Pride Is Your Greatest Problem
Updated: Dec 12, 2020
Pride is universal—something we all deal with, ancient as Adam and relevant as the morning news. Yet we don’t always see it, for it grows like weeds around our lives.
Oh, we see it in the obvious ways, but we can be blind to its deceptive, subversive presence in our hearts. We know the disease, but we don’t recognize the symptoms. And that’s why we need the insight of our Great Physician to reveal its symptoms and release us from its grip.
We’re asked common questions when people find out what we do. Are you a plumber? Get ready to remotely troubleshoot a leaky faucet. A doctor? Get ready for a rundown of mysterious aches and pains.
For counsellors, somewhere near the top of that list is the question, “What problems do you see most?” Depression, anxiety, anger, marital conflict all make the cut, but the top answer may surprise you. It’s pride.
That pride should be the chart-topper actually shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, and least of all to Christians. Proverbs 6:16–19 lists seven traits that God despises, and the very first “haughty eyes” is the proverbial way of talking about pride.
Pride is a prison that perpetuates anger, hurt, and foolishness while keeping at bay the restorative effects of conviction, humility, and reconciliation (Proverbs 11:2; 29:23; Galatians 6:3; James 4:6; Revelation 3:17–20). Later, in Proverbs 16:18, God tells us, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” Not only would pride be your jailer, but it would also be your executioner.
“I’m proud of you.” It’s a notion we dish out and long to hear daily. But when is it sin? The Bible is clear that it’s ok to encourage and admonish each other and to take pride in the good works of God and His creation. We can be proud to be children of God. But we cross into sin when it revolves around ourselves.
If ever there was one who had the right for his pride to be as big as life, it was the one through whom all life came into being. If Jesus had come into the world and demanded that all serve him, and do so immediately, it would not have been arrogant; it would have been appropriate. Yet as Philippians 2 tells us, he came not in the form of a ruler but a servant.
Christ’s call to us is to live in a way that evidences a similar service and thereby demarcates us as those whose citizenship is in heaven, not the world (Matthew 20:25–28). In this way, Christ redeems our service. What a joy it is to serve my spouse, my child, or those around me and reflect to them, even if only in part, something of the character of God.
John Piper reminds us, that pride is universal; we all deal with it. Philippians 4:6a says, "Do not be anxious about anything.” Paul is describing self-centred anxieties and counterproductive worries unconcerned with the spread of the Gospel. Pride filters down into the core of worry and anxiety, exposing a lack of trust in God. It is an over-concern with ourselves, a disposition to exalt self, to get above others, to hide our defects, and to pass for more than we are.
Pride is a high or inordinate opinion of one’s own dignity, importance, merit, or superiority, whether as cherished in the mind or as displayed in conduct. Whether craving compliments, fearing our own image, or entertaining an overly critical view of ourselves, pride can be both glaringly obvious and deceptively sneaky.
“To fear the LORD is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, even behaviour and perverse speech.” Proverbs 8:13
Hannah prayed, “Do not keep talking so proudly or let your mouth speak such arrogance, for the LORD is a God who knows, and by him deeds are weighed” (1 Samuel 2:3).
Proverbs 16:18 says, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” God’s word assures us pride is the root of the rubble in our lives. 1 Corinthians 10:12 warns, “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” Psalm 10:2-11 describes the oppressive result of pride, and a plea to God for justice and defence for those caught in its tailspin.
Pride is at the heart of bullying and entitlement. It’s deceptive tendency leaves a wake of destruction. The very nature of human conflict is rooted in elements of pride. Proverbs 13:10 says, “Pride only breeds quarrels, but wisdom is found in those who take advice.”
Pride will kill you. Forever. Pride is the sin most likely to keep you from crying out for a Saviour. Those who think they are well will not look for a doctor.
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 colours 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.
Adam and Eve’s struggle with pride led to the fall of humanity when they entertained the devil’s deceitful promise that the apple would give them the same ability to discern good from evil as God. (Genesis 3:5-6)
King David struggled with pride when he called for an unnecessary census of Israel’s army. “He seemed inclined to trust in a strong army rather than in an all-powerful God.”
King Uzziah presumed himself worthy of priestly duties, and was cursed with leprosy. (2 Chronicles 26:16) King Hezekiah’s pride prompted disobedience (2 Chronicles 32:25), Nebuchadnezzar was driven from his kingdom for taking credit for building Babylon (Daniel 4:30), and Herod was struck dead and eaten by worms because he assumed the status of a god rather than praising the One True God.
“We know the disease,” “but we don’t recognise the symptoms". And that’s why we need the insight of our Great Physician and to reveal its symptoms and release us from its grip.” Be warned of the following signs: fear, entitlement, ingratitude, people-pleasing, prayerlessness, hypocrisy and rebellion. Faith, a gift from God, kills pride. Faith, by nature, looks away from ourselves. We can recognise pride by staying connected to Christ. Through prayer and study of God’s word, the Holy Spirit will alert and convict us to the chains of sin in our lives, and walk us through the steps of sanctification to break us free. But we have to have ears to hear, and the gumption to follow His lead.
There is hope for the proud heart in the incarnation of humility, Jesus Christ. Immanuel—God with us—condescended to live among us, die for us, and raise us to new life. He never had a shred of sinful pride—no fear, no entitlement, no ingratitude, no people-pleasing, no prayerlessness, no hypocrisy, no rebellion (Phil. 2:4–6).
Because of his humility, we can be forgiven of our pride. That’s both the sting and the joy of the gospel. It deals with our pride by destroying it, reminding us that life is not about us, and that we deserve only the wrath of God. Jesus also deals with our pride by taking the just punishment for it on himself, that we might be renewed in the image of our Creator (Col. 3:10) and made humble like our Saviour.
Being humbled is not smooth or painless, but it’s the daily rescue we need. Hallelujah to the Redeemer we have.
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)
Pride Versus Humility - Derek Prince
How to Overcome Pride - B. R. Hicks
The Power of Humility: Living Like Jesus - R. T. Kendall
Breaking Pride: Tearing Down Walls, Walking in His Grace - Heather Bixler
Humility - Andrew Murray
Humility, Pride, and Christian Virtue Theory - Kent Dunnington