Today we are going to talk about pride — something for which I am the most qualified to speak about. I’ve been an expert on pride for most of my life. I can remember my dad talking to me about my constant bragging at a very young age. Fortunately, because I’m amazing at everything I do, over the years I have been able to uproot the pride from my life and am now one of the humblest people I’ve ever met.
Well, that was until I began preparing for this message. As I started looking at all the proverbs about pride and started thinking about ways pride rears it’s ugly head in our lives, I realized I’m actually still way more arrogant than I had thought. But perhaps some of you already knew that.
Honestly, as I prepared this lesson, I wasn’t sure what new things I could say about pride. I know I could tell you all sorts of verses about how pride is bad, but I think almost all of you know that. Nobody want’s to be known as arrogant or a bragger.
We all know THAT person who always talks about themself and tells us about how successful they are at work, how nice their house is, and how great their family is. And most of us find that person a bit irritating and recognize that isn’t a great trait to have.
But because of people like that, we tend to label that person as proud and then not worry about pride in our own lives — after all, we aren’t as bad as him. We might think of ourselves as just self-confident, self-reliant, or having healthy self-esteem. And maybe that’s true, but perhaps pride is a bigger problem in your life than you realize, and you don’t even know it.
To know if pride is a problem in your life, we have to first define what it means to be a proud person. If you are proud, it means you have an excessively high opinion of yourself and your importance. It means you exalt yourself, you focus on yourself, and you concern yourself with how others perceive you.
What Do the Proverbs Say
And with that definition in mind, it’s easy to believe that the Bible always lists pride as a vice – a sin to be avoided. The clearest text on the subject is Proverbs 8:13 which says:
To fear the Lord is to hate evil;
I hate pride and arrogance,
evil behavior and perverse speech.
Now if you go back a verse you will see this section is being spoken by “Wisdom,” but if we’re all in summer school to gain wisdom, then I think we should follow the advice of Wisdom who hates pride and arrogance.
But if that’s not clear enough, we can look at Proverbs 16:5:
The Lord detests all the proud of heart.
Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished.
God detests the proud. This is a major statement. Being a bit proud isn’t just a bit of a sin. Being a proud person will actually wreak havoc in our lives both now and eternally if we don’t seek to eliminate it. Proverbs gives 4 consequences for the sin of pride.
Consequences of Pride
1. God’s Punishment
We actually already saw the first consequence in that last verse — Proverbs 16:5:
The Lord detests all the proud of heart.
Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to receive God’s punishment. In fact, we don’t often speak here at Ashworth Road of God as a God who punishes — we talk about his love and his grace — but we can’t forget that like a parent he punishes people in order to teach them to live differently — without the pride and the arrogance that is bound to destroy their lives.
2. Destruction of Life
And this leads to the next consequence of pride, one of the most famous Proverbs —Proverbs 16:18:
Pride goes before destruction,
a haughty spirit before a fall.
First I have to say — this verse sounds wrong to you doesn’t it. We are so used to the phrase “pride comes before the fall” but this verse is actually the source of that popular cliché. And I understand why — “A haughty spirit comes before a fall” just doesn’t sound the same.
I think this consequence seems almost too big for the simple sin of pride, but it’s also one we have all see before.
- Lance Armstrong — he wanted to win so badly, he cheated to get the accolades he so badly wanted. But ultimately, once he was found out, he was ruined, stripped of his awards, and even the Livestrong Foundation he created to raise money for cancer research took a major black eye and lost significant revenue.
- Countless famous musicians and actors have experience a similar story to Lance where their pride and arrogance led to the end of their careers and their fame.
- But it’s not just famous people who face destruction for their pride. You and me – when we are too arrogant to be willing to take advice or counsel from a friend, can make terrible decisions we pay for for years.
Speaking of Lance Armstrong, he’s a prime example of the next consequence of pride seen in Proverbs 11:2:
When pride comes, then comes disgrace,
but with humility comes wisdom.
Not only does pride ruin a person, but it brings disgrace to them as the lives they have elevated come crumbling down. And ironically, the person who cared so much about what other people thought of them and wanted to be liked, loved, and admired, isnow scorned and disgraced by those very same people.
4. Relational Strife
And Proverbs 13:10 gives us our final consequence of pride:
Pride only breeds quarrels,
but wisdom is found in those who take advice.
As we focus on ourselves and try to elevate ourselves above those around us, it actually creates strife in those relationships. I know this first-hand as I lost my best friend in high school over a fight about my success in track compared to his. Like I said, I’m THE MOST qualified to speak about pride.
Now as we look at this list, I want you to really begin to grasp the significant danger of allowing pride of any kind to fester in your life. Pride is an incredibly dangerous and sneaky sin that can ruin your life more quickly than you could ever imagine. This week I came across a quote by the famous Puritan preacher Jonathon Edwards who says it better than I ever could:
“Pride is the worst viper that is in the heart; it is the first sin that ever entered into the universe, and it lies lowest of all in the foundation of the whole building of sin, and is the most secret, deceitful and unsearchable in its ways of working, of any lusts whatsoever; it is ready to mix with everything; and nothing is so hateful to God, and contrary to the spirit of the Gospel, or of so dangerous consequence; and there is no one sin that does so much let in the Devil into the hearts of the saints, and exposes them to his delusions” (Jonathan Edwards, Distinguishing Marks, Yale 4:277-78).
Identifying Pride in Our Own Lives
Now we come to the most important part of my message today. Before I began, many of you already knew that being proud was a sin and was bad. And like me, you have probably tried to avoid being a proud person. Perhaps you make sure to not brag about your successes and you try not to think too much about yourself. That has been my plan of attack for the past few years, but as I prepared this message, Brent and I brainstormed ways that pride still sneaks into our lives without us ever noticing. And by the time we completed our list, I realized I still had a long way to go in uprooting pride from my life. Let’s take a look:
1. Unwillingness to ask for help — Self-reliance is a strongly American character trait, but taken to an extreme, it completely goes against God’s design in our lives to live in community with others who care and support one another. This is our pride saying “I don’t want anybody to see me as weak. I will do this on my own.” And sadly, it actually separates us from the community God wants us to be a part of.
2. Refusal to listen to advice — A proud person doesn’t see the need for a second opinion or constructive criticism. They are already right, and nobody can tell them otherwise. One of the verses we already looked at today (Proverbs 13:10) ended with “ wisdom is found in those who take advice.” But the proud are not wise, and cannot receive counsel. Think for a moment – what is your first reaction when somebody gives you advise or a person you trust tries to give you constructive criticism? I know I immediately get defensive and assume the other person is wrong – because I still struggle with pride.
3. Excessive competitiveness — This one speaks for itself and is fairly convicting for me and Brent – but if you really struggle with losing, you need to ask yourself why? What makes you so upset to not be the winner of every game and competition? The answer is likely pride. You don’t want to see somebody else succeed and be exalted above you – you want to be the one exalted above everyone else.
4. Materialistic for sake of status — Some of you really enjoy having a nice house, a nice car, nice clothes. You like everything to always look right, especially when you are going out or company is coming over. For some of you, the root to all your concern about things looking right is pride. You want others to think highly of you, to respect you, and to think you have it all together. And so you keep buying new things… If this is you, I leave you with a verse from 1 John 2:16-17:
For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.
5. Sarcastic mockery of others (Prov 3:34)— This is an obvious symptom of pride in your life. If you have elevated yourself above others, then it’s easy to mock those who don’t have it as together as you, who aren’t as successful, who don’t do things the way you would do them. Ask yourself, when people let you down, do you show them grace and patience, or do you judge them and make a sarcastic comment to let them know you’re not happy?
6. False Humility — My list concludes with my favorite – when a person tries to speak down about themselves so others will try to lift them up and say the words the truly proud person wants so desperately to hear. This is manipulation, and it’s pride.
Humility is the Antidote
So there you have it – a list of all the terrible consequences of pride and then another list of several ways you probably still have pride alive and active in your life. And while I would like to give you the advice “STOP IT.” “STOP BEING PROUD.” We know that doesn’t work. We can’t just uproot the pride in our life or something will return in it’s place. No, we have to replace the pride in our lives with it’s antidote – HUMILITY.
Humility is a focus on others, it is a dependence on God rather than yourself, it is showing compassion and mercy to those who let us down. Humility does not mean thinking that you are scum and terrible, but it does mean that you stop thinking you are the center of everything, that you are better than others, and that you are more important.
An example of a humble spirit would be watching somebody cut in line ahead of you at the store or in traffic and NOT GOING BALLISTIC about “who does that person think they are?” Or does that only happen in my head? Humility would accept it, show grace, and understand that losing a couple seconds of time isn’t a big deal because YOU aren’t that big of a deal.
I understand humility is a very UN-AMERICAN trait. Our culture values and elevates people with self-confidence to the point of pride and even narcissism. But we don’t follow the script of our culture; we follow the script of our Savior.
The apostle Paul speaks to pride and humility best in Philippians 2:
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
If there was ever a man who could have demanded respect from others, who could have elevated himself as being better and more important than others, it is Jesus Christ. Yet we watch Jesus pause and spend time with lowly people who interrupt his important teachings. We watch him wash his disciples feet, serving those who should have been serving him.
In the same way, we need to pursue humility, just like Jesus.
But what we sometimes forget when we feel like it’s hard to take the road of humility is that it’s actually a blessing in so many ways. Being humble removes so much of the stress to stay on top. It gives us more joy in serving others. And in eternity it will be rewarded when the great reversal takes place and:
“all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. —Luke 14:11
The way of humility is the way of the wise. It’s easier, it’s more fulfilling, and it follows the way Jesus already blazed before us.
Imagine how your life might be different if you completely replaced the pride in your life with humility. Imagine the stress you put on yourself falling away. Imagine the strife you cause in your relationships being healed. Imagine the legacy you would leave for your kids and grandkids as they see you transform into the most compassionate, kind, humble person they know – a person unlike anybody in today’s culture.
What I want you to remember is: pride is a secret, yet deadly sin. Even when you think you’ve killed it, it keeps coming back. This is why we can’t just avoid pride — we have to intentionally surrender ourselves to humility. We have to turn our eyes off of ourselves and onto Jesus who is our perfect model of what humility looks like.