeking to ungod God. What man doesn’t realize is that there is no vacancy in the Trinity.
It’s hard to put on humility if you don’t think you have pride. The characteristics of pride can be understood as follows:
(1) Being blind, unable to see pride. Pride envelops itself in smoke unless you’re in the mirror of God’s word and God, by His grace, allows you to see your sin and its magnitude. Many people see the logs in other people’s eyes and maybe the speck in their own. They may even say “I’m proud” and then move right on as if it were insignificant.
(2) Being unthankful. Proud people think they deserve only what is good. The result is, why should they be thankful? As a matter of fact, they may even complain because they think they deserve better. They tend to be critical and complainers. One of our professors at the seminary sized up a student, saying, “This person is a walking minus sign!” They may grumble, be discontent, see the downside of everything, be quarrelsome and divisive. No one is safe around this type of person.
(3) Outbursts of anger, withdrawing, pouting, being moody or impatient because one’s rights or schedules aren’t being met.
(4) Perfectionistic-type persons who want to be the best at everything are also proud. Why? Because it’s self-serving. They brag and talk about themselves all the time. It reminds me of a cartoon of Garfield talking to Odie, the dog. He says, “Odie, I’m tired of talking about me. You talk about me for awhile.” Some have an inflated view of their own importance, abilities, and talents.
(5) Seeking independence. Some proud people find it extremely difficult to work under someone else, to submit. They have to be their own boss. They say, “I don’t need anyone. I don’t need accountability for my faith and doctrine.” Others cut themselves down with comments, but inwardly they crave self-sufficiency.
(6) Monopolizing conversations, being rigid, stubborn, headstrong, and intimidating, saying, “It’s my way or the highway.”
(7) Being consumed with what others might think of them, being man-pleasers or man-fearers.
(8) Being devastated by criticism.
(9) Not listening very well. They compose what they are going to say while you’re speaking.
(10) Being unteachable. They know it all. They’re superior. They can’t learn anything.
(11) Being sarcastic, hurtful, jesting, saying, “That’s just the way I am. That’s my personality. I’m A-type. I’m dominant, choleric, lion, beaver, mule,” whatever else you want to call them!
(12) Wanting to be praised or to be coaxed to serve. Unwillingness to initiate or commit to the right thing simply to please God. I like Jay Adams’ answer to people who leave churches and say, “That was a cold place.” He says, “Go warm it up!” Such people are just consumed with themselves, jealous, envious, not glad for others’ successes, deceitful, covering up faults, rarely seeking help, fake, and hypocritical.
(13) Being defensive: “It can’t be my fault!” Then they attack one another. Revenge, trivializing their sin, rationalizing it, justifying it, judging others by their own self-made standards. Often proud people rarely admit their sin or ask for forgiveness.
(14) Lacking in biblical prayer, in service to other people, and in sacrificial deeds of love. (Thomas Watson said, “We should pray without ceasing because beggars beg.”) Instead, being touchy, irritable, or ultrasensitive.
(15) Resisting authority, being disrespectful. We say he or she has a submission problem. No, they have a pride problem. It’s displaying itself that way. This person is rarely concerned about the welfare of someone else. They view and judge others in terms of how others support them and their concerns, their ministry. They voice their preferences at times, even when not asked. When they do voice them, it’s without compassion or consideration for others. They convey an unapproachableness. Even when someone points out a flaw, there’s always a quick retort, minimizing it and moving on.
Isn’t it clear that proud people are useless for God’s kingdom? They are unfruitful. They tend not to learn through trials and afflictions, instead always saying, “Why me? Why is this happening to me?” Throughout the Scriptures you see the pride of position, ability, achievement, wealth and possessions, knowledge and learning, spiritual attainment, and even pride of spiritual experiences. It’s like spiritual drunkenness that flies up like wine into the brain and intoxicates. It’s idolatry. A proud man is a self-worshiper. G. K. Chesterton said we are like the donkey who thinks the shouts and the palms are for him when they really were for the Christ whom he carried.
Perhaps you have heard this illustration before. If one person calls you a mule, you might dispute it. If two call you a mule, start looking seriously for hoof prints. If three call you a mule, get a saddle. For the proud person, it doesn’t matter how many times different people say the same thing: nothing happens. Proud people minimize and rationalize. In the Bible, Satan, King Saul, King Uzziah, Nebuchadnezzar, the Pharisee (Luke 18), King Herod (Acts 12), and Diotrephes (3 John) are all examples of proud men.
I was talking to someone who helps people in Christian circles reconcile their differences and divisions. He told me one of the biggest issues among God’s people is pride: pride lies behind strife and prevents peacemaking.
We have examined the epidemic vice of pride. Let’s look now at the endangered virtue of humility. In 1 Peter 5:5,6, Peter says, “Clothe yourselves with humility” (literally translated “tie a knot”). Some suggest that Peter is alluding to when Jesus put on an apron and bowed down to wash the disciples’ feet. He knelt down and tied a knot. We also are to tie a knot of humility about ourselves. It is an exhortation, which means God’s grace can enable us to do it. It is a work of God’s Spirit within, not a personality thing or something you stick on the outside. It’s not “be like Jesus” outwardly only. It is produced with the life of Christ inside, the work of the Holy Spirit sanctifying us. But we have to work at it as well. Philippians 2 says it is an attitude. “Have this mindset.”
Spurgeon said about humility, “The longer I live, and I think it is so with most Christians, the more I feel that everything must be of grace from the first to the last if I am to be saved. Grace chose us and grace redeemed us; grace calls us and grace renews us; grace preserves and grace must perfect us or else nothing will come of all our hope and desires. Our religion will be a flash in the pan, a disappointment at the last, and a failure forever.”
Three hundred years ago Thomas Brooks wrote, “Ah, young men, young men, had others a window tolook into your breasts and did your hearts stand where your faces do, you would even be afraid of yourselves. You would loathe and abhor yourselves. Ah, young men, young men, as you would have God keep house with you, as you would enter His mind and secrets made known to you, as you would have Christ to delight in you and the spirit to dwell in you, as you would be honored among the saints and attended and guarded by angels, get humble and keep humble.”
We need that message today, don’t we? It is, in fact, possible to walk humbly. I remember growing up hearing, “If you think you’re walking humbly, you’re not!” But that’s not true! We’re commanded to love, so I think it’s possible to say, “As a pattern of my life, I’m seeking to be loving.” It’s the same thing with humility. As a pattern of your life, you can walk humbly before God. It is a motive and mindset that you display.
References to humility occur throughout Scripture. God says, “I am the Lord, that is my name. I will not give my glory to another” (Isa. 42:8). God is great; we are small. God says, “For thus says the high and exalted one, who lives forever, whose name is holy, ‘I dwell on a high and holy place, and also with the contrite and lowly of spirit in order to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite’” (Isa. 57:15). God comes to humble people.
You see the Lord Jesus displaying and describing Himself this way: “I am meek and lowly of heart” (Matt. 11:29). Later, He bows low to wash the feet of His disciples (John 13:3-17). He tells us to do the same. So does Ephesians 4:1-3: “Walk in this manner; put on humility.” And Colossians 3:12: “And so as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.”
The terms used in Hebrew and Greek for this character of humility all refer to bowing low, crouching. Bowing low used to be a sign of oppression and affliction in the Old Testament, an attitude of mind of one who bends down. It’s an attitude of heart, the real you. It means to bring low, to yield, to give way to God’s way. Humility is the pursuit to magnify Christ by bowing low in complete adoration and obedience. It’s the pursuit of magnifying Christ, not self, realizing that all goodness, honor, and glory comes from God and needs to go to God. It confesses that anything good, wise, or helpful comes from Him and is done by Him or through Him, and the goal is for Him. Such a mind is what Christ displayed when He was here.
So how should we view others through the eyeglasses of humility? We should worship God by loving and serving others. The eyeglasses of pride look instead for opportunities to manipulate and use people. With pride, all is conditional. Not so with humility. Humility is sacrificially giving what is best for others. If others are unsaved, it’s presenting the gospel to them. If they are believers, it’s asking how we can help them in their sanctification. How can we help them be more like Jesus Christ? That’s humility. That’s the mindset of the servant, Jesus Christ.
I encourage anyone who is meditating on how to replace pride with humility to study the life of Christ in the Gospels. Jesus says He’s meek and lowly of heart, so watch Him in action. Whatever Jesus said and did for our good was directed totally by the Father. In John 8:28 Jesus said, “When you lift up the Son of Man, you will know that I am He. I do nothing on my own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught me. He who sent me is with me, and He has not left me alone. I always do the things that are pleasing to Him.” It’s what Paul recognized when he looked at God and man, and what God had done for man. He said, “From Him, through Him, and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever” (Rom. 11:36). Again, it’s inwardly designed. It’s a work of God in the heart of man. You can’t put this on externally. It is God who produces it in you in relationship with Him. When someone cries out, “Oh, God, be merciful to me, a sinner,” like the publican did, the Lord takes mercy and showers grace upon that individual. It is to be beggar-like in our minds. It’s a daily mindset: from God and through God and to God belong all things. There’s no personal authority for what I want. There’s only delegated authority to accomplish God’s will.
Here are ten different ways to display humility:
(1) Focus on our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ as the author and perfecter of our faith. In the short epistle to the Philippians, you’ll find the word Jesus, Savior, Christ, or Lord in 51 out of 104 verses. Paul was consumed with Christ. For Him, to live was Christ and to die was gain. His ambition, whether absent or present, was to please God. It should be your ambition as well. He yearned after knowing Christ. He focused on Christ.
(2) Be overwhelmed by God’s goodness. A humble Christian will be thankful. Unthankfulness characterizes the unsaved (Rom. 1:21). Grumbling is a capital crime (1 Cor. 10:10). Thankfulness characterizes the humble believer. “Give thanks in all things, for this is the will of God” (1 Thess. 5:18).
(3) Commune with God. Be extremely dependent upon God in prayer. As I mentioned earlier, beggars beg. You will pray without ceasing. You can’t help it. We need God. We need His grace. We’ll be dependent on Him in prayer.
(4) Serve others. Actively minister to other people. A humble Christian wants to be useful and fruitful. That’s why we’re here, to prefer others to ourselves, to share Christ with the unsaved, to help those who are saved to be built up in Christ. The humble looks for ways to serve. We won’t wait to be asked, and no task will be too menial.
(5) Obey God’s revealed will in all things. Romans 12 tells us that a believer is to be a living sacrifice with a mind renewed by the Spirit and word of God. Humble Christians won’t be mystical and subjective but will apply God’s word, both direct statements and indirect implications. They will seek His principles: “What saith the Lord?”
(6) Learn from others. Humble Christians are teachable. They know how little they know, so they’re eager to learn. They’re team players.
(7) Encourage others. Jesus always encouraged His disciples and those around Him. Paul did the same in the churches as he wrote to them. We need encouragement, reminding, comfort, and guidance every day, more and more as the day approaches for Christ’s return (Heb. 3:12ff). Hebrews 10:24 says what fellowship is all about: “Encourage one another. Stir one another up to love and good deeds.”
(8) Pursue integrity in private as well as public life. If it’s not in your private life, you have no business exporting what you don’t have. The humble life is an honest life that seeks to be blameless.
(9) Deny self by assuming no rights, living unto Christ, buffeting the body, keeping it under subjection, exercising yourself unto godliness, mortifying sins and the deeds of the flesh. The humble Christian accepts none of the “protect my boundaries” attitude that the proud person insists on in order to get what he wants.
(10) Think rightly or soberly about yourself while bowing low before God and others. John Bradford looked from his window upon the road to the gallows at Tyebourne. Day after day he saw poor, condemned prisoners being carried in a cart to die. He was known to say, “There goes John Bradford but for the grace of God.”
Examples of humility in Scripture abound. Abraham gave Lot first choice when they parted company and divided the land (Gen. 13). Moses was said to be “more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth” (Num. 12:3). John the Baptist acknowledged that he was not worthy to untie Christ’s sandals (Luke 3:16). Mary, the mother of Jesus, submitted herself completely to God’s will: “My soul glorifies the Lord” (Luke 1:46). The tax collector beat his breast and prayed, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner” (Luke 18:13). The apostle Paul told the Ephesian elders, “I served the Lord with great humility and with tears” (Acts 20:19). Jesus is the standard for His people.
Consider how Jesus Himself replaces the following types of pride with His own humility.
• Birth and rank? “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son?” (Matt. 13:55)
• Wealth? “The Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head” (Matt. 8:20).
• Respectability? “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” (John 1:46)
• Personal appearance? “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him” (Isa. 53:2).
• Reputation? “Here is…a friend of tax collectors and sinners” (Matt. 11:19).
• Learning? “How did this man get such learning without having studied?” (John 7:15)
• Superiority? “But I am among you as one who serves” (Luke 22:27).
• Success? “For even His own brothers did not believe in Him” (John 7:5). “He was despised and rejected by men” (Isa. 53:3).
• Ability? “For He was crucified in weakness, but He lives by the power of God” (2 Cor. 13:4).
• Self-will? “For I have come down from Heaven not to do my will but to do the will of Him who sent me” (John 6:38).
• Intellect? “I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me” (John 8:28).
• Honorable death? “Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with Him to be executed” (Luke 23:32).
Aren’t Jesus’ characteristics just the opposite of what is valued today? Without humility there can be no true repentance, no true faith, no true love and obedience. In counseling and ministry, if there is no replacement of pride with humility, no growing in lowly dependency and submission, then a person will not exercise true godliness. John Owens said, “There is indeed no better frame of heart to be attained in this life and whereby it is to the Word as the wax to the seal.” That should be the state of our hearts. As wax is to the seal, so our heart needs to be impressed with the Word of God.
We can help our counselees learn to apply these principles of humility by appealing to four areas: instruction, reproof, correction, and training (2 Tim. 3:16).
First, how can you instruct counselees? Encourage them to study God and read about His character. The sight of glory humbles, doesn’t it? Watson said, “The moon has no cause to be proud of her light when she borrows it from the sun.” Study Christ (Phil. 2:5). Focus on the life of Christ in the Gospels. By revealing God’s glory and grace, the Bible teaches people what is right.
Second, reproof teaches what is wrong. The Bible teaches us to see our pride for what it is: sin! “Haughty eyes and a proud heart, the lamp of the wicked is sin” (Prov. 21:4). The life of Job illustrates the process of reproof. God presses Job with questions that lower Job and exalt God in Job’s mind and eyes (Job 38-41). Interestingly, halfway through, Job says, “I think I’ll be quiet” (Job 40:4f). At that point we might think, “Good, you got the message. Now we’ll move on to the rest of the story.” We need instead to linger, fully exposing and convicting pride in our own lives. The Lord says, “I’m not through with you yet. I have a few more questions for you.” He goes on for two more chapters. By the end, Job doesn’t say, “I’ll be quiet.” He says, “I repent” (Job 42:6).
Don’t we tend to take too quick a look at the pride that shows up in our lives? Aren’t we too slow to admit we need humility instead? We need to see and acknowledge pride for what it is: an awful, wicked abomination. It amounts to us saying, “From me and through me and to me belong all things!” How insidious! Acknowledge it as sin. Confess it. Say the same thing that God says about it and repent.
Third, correction teaches us how to proceed to make things right at the level of motives, thoughts, speech, and actions. This is not something external only. The change process does not bypass the heart. You don’t break habits; you replace them by moving with God’s Spirit. He touches and humbles the proud heart at the root of its motivations. If I just try to put on new thoughts and new actions alone, without replacing who I’m living for and what I want, I’m missing something great: the Lord! Paul says, “So we make it our goal to please Him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it” (2 Cor. 5:9). We must come to a point where we are able to admit, “Lord, I’ve been thinking about me and what I want! I repent of that, at the level of motives. I love you!” God’s word searches straight down into the heart. There’s nothing deeper in the heart than thoughts and motives (Heb. 4:12). Motives and beliefs are transformed and replaced as we take to heart the word of God, with God’s Spirit and other people helping us. We begin to consider how we can be useful and fruitful. It’s an act of the will by the help of the Spirit of God “who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose” (Phil. 2:13). Correction comes from inside the heart and results in Christlike fruit.
Finally, after instruction, reproof and correction, comes training in righteousness. The process continues as you learn humility. Enlist the help of people around you. Ask them to bring to your attention any evidence of pride in your life. Desire to walk humbly—not proudly—before God, to be useful and fruitful for the Master. Consider this illustration of what our orientation needs to be. Two men sat in the back of a church one morning after the message was given. When the pastor said “Amen,” one man looked at the other and said, “Boy! I’m glad that sermon is over!” The other replied, “Actually, it’s just beginning!” Pride does not die once and is done; it dies daily.
Meditate on how God wants to implant the truths of Philippians 2:1-16 in every heart. Humility makes us shine with God’s glory. May our focus remain not on ourselves but turn instead to our Lord Jesus Christ if we are to love and serve others well.
Let’s pray to Him now.
Lord, there’s going to be a day when thousands and thousands will say in unison, “Worthy art Thou, O Lord our God, to receive glory and honor and power for Thou hast created all things and because of Thy will they existed and were created. To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.” Lord, may we do here on earth what we will do in heaven: bowing low and lifting You high.
Now unto Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior through Jesus Christ, our Lord, be glory and majesty, dominion, and authority before all time and now and forever. Amen.
Stuart Scott is Professor of Biblical Counseling at The Master’s College in Newhall, California. He also oversees Discipleship Counseling at Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California.
The Journal of Biblical Counseling • Volume 17 • Number 3 • Spring 1999
Pride & Humility
The Prescription for “I” Strain
by June Hunt
A. What Is Pride?
In English the word pride has two meanings:
• a spirit of conceit or superior worth (a negative quality)
• a spirit of pleasing satisfaction or proper self-worth (a positive quality)
In Greek, the word huperephanos means “arrogant, proud or appearing above others.” (huper means above, phaino means to appear)
In the New Testament pride is nearly always used in the negative sense of being haughty, disdainful and proud.
“People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy.”
(2 Timothy 3:2)
B. What Is Humility?
In English, the word humility has two meanings:
• a spirit of respectfulness, deference and meekness (a positive quality)
• a spirit of insignificance, inferiority and subserviance (a negative quality)
In Greek, the word tapeinos means humble in spirit or lowly.
In the New Testament humility is nearly always used in the positive sense denoting a lowliness or humbleness of mind.
“Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
Secular Perception of Pride
Scriptual Heart of Humility
|• Never admit a weakness.||• Delight in your weakness“That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10)|
|• Hold on to your rights.||• Yield your personal rights.“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:5–8)|
|• Seek vindicationat all costs.||• Wait on God’s vindication“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” (1 Peter 5:6)|
|• Seek recognition and praise for yourself||• Let praise come only from others.“Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; someone else, and not your own lips.” (Proverbs 27:2)|
|• Seek revengewhen offered.||• Be quick to overlook an offense.“A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense.” (Proverbs 19:11)|
|• Seek wordly knowledge (intellectualism).||• Seek God’s wisdom.“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” (Proverbs 9:10)|
|• Do not ask advicefrom others.||• Seek advice from others“The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice.” (Proverbs 12:15)|
|• Continually compareyourself with others.||• Refuse useless comparisons.“We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.” (2 Corinthians 10:12)|
|• Think highlyabout yourself in order to achieve a good self-image.||• Think honestly about yourself with accurate judgement.“For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.” (Romans 12:3)|
|• Desire the approval of others.||• Desire the approval of God “Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (Galatians 1:10)|
|• Find greatness through exercising power over others.||• Find greatness through serving others.“Jesus called them together and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.’ ” (Matthew 20:25–26)|
|• Perceive humility as a weakness.||• Perceive humility as a strength.“Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:4)|
III. Causes of a Prideful Nature
A. Surface Causes
Selling out to the world’s concept of success
“Here now is the man who did not make God his stronghold but trusted in his great wealth and grew strong by destroying others!” (Psalm 52:7)
Eliminating low self-worth by attempting to fill God-given inner needs apart from God
• unconditional love
“My people come to you, as they usually do, and sit before you to listen to your words, but they do not put them into practice. With their mouths they express devotion, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain. Indeed, to them you are nothing more than one who sings love songs with a beautiful voice and plays an instrument well, for they hear your words but do not put them into practice.” (Ezekiel 33:31–32)
Lifting the burden of guilt for their sins through personal performance
• rejection of Christ’s sacrifice for sin
• good works
“Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.” (Romans 10:3)
Focusing on self
“People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy.” (2 Timothy 3:2)
B. Root Cause
“It’s appropriate to feel significant and proud.… I work hard to build a successful life.”
My success comes not from self-effort, which produces pride, but from letting Christ build His character within me. Only what is done through the power of Christ’s life inside me has lasting results.
“For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.” (1 Corinthians 3:11–15)
IV. Steps to Solution
A. Key Verse to Memorize
“He gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ ”
B. Key Passage to Read and Reread
THE PHARISEE AND THE PUBLICAN
SPIRITUAL PRIDE GODLY HUMILITY
confident of own self-righteousness v. 9 /persumes no self-righteousness v. 13
looks down on others v. 9 /recognizes unworthiness before God v. 13
does not admit personal sin v. 11 /admits personal sin v. 13
sees faults of others v. 11 /sees own faults and need for forgiveness v. 13
performs religious deeds before others v. 12 /prays for mercy before God v. 13
refuses salvation and exalts self v. 14 /receives salvation and is exalted by God v. 14
C. Test of True Humility
Do you feel joy when others are honored?
Do you honestly and openly admit sin?
Do you seek truth from others regarding your weaknesses?
Do you accept criticism graciously?
Do you turn all worry, anxiety and concern over to the Lord?
Do you respond with humility when you have been replaced?
Do you pursue godliness in all that you do?
Do you feel you can answer yes to most of these questions?
If most of your answers are yes—take a look at yourself—you may have failed the test of True Humility!
D. Know How God Brings Pressure for Change
“Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”
• Removal of the source of pride
“When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him. Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more. He said to them, ‘Listen to this dream I had: We were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it.’ His brothers said to him, ‘Do you intend to reign over us? Will you actually rule us?’ And they hated him all the more because of his dream and what he had said.” (Genesis 37:4–8) (Also Read Genesis 37:23–24.)
• Rejection by friends and relatives
“One day, after Moses had grown up, he went out to where his own people were and watched them at their hard labor. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his own people. Glancing this way and that and seeing no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. The next day he went out and saw two Hebrews fighting. He asked the one in the wrong, ‘Why are you hitting your fellow Hebrew?’ The man said, ‘Who made you ruler and judge over us? Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian?’ Then Moses was afraid and thought, ‘What I did must have become known.’ ” (Exodus 2:11–14)
• Rebuke through authorities
“The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: ‘Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.’ ” (Luke 22:61)
• Reversal of circumstances
“Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head. Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes. His wife said to him, ‘Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die!’ He replied, ‘You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?’ In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.” (Job 2:7–10) (Read Job 1:13–22; all of chapter 38; 40:2–4; 42:5–6.)
• Refusal of prayer requests
“To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (2 Corinthians 12:7–9)
E. Christian Humility
|If there is …|
• Encouragement in Christ
• Comfort of love
• Fellowship with the Spirit
• Tenderness and compassion
Then Christians will …
• Think the same way
• Share the same feeling
• Focus on one goal
• Look out for the interests of others
Make Your Attitude That of Christ Jesus
• Did not use His equality with God for His own advantage
• Gave up His privileges by assuming the form of a slave
• Humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death
• Realize that God is working in you
• Do everything without complaining and arguing
• Hold firmly to the message of life
F. Pray for a Heart of Humility
• Recognize humility as a Christian’s most divine clothing.
“Lord, teach me what it means to clothe myself with humility.”
“Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ ” (1 Peter 5:5)
• Embrace God’s perspective toward pride.
“Lord, may I hate pride as You hate pride.”
“To fear the Lord is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech.” (Proverbs 8:13)
• Pray for God to reveal your blind spots.
“Lord, reveal the pride that is hidden in my heart.”
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23–24)
• Focus on the character of Christ, not on your own sin.
“Lord, help me to follow Your example.”
“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2)
• Respond with humility to God’s influences in your life.
— the Word of God
— the authorities in your life
— the counsel of family and friends
— the discipline of God
“Lord, help me to respond quickly to discipline with a positive attitude.”
“My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.” (Proverbs 3:11–12)
• Accept everything God allows in your life with gratitude.
“Lord, help me to see Your loving hand in all difficult circumstances.”
“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
• Develop a servant’s heart toward others.
“Lord, help me have a servant’s heart and respond to the needs of others.”
“The greatest among you will be your servant.” (Matthew 23:11)
• Respond to rebuke and submit to the life of Christ within you.
“Lord, may others see Your humble character reflected through me.”
“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
When you have a heart of humility, you reflect the heart of God.
The Humility of Christ vs. the Human Pride of …
“The Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing.” (John 5:19)
“Isn’t this the carpenter’s son?” (Matthew 13:55)
• Personal Appearance
“He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.” (Isaiah 53:2)
“My teaching is not my own. It comes from him who sent me.” (John 7:16)
“He was despised and rejected by men.” (Isaiah 53:3)
“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.” (John 15:18)
“I do not accept praise from men.” (John 5:41)
“Even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve.” (Mark 10:45)
“The Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” (Matthew 8:20)
“Yet not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39)
Allender, Dan B. “Humility: Antidote to Shame.” In IBC Perspective. Winona Lake, IN: Institute of Biblical Counseling, n.d.
Baumbich, Charlene Ann. How to Eat Humble Pie & Not Get Indigestion. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1993.
Blackaby, Henry T., and Claude V. King. Fresh Encounter: Experiencing God Through Prayer, Humility and a Heartfelt Desire to Know Him. Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1996.
Hunt, June. Counseling Through Your Bible Handbook. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2007.
Hunt, June. How to Forgive … When You Don’t Feel Like It. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2007.
Hunt, June. How to Handle Your Emotions. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2008.
Hunt, June. Seeing Yourself Through God’s Eyes. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2008.
Kelfer, Russell. The High Cost of Humility. San Antonio, TX: Discipleship Tape Ministries, 1982.
Kelfer, Russell. The Perennial Problem of Pride. San Antonio, TX: Discipleship Tape Ministries, 1982.
Kelfer, Russell. Wanted: Correctable Christians: Part 1. San Antonio, TX: Discipleship Tape Ministries, 1982.
Kelfer, Russell. What Is Humility? San Antonio, TX: Discipleship Tape Ministries, n.d.
Keller, W. Phillip. Predators in Our Pulpits. Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 1988.
McCullough, Donald. “The Lord Helps Those Who Can’t Help Themselves.” Discipleship Journal, May/June 1989.
Moody, D. L. The Overcoming Life. Chicago: Moody, 1994.
Murray, Andrew. Humility. Springdale, PA: Whitaker House, 1982.
Stowell, Joseph M. Perilous Pursuits. Chicago: Moody, 1994.
Love’s Power Over Pride
The Bible tells us that pride is an infectious, insidious sin. It invites God’s judgment and destroys all that it touches. In this lesson we’ll find out what happens when love encounters pride.
I. The Problem of Pride
A. Pride on the Outside
B. Pride on the Inside
II. What Pride Does
A. Pride Ignores God’s Sovereignty
B. Pride Invites God’s Judgment
C. Pride Interrupts God’s Peace and Love
The next weed that is likely to grow in the garden of your love and squeeze out the flower of agape is pride. The Bible tells us that in God’s love there is no room for pride. “Love does not parade itself, is not puffed up” (1 Corinthians 13:4b). J. B. Phillips has translated that: “Love is neither anxious to impress, nor does it cherish inflated ideas of its own importance.” There are two expressions here: one speaks of what love does on the outside if it gets caught up with pride. The other has to do with what pride is on the inside.
Pride on the Outside
Boasting is what happens to a proud person on the outside. As you read through the Old and New Testaments you will see many different catalogs of sins, but the sin of pride finds its way to the top of every list. Proverbs tells us there are six things which God hates. At the very top of that list is a proud look. Someone has defined pride as an exaggerated and dishonest self-evaluation. It says, “I want people to accept me despite my own awareness that it is a false evaluation.” Pride seeks value, honor, importance, reputation, and significance that it does not deserve. Pride is an ego-motivated maneuver to hide from the truth about myself. It cannot co-exist with love, for agape love always seeks the best interest of the other. Pride is so consumed with its own best interests that it has no time to look at the concerns of others. Pride is the enemy of love.
Pride on the Inside
If you had visited that church, you would have met Christians who were haughty, arrogant, and preoccupied with their own importance. Paul confronted them about their pride, using the unique phrase, love “is not puffed up.” Being puffed up is what happens to a proud person on the inside. You can trace the use of that word in 1 Corinthians. In the fifth chapter we have the story of immorality in the church, but the church didn’t do anything about it. The reason behind the toleration of such sin is given to us in 1 Corinthians 5:1, “It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles—that a man has his father’s wife! You are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you.”
Paul says it is not so much that the sin should happen, but that they are so proud they cannot see the sin for what it is. They wanted to sit back in their sophisticated way and say, “It’s just the age. It’s just the time. It’s just the way things are now in this grown up, sophisticated society.” Paul says the problem is pride— pride in the church, too much pride to face sin for what it is!
Now consider 1 Corinthians 8:1: “Now concerning things offered to idols: We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies.” There is a play on words here, for the word “edify” means to “build up” and Paul gives us a choice: to puff up or build up. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. That is an excellent lesson for the superbly educated 20th century in which we live. Knowledge without love is simply an opportunity for us to build pride within our own spirit, but when we have love we can avoid the pride trap.
The word for “puffed up” in the Greek language gives us a picture of a blacksmith’s bellows filled up with air. Paul’s idea is that love is neither conceited nor arrogant, and doesn’t try to appear more grand than it really is. Have you ever been around people who are puffed up? Sometimes it is all you can do to resist sticking a pin in them so they will deflate. There is a story in Aesop’s fables of a fly that is sitting on the axle of a chariot, and exclaiming, “What dust do I raise!” It reminds me of people I know who really have nothing to say, but keep on bragging as if there were something worthy to hear.
Pride Ignores God’s Sovereignty
As you look at pride in the Scriptures and examine it in light of our ability to love one another, there are two or three things to notice. First, when a person has a proud heart as a Christian, it is basically because he has ignored the sovereignty of God in his life. In 1 Corinthians 4:7, Paul asks some penetrating and disturbing questions about the Corinthians’ proud hearts: “Who makes you differ from another?” Who is it that is responsible for making all of us different, unique, and individual? God has made us different! When we are proud, we have begun a process of ignoring the sovereignty of God in our lives.
Paul also asks, “What do you have that you did not receive?” The question Paul is asking is, “What do you have that didn’t come to you from God?” What is it that you now possess that you brought into the world of your own accord? If you are beautiful, so what? Where did it come from? If you are a good athlete, you have God-given ability. If you are intelligent, what is the reason for your intelligence apart from the fact that God has endowed you with the ability to think? There is no reason to become proud, because everything comes from God. “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven,” according to John 3:27. James 1:17 tells us, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of Lights.”
Then Paul asks, “Now, if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?” This third question points out the incongruity of boasting about what is nothing more than a gift which comes from God. By the standards of the world, the Corinthians might have had something to boast about, but Christians do not accept the standards of the world. The question we have to ask from 1 Corinthians 13 is, “How can I love with agape love if, from an ungrateful spirit, I ignore God’s love and provision for me in the gifts which he has given to me?” How can I ever learn to love you as one of God’s children if I am consumed with myself and do not give credit to God who has given me whatever I possess? Pride ignores God’s sovereignty.
Pride Invites God’s Judgment
If there is a deadly sin, one that is more wicked than any other, it has to be pride, for it is the only sin that specifically invites God’s judgement. James 4:6 tells us, “ ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ ” God resists the proud. The one thing that seems to turn the power of God off in a person’s life more than anything else is pride.
Take a look at the fourth chapter of Daniel concerning Nebuchadnezzar. You’ll find a passage rich in imagery of a proud man. Nebuchadnezzar, ruler of the greatest kingdom the world had ever known, is out taking a walk on the palace wall of the great city of Babylon. From his vantage point on the wall he is able to see the great golden palace. He can look outward to the huge walls that surround the city. The walls are 387 feet high, 85 feet wide; so wide that chariots four abreast could be driven on them. The city itself was a perfect square, fifteen miles on each side, the most powerful city of antiquity, boasting wide streets, filled with many public buildings and populated by 1.2 million inhabitants. The city was protected by a deep, wide moat filled with water. The mighty Euphrates River flowed in one side and out the other side, and the city, therefore, was well watered, filled with palm groves, gardens and orchards. Farmlands dotted all of the landscape, providing enough food to feed all the people in the city. Historians say they had so much food that when they were attacked they weren’t worried because they had enough food to last for 20 years. In the city were gigantic shrines to the deities of Babylon, beauty eclipsed only by the marvelous air conditioned hanging gardens which Nebuchadnezzar had built for his wife’s birthday present.
Now the king was walking along the top of the wall, looking out over the city. All of a sudden he was puffed up, overwhelmed with pride. His heart exploded into the words recorded in chapter four of Daniel: “Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for a royal dwelling by my mighty power and for the honor of my majesty” (Daniel 4:30). And God responds, “I have had enough of Nebuchadnezzar.” The next thing we see, the poor guy is crawling around in the grass outside of the palace, hair unkempt, fingernails long—a wolf man. God humbled him.
Pride is the original sin, if there is such a thing. It goes all the way back to when Satan was separated from God. Isaiah 14:12–14 says, “How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, you who weakened the nations! For you have said in your heart: ‘I will ascend into heaven. I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.’ ” And God said, “I have had enough of Lucifer!” Next thing we know, the separation has occurred and Satan and his demons are gone. With all of the difficulties and problems that God brings into our lives, things which we would never choose for ourselves, I wonder sometimes if they are simply God’s messengers to keep our feet on the ground and away from a proud heart.
Pride Interrupts God’s Peace and Love
Pride by its very nature is competitive. It is because I want to be the “big noise” at the party that I don’t like the other big noise at the party. Pride does not get pleasure out of something, but only out of having more of it than anyone else. We say that people are proud of being rich, or clever, or good looking, but they are not. They are proud of being richer, cleverer, or better looking than everyone else. If everyone else became equally rich, clever, or good looking, there would be nothing to be proud about. It is the comparison that makes you proud, the pleasure of being above everybody. Once the element of competition is gone, pride is gone with it.
Remember when you were growing up in high school, dating that particular young lady? There was a week when things were going particularly badly. You thought about dropping her. You had yourself mentally prepared, a speech all written out that you were going to deliver at the appropriate time… but something happened before you could do it. Another guy came into the picture, and before you could give her the speech, he asked her out, she said yes, and now you are ready to fight to the end to get her back. Two days ago you were going to give her up. Now you are going to the wall. Is it because you love her? No, it’s because you don’t want to lose. Pride by its very nature is competitive. A proud man never experiences peace. A guy who makes $10 million dollars a year can have boats, cars, and a house at the beach, but he’ll be out there driving like crazy to try to get more because he met a guy who makes $11 million a year! Pride interrupts peace and love.
Humbling Ourselves Before God
What should we do about pride in our lives? We need to humble ourselves before God. When you take a look at Scripture you see that either we humble ourselves, or God humbles us. Nebuchadnezzar had a shot at humbling himself before God had to humble him, but because he would not, God did it. The Bible tells us that if we will humble ourselves before God, He will exalt us. God does not forbid pride just because He is worried about His dignity. He wants us to know Him, and He recognizes that pride gets in the way of our approaching God and relying on Him. It is only through humility that we can come to know the God who is in heaven. Pride is a spiritual cancer. It eats up the very possibility of love in your life. It destroys your ability to love God and to love others. Pride is the sin of hell. It is the one thing that can literally destroy your chance to succeed in life.
You have the choice. You can choose to puff yourself up, or you can choose love.
1. What do you think Paul means when he says that love is “not puffed up”?
Can you describe someone you have known who was puffed up?
What did they do to make themselves seem puffed up?
How did you respond to that person?
Who is pride concerned with?
Who is agape love concerned with?
2. What were some of the problems in the Corinthian church?
See 1 Corinthians 1:10–12
In your view, what are the root causes of many of these problems?
What would you suggest to the Corinthians?
3. Re-write Colossians 2:18 in your own words.
4. What does John 3:27 and James 1:17 have to say about God’s role in our lives?
What does not recognizing God’s sovereignty lead to?
How does that get in the way of loving God?
5. What principles can you glean from the wisdom literature:
6. Explore these passages to see how pride invited God’s judgment:
7. How does pride come between you and God?
How does pride interrupt God’s peace in your life?
Why is it so important to come humbly before God?
How has God used circumstances in your life to keep you humble?
 Hunt, J. (2008). Biblical Counseling Keys on Pride & Humility: The Prescription for “I” Strain (1–12). Dallas, TX: Hope For The Heart.
 Jeremiah, D. (2004). The power of love: Study guide (41–49). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.