Pride. It’s the ‘original sin’. It’s been here since the world first fell into sin. But what is it and why does it cause such a big fuss in the Bible?
What is Pride?
First, it would be helpful to define what pride is and honestly, this is where I was stuck before I even began writing. What is pride? It took a bit of researching and looking through definitions, but I find that St. Augustine’s version is the most accurate for this article. According to him, pride is “the love of one’s own excellence”. St. Augustine was, of course, a prominent theologian but let’s see how this definition goes up against the Bible.
The Bible and Pride
Pride has quite a few appearances in the Bible, which gives it a lot of variety in meaning. Interestingly, the word in Hebrew for pride varies depending on its context. Pride in the Bible can mean two main things. The first is exaltation, majesty and excellence. This definition can refer to two main things. Firstly, the exaltation, majesty and/or excellence of nations, through their wealth, power and/or magnificence of their buildings. Isaiah 13:19 reads, “And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the splendour and pomp of the Chaldeans” The ‘splendour and pomp here’ in other translations has been replaced with excellency and pride.
On the other hand, it can also refer to God. Exodus 15:7 says, “In the greatness of your majesty you threw down those who opposed you. You unleashed your burning anger; it consumed them like stubble.” The term ‘of your majesty’ is replaced with ‘of your excellence’ in other translations.
Aside from this, pride can be used for the usual definition we know for it, “the love of one’s own excellence”. Proverbs 16:18 is a good example: “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”
Pride itself goes a long, long way back. It is often referred to as the ‘original sin’. After all, everyone has faced it, starting from Adam and Eve. They exalted themselves over God’s wisdom, thinking they knew their own ‘excellence’ and loving it more than God’s holiness. They chose themselves over God and thought they knew best.
This same story is reminisced throughout the Bible. We can see this in 2 Chronicles 26, which talks about King Uzziah. Uzziah was sixteen years old when he began to reign in Judah. Uzziah was a good king, because ‘he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD” v. 4. But afterwards, the Bible writes that “when he was strong, he grew proud, to his destruction.” In the end, Uzziah fell short of the ‘perfect king’ that the Israelites had been hoping for.
Pride, the shape-shifting sin
Pride is a sin that can come in many shapes and forms. This is what makes it so hard to pinpoint where it is in our lives. I myself personally struggle with understanding it. Pride can range from how we behave towards others to how we behave to ourselves. Pride can come in the forms of perfectionism or insecurity, but it always revolves around thinking about what others think.
There are so many different ‘fruits’ and ‘shapes’ of pride that it would take a long time to write all about it. But, I would encourage you to look further into it. Ask close friends about what they think, but remember too to turn to the Bible, for there is much wisdom there. Yet in order for someone to become wise, humility is needed beforehand. In fact, Proverbs 11:2 says:
“When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.”
– Proverbs 11:2 (ESV) –
In contrast with pride, the Bible also talks about humility. Humility is pretty much the polar opposite of pride. Humility is meek obedience towards God. Humility is not saying “I’m not good at this, there are people who are better than me,” or refusing to accept compliments and always putting yourself down. No! God calls us to make use of the talents he has given us, rather than burying them away and not acknowledging them.
“Before destruction a man’s heart is haughty, but humility comes before honour.”
– Proverbs 18:12 (ESV) –
When I read this passage, I see a contrast from what we’ve read before. First, a haughty or prideful spirit goes before destruction (Proverbs 16:18). Secondly, before honour (or exaltation) comes humility. This exaltation is not from our own pride and our own way of exalting ourselves. This exaltation comes from God, as is confirmed in James 4:10,
“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.”
– James 4:10 (ESV) –
However, humility is not something that we can achieve on our own. Our sinful nature makes us always inclined to be the prideful one. Paul the Apostle knew this too, and so he directs us to look to Jesus as the ultimate example of humility.
“[Jesus] who thought he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
– Philippians 2:6-8 (ESV) –
There is no way that any of us can humble ourselves more than Jesus. If anything, Jesus had every reason to be the most prideful person on earth; he was literally equal to God! Yet instead of that, he died a shameful death on the cross to save us.
What does it mean to be humble? Why is being prideful such a big thing in the Bible? That’s because only when we’re humble can God lift us up to see more of His glory. A prideful heart would never want to accept God’s guidance. Let me leave you with some lyrics from a song I learnt a long time ago in Sunday School:
A Prayer for Humility – Mark Patterson
Mighty God and gentle Lamb, Lord of all creation
How we long to know you, how we strive to serve you
Help us now to love you even more
Give us humble hearts to praise you,
and listening ears to hear your voice,
willing hands to serve you,
thankful spirits to rejoice.
Lord of all, we adore you
and we bring this prayer before you.
Create in us, humble hearts
When our thoughts turn proud,
remind us of the grace your freely give
When we lose our way, Lord find us
draw us close to you again.
Ethan Chow (16) is one of the website managers for RE Generation-Z. Through RE Generation Z, he hopes that this generation can be truly ‘RE Generated’. He is an avid chess player, learner of new things, listener and player of music.
– This article is inspired by Emily. Thanks for being a friend who I can have meaningful conversations with and for helping me see the log in my eye, my very own pride. Remember, the Lord sees not as man sees, your outward appearance doesn’t matter, for God looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7)