Pride is probably the greatest good and at the same time most evil attribute in the human psyche.
Pride can be good or bad, like nuclear power. Nuclear power can be good; it keeps the sun burning and if harnessed properly, it can give us electrical power. If used wrongly, it can be used to build destructive bombs. Pride is like that; it can be a wonderful source of strength and good in us, or it can be so misplaced that it incurs God’s greatest wrath.
Let’s first focus on the good, because hereafter this Bible study will focus overwhelmingly on the bad.
In English, as in all languages, words may have several meanings. For example, “tap” may mean a light blow, or it may mean a faucet. Translating from one language to another presents the scholar with a dilemma. He must choose the intended meaning of one word that has several meanings and select another word in another language that encompasses the same meaning. No small task. It’s not too hard when you have a word like “tree,” unless the word tree is used in an idiom. Then you have all sorts of trouble.
Pride, when it means proper self esteem and sense of worth, is very good. It is because of pride that we groom ourselves in the morning, brush our teeth, take a shower, comb our hair, and so on. Pride is what makes us strive to be better people, to learn more and to do more. It makes us try to earn a better living to provide more for our family. This pride is what builds great and good civilizations. This pride builds great and good people.
This pride can also be accompanied with humility. I know humility seems to be the opposite of pride, but in fact they can travel together. A humble person can strive to do better, earn more and serve others. Humility and a sense of self worth create a great person, one whom God honors.
Think about your position for a minute. The great Creator God, the One who created heaven and earth, created you as well. This Creator God made you in his own image. This Creator God told you to inherit the earth and rule it. This Creator God created you to have fellowship with him.
Now suppose you have the attitude, “Woe is me! I am nothing. I am scum. I am unworthy. Why am I alive anyway? I should just die.” That is a insult and a slap in the face of your creator. Instead, you can say, “Thank you, Lord God, for your great goodness and kindness towards me. And now may I honor you and serve you in a way that is fitting and glorifying to you. Put your Spirit in me and keep me from sin. Cleanse me and I will be clean for you. Show me your way, and may I humbly walk in it all the days of my life.”
That is the attitude that God can use! That is the pride of life. That tells you that God can do mighty things through you, because he made you for mighty tasks.
Evil pride comes when you take God out of the equation and focus only on yourself. This pride is so evil that God condemns it perhaps more than any other sin. This is the pride that ultimately keeps you from coming to God for salvation. It tells you that you are sufficient unto yourself and need nothing else.
The Bible warns us to avoid this pride.
3 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.
I want to point out first of all that the Bible talks about economics and about social mores in terms as they existed when the scripture was written. It isn’t that God didn’t know about other systems and ways. It isn’t that other systems and ways are not better. It is only that God deals with people in the terms that they understand. If, after centuries of effort, people discover something in economics or mores that works better, we find that the Bible actually accommodates those, too.
This verse, Romans 12:3, says we ought not to think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think. That sounds something like a caste system. If you’re a slave, don’t pretend that you’re free. If you’re an employee, don’t pretend that you’re a supervisor.
The scriptures even say that,
1 Corinthians 7:20-21
20 Each one should remain in the situation which he was in when God called him. 21 Were you a slave when you were called? Don’t let it trouble you—although if you can gain your freedom, do so.
You see that little addition, “if you can gain your freedom, do so”? In our American way of life, it is both possible and common for people to break out of their lower situation and to raise to new heights.
The Bible isn’t teaching about not bettering ourselves. It is teaching that we must not pretend to be something that we are not. Here’s an example taken from recent events aired on the news.
An eighteen-year-old boy (“man”) got into a violent shouting argument with the parents of his fourteen-year-old girlfriend. They were rebuking him for keeping her out beyond her curfew. He took out a gun and killed them both.
Let’s examine that for a minute. Who had authority over the girl? The parents did. Whose right was it to set limits and curfews for her? It was her parents’ right. Who was responsible for raising her? It was the parents’ responsibility.
Although it probably was neither spoken nor thought, you know the underlying statement of the boy was this, “How dare you tell me I can’t date her whenever I want. How dare you tell me I have to bring her home at a certain time. You have no authority over me. I have more authority over her than you do. I’ll do whatever I please with her and you can’t stop me. And to prove it, I’m going to kill you both.” And so he did.
You see, in his mind the boy moved from his station in life – a youthful suitor – to being the owner and authority over the girl, a station he did not really have. He did think of himself “more highly than he ought to think,” and the Bible tells us this is not the way God wants us to behave.
Pride becomes evil when the person steps out of his proper role and assumes a station he does not own. When husbands stop being a protector of their wives and instead become their tormentor and executioner (i.e. slapping and hitting), they think of themselves more highly than they ought to think. When a person on the freeway darts in front of another car because he thinks he has more ownership of the road than any one else on the path, he is thinking more highly of himself than he ought to think. God calls this Pride, and he hates it.
God hates even the look of pride.
16 There are six things the LORD hates, seven that are detestable to him:
17 haughty eyes,
a lying tongue,
hands that shed innocent blood,
18 a heart that devises wicked schemes,
feet that are quick to rush into evil,
19 a false witness who pours out lies and
a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.
The New International Version says, “haughty eyes,” which is a literal translation of the Hebrew words. You remember the trouble translators have, picking from several meanings of a single word and translating that meaning into one word in another language that also has several meanings. Thus, the same word may be translated different ways in the same manuscript when the translator reads the mind of the author and knows what he means, or else when the translator has his own agenda to promote. “Haughty eyes” in the NIV is translated as “a proud look” in the King James Version.
I think it's evident to the reader that the author is referring to “pride.” I don’t see a reasonable alternate interpretation. If you agree with me, then read on.
The scripture lists seven things that God hates… and right at the top of that list is pride. He hates “hands that shed innocent blood.” That would be murder. He hates “feet that are quick to rush into evil,” that would be an eagerness to do evil, such as a lynch mob denying their victim a fair trial. “A false witness who pours out lies” seem pretty much the same as “a lying tongue,” except that a “false witness” refers to lying in court under oath to a jury. “A heart that devises wicked schemes,” is a person who thinks about how to do something evil, such as how to commit the perfect murder, or how to rob a bank without anybody seeing him. And God hates a man who “stirs up dissension among brothers.” That would be a gossiper, a backstabber, a slanderer, and so on.
I wonder if this is a fair representation of all sins. Is there any other sin that people commonly commit which is not represented here? I don’t know off hand. The point is, the number one sin on that list is PRIDE.
Pride the Source of All Sin
I personally suspect that pride is the source of all sin. That would explain why God lists it as number one in his list of hateful activity.
Every sin is an evil committed against another person. You cannot do evil to God. You can only ignore him for a time, but you cannot touch him or rob him. As far as doing evil to yourself, that falls in the “unwise” category. It is not wise to smoke or drink excessively. Bad habits are not wise. However, you have the right and authority to do that. But you do not have the right or authority to defraud another person. Therefore, sin is an evil committed against another person.
In every evil committed against another person, the perpetrator has got to assume an authority and right he does not have. This assumption of authority and “right” is pride.
Pride tells us that although something may be wrong for another person, we ourselves are excused because…”
“I know that adultery is wrong, but…” But what? But you don’t know my wife? But my wife doesn’t have sex with me any more? But my wife is a bitch? But we’re getting a divorce? Pride tells you that God forbids adultery for other people but you are exempt. Why? Because you are so good and wise and great and wonderful that even God cannot find fault with you.
“I know murder is wrong, but…” But what? But that bastard had it coming to him? But he’s white and he deserves whatever he gets? But he shouldn’t have pulled that gun on me when I was robbing the store? “Murder is usually wrong, but in this case I’m exempt.”
One of the Ten Commandments is, “Thou shalt not bear false witnesses.” That is, you may not lie in court. One of my favorite excuses for breaking that commandment is this, “But it was only about sex. Any honorable man would lie about sex before the grand jury.” The problem is, honorable men would not be committing adultery and taken to court for various sex crimes.
I’m open for further instruction on this, but as far as I can see, pride is the source of all sin. In a scripture that appears to refer to Satan (read the context), God says,
17 Your heart became proud
on account of your beauty,
and you corrupted your wisdom
because of your splendor.
So I threw you to the earth;
So it seems that pride was Satan’s downfall, and from that came his excessive wickedness.
For those of you who remember the trite phrase, “Money is the root of all evil” (I hate to even bring this up), first, I’d like to correct the expression. 1 Timothy 6:10 says, “For the love of money is the root of all evil” It is “the love of money…” not just “money.” Second, the proper translation is “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” So it is not “all evil;” it is “all kinds of evil.” And it is not "the root," it is "a root." Even though that corrected statement would be true, from whence comes that love of money? Why does a person put money first in his life, even before God? Is it not because of pride?
The Cure for Pride
The Bible give several instructions for us on how to avoid pride. Although proper pride, a sense of self worth, is good, improper pride brings all sorts of evil to us and to the world. This is what God says to do about it.
1 Peter 5:6
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.
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.
Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
The New International Version, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House) 1984. All scripture is herein is taken from the NIV unless otherwise noted.