Christian Biblical Counsel: PRIDE & HUMILITY

Pride & Humility

The Prescription for “I” Strain

by June Hunt

I.     Definitions

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.”

(Matthew 18:4)


II.    Characteristics

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 vindication at 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 revenge when 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 advice from 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 compare yourself 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 highly about 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

•     achievement

•     acceptance

•     affluence

•     ability

“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

•     significance

•     security

“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

•     self-righteousness

•     good works

•     perfectionism

“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

•     self-interest

•     self-reliance

•     self-indulgence

•     self-satisfaction

•     self-esteem

•     self-fulfillment

•     self-respect

•     self-punishment

“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

Wrong Belief:

“It’s appropriate to feel significant and proud.… I work hard to build a successful life.”

Right Belief:

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.’ ”

(James 4:6)

B. Key Passage to Read and Reread

Luke 18:9–14

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

Through Humiliation

“Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”

(Proverbs 16:18)

•     Removal of the source of pride

Biblical example:

Joseph’s coat

“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

Biblical example:


“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

Biblical example:


“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

Biblical example:


“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

Biblical example:


“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

Philippians 2:1–16

If   there is …




•     Encouragement in Christ


v. 1


•     Comfort of love


v. 1


•     Fellowship with the Spirit


v. 1


•     Tenderness and compassion


v. 1


Then   Christians will …




•     Think the same way


v. 2


•     Share the same feeling


v. 2


•     Focus on one goal


v. 2


•     Look out for the interests of others


v. 3


Make Your Attitude That of Christ Jesus

Jesus   …




•     Did not use His equality with God for His   own advantage


v. 6


•     Gave up His privileges by assuming the   form of a slave


v. 7


•     Humbled Himself by becoming obedient to   the point of death


v. 8


Therefore   …




•     Realize that God is working in you


v. 13


•     Do everything without complaining and   arguing


v. 14


•     Hold firmly to the message of life


v. 16


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.”

(Galatians 2:20)

When you have a heart of humility, you reflect the heart   of God.

—June   Hunt



The Humility of Christ vs. the Human Pride of

•   Performance

“The Son can   do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing.” (John   5:19)

•   Parentage

“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)

•   Proficiency

“My teaching   is not my own. It comes from him who sent me.” (John 7:16)

•   Prestige

“He was   despised and rejected by men.” (Isaiah 53:3)

•   Popularity

“If the world   hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.” (John 15:18)

•   Praise

“I do not   accept praise from men.” (John 5:41)

•   Position

“Even the Son   of Man did not come to be served, but to serve.” (Mark 10:45)

•   Possessions

“The Son of   Man has no place to lay his head.” (Matthew 8:20)

•   Power

“Yet not as I   will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39)


selected bibliography

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.[1]


[1] Hunt, J. (2008). Biblical Counseling Keys on Pride & Humility: The Prescription for “I” Strain (1–12). Dallas, TX: Hope For The Heart.

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