You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’ –Isaiah 14:13
The notion of pride is often a confusing and misunderstood concept these days. Pride is closely related to arrogance which is considered bad yet we are constantly being told to take pride in things (like our work, home or appearance), which is considered good.
Is pride good or bad?
The biblical concept of pride has to do with a correct evaluation of oneself and one’s position within the divine order. When someone over-estimates their position in God’s divine order they are guilty of the sin of pride. This can best be summed up by the heart of Satan expressed in Isaiah 14:14.
“I will make myself like the Most High”
The over-estimation of self in relation to God is clearly evident by Satan in this verse. Satan over-estimates his standing in God’s order, believing himself equal to God, when in reality he is only a created being. Whilst Satan is most likely the greatest of all created beings, he is only a created being and thus far inferior to God Himself.
This prideful delusion has re-worked itself in today’s culture into the core beliefs of the New Age movement. “Liberating the god within” to ascertain spiritual enlightenment or “recognising your inner godhood” are all re-workings of the same self-delusional heart of pride exhibited by Satan in the beginning.
I don’t need God
There is another facet of human pride that denies God. This pride is rooted in the wilful ignorance (Romans 1:28, Zech 7:11, Job 21:14) of who God is. The Western world is particularly susceptible to this kind of pride because life has become so comfortable.
The blessings of God have been collected and stored and are distributed at the push of a button. It is men who “push the button” and this makes it very easy to forget that the actual blessing itself comes from God. Pride then takes root in the heart leading to the belief that we can go it alone.
“When I fed them, they were satisfied; when they were satisfied, they became proud; then they forgot me.” -Hosea 13:6
Humility – The Opposite of Pride
“For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities– all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” -Colossians 1:16-18
Humility is presented in the Bible as the opposite of pride and is considered the correct evaluation of oneself within God’s created order. In order for a man to be humble, he needs to correctly understand his relationship to God.
“For in Him we live and move and have our being” -Acts 17:28
Without God’s sustaining power we would cease to exist.
In Job 12:10 we are taught that “in His hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind”. This is an extremely humbling concept. Even when we are sinning, or an atheist is denying God’s existence, God is at that very moment, holding us in existence.
According to Acts 17:28 “we have our being” in Him. Our continued existence is sustained by Him from moment to moment.
God’s continuous work of holding us in existence from moment to moment should lead to true humility.
Humility in Christ
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” -Eph 2:8
Romans 3:23 says that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” – The Christian message cannot even begin without humility.
Not only must you admit that you are a sinner according to God’s perfect standard but you must also admit that no matter how good your actions, they will never be good enough to breach the gap between your sinfulness and God’s holiness.
Isaiah 64:4 teaches us that “all our righteous acts are like filthy rags” compared to God’s holy standard.
Not all Pride is Sinful
There is a pride in the Bible that is godly. This type of pride rejoices in the work that God is doing.
In 2 Corinthians 10:13 godly pride is demonstrated in boasting in the blessings of God, and in 2 Corinthians 7:4 the apostle Paul takes pride in God’s converts in Corinth.
We also read in Galatians 6:3-4 that Christians “should test their own actions” rightly evaluating their walk with Jesus, feeling proud if they walk uprightly. The key concept in the pride mentioned in Galatians 6:3 is that it is to do with rightly judging your OWN actions.
Romans 14:4 further emphasises the point that your pride must not be in relation to how others are walking with God. Your self evaluation must be between you and God alone, not a comparison between you and your “less godly” Christian neighbour.
Taking Pride in Your Home, Children or Work is Not Sinful
Taking pride in these and all other gifts of God is not sinful as long as the gift Giver is the focus. This type of pride correctly recognises the value of the gift God has entrusted to you and does its utmost to honour God’s trust. This type of pride is best exemplified by the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-40. A Christian may take pride in fully utilising the God given talents he has to produce a harvest for the LORD whilst fully acknowledging that God gave the talents in the first place. God is always the initiator.
Godly Pride Will Be Pride in God Alone. (1 Corinthians 1:31)
“Thus says the LORD, ‘Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD who exercises loving-kindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,’ declares the LORD.” -Jeremiah 9:23-24
Stealing God’s Glory
The Christian God is a jealous God who will not give His glory to another (Isaiah 42:8). At its heart sinful pride is when we steal glory from God and take it for ourselves.
Humility requires that we understand that everything we have and do is only possible because of God’s grace towards us. Without God we can do nothing.
This is not to say that we are to do nothing.
God has not saved us so we can relax and watch Him work. God has called us to participate in His redemptive work by His grace. It is right to feel godly pride when we participate in HIS work. But humility never forgets that it is always HIS work to HIS glory.
“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?” -1 Corinthians 4:7