Rev. Eriks is pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church of Loveland, Colorado.
The first sin committed by Satan in heaven and the first sin committed on earth by Eve were motivated by pride. In this sinful world, we continue to find pride at the root of sinful activity. If we are honest with ourselves, we confess that we find this sinful pride also in ourselves, which makes our consideration of pride so important.
We must identify pride for what it is. Pride is not the character flaw of being overconfident, which simply cannot be helped. Pride is sin. And God detests it. God warns us often in Scripture of the sin of pride. If you look in Nave’s Topical Bible, you will find over 100 entries under the word “pride.” Many of these passages declare how much God detests this sin. One such passage is Proverbs 6:16, 17a: “These six things doth the Lord hate; yea, seven are an abomination unto him: a proud look….” Because pride is sin, we must no longer be proud. Instead, we must be humble.
Pride manifests itself in man’s relationship to God. Pride is the sin of man presuming he is greater than he really is before God. A proud man presumes that he is able to take care of himself. He thinks he is so important in the world that things should revolve around him. In pride, man convinces himself that he is good of himself. Scripture plainly reveals how “great” man really is. Man is nothing of himself. He is like a speck of dust in comparison to the universe. Man is as important as one pine tree in all of the forests of the Rocky Mountains. God does not need man, for He is complete of Himself as the triune God. Man is not great, for he is completely dependent on God for all things. God provides men with the necessities of life. Spiritually, man is able to do no good of himself. If man is to have eternal life, God must save him. But the proud man rejects reality, believing his own proud distortion of himself. Those who are proud believe a lie about themselves.
The proud man foolishly says, “I don’t need God. I have what I have because of my own efforts.” This was the sinful pride of wicked King Nebuchadnezzar when he said in Daniel 4:30, “Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honor of my majesty?” God made him live as a wild beast, to show us that what Nebuchadnezzar said was not true. The Pharisees of Jesus’ day lived out of this same pride, foolishly thinking that because of their own ability to do good they did not need Jesus for their salvation. The prayer of the Pharisee in Jesus’ parable in Luke 18:11, 12reveals the sinful pride of the Pharisees: “God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.” This is the prayer of a man who thinks he does not need God.
This same sinful pride is found in the world today. Ungodly scientists study the creation apart from God and His Word, presuming they can understand the truth about the creation apart from God. Pride is behind the Arminian errors in all of their different forms. The Arminian foolishly believes man is able to contribute something to his own salvation by accepting Christ. This is nothing but pride. The proud believe that man deserves something from God.
The proud man trusts in himself and not in God. Through his own efforts, the proud man thinks he can provide for himself and his family a good life on this earth. Because the one who is proud thinks so much of himself and thinks he is above the Word of God, he lives as he pleases in the world. He refuses to be subject to the law of God.
Not only do we find pride in the world and in the church world around us, but also we find pride in our own hearts. Although God powerfully works humility in us, we still fight against the sin of pride. If we have a successful business, or if we have been promoted at work, how quickly we may think this happened because of our own efforts. When problems arise in our homes or in the church, foolishly we assume we can solve that problem without God and His Word. Sinful pride manifests itself in failing to pray and study the Word of God with urgency. These important activities wane because we are not living in the consciousness that we need God.
Pride also manifests itself in relationship to the neighbor. The proud look down their noses at others. Scripture identifies pride this way when it warns of “a proud look” (Prov. 6:17). Literally, the phrase means, “haughty eyes.” The man with haughty eyes looks down on others, believing the lie that he is greater than his neighbor. Because of superior knowledge, a more pleasing physical appearance, or special skills he might have, the proud man determines he is better than his neighbor.
This pride in relationship to the neighbor often results in a rejection of authority in the world. For example, look at the sin of Eve in the Garden of Eden. In Eve’s sin, we see that pride went before the fall. She proudly rejected the authority of her husband by thinking she could battle against Satan herself without the leadership of her head.
Any man who thinks he is better than his neighbor believes a lie. Scripture clearly teaches us that all men are totally depraved. No matter how well one can shoot a basketball, no matter how much knowledge one has, no matter how rich one may be, he is no better than anyone else because before God’s law all men are totally depraved sinners. Even as Christians, it is true that not one of us is better than the worst criminal on death row. With the apostle Paul, we confess, “I am the chief of sinners.” No one man is better than another. Who we are as Christians and what we have in this earth cannot be credited to our abilities. We sing in Psalter #383, “All that I am I owe to Thee….” Who we are and what we have is all the work of God! God is the One who makes us different from the wicked.
Although we sing these words and know they are true, yet we struggle with this sinful pride because of our sinful natures. Sadly, in the church we find many instances of sinful pride. Office-bearers may easily think more of themselves than they ought because of their office in the church. Because they are officebearers, they think, no one should question their work. If a concerned member comes to them, they proudly defend actions that may be wrong without confessing sin. This pride is also found in the members of the church in relationship to the consistory. When the elders come to their homes to admonish them, these members try immediately to defend their actions instead of humbly confessing sin. This is the reaction of pride. But this is more serious than merely being proud before other men. It is a rejection of Christ and His Word.
In pride, church members look down on other church members. We may find ourselves talking to others about the sins of another member in the church instead of speaking to the one who has sinned. As parents, we look down on other parents, in the church and outside of the church, because of the way they rear their children. When we do actually talk to another member about his or her sin, we may speak in a condescending way to him. When someone approaches us about our sin, instantly we become defensive, justifying what we have done without truly examining it. Why do we do this? Pride! We think we are better than others.
In these ways and in many others, pride can destroy the church of Jesus Christ. Pride creates disharmony and division in the church. Satan loves to see pride and the manifestation of pride in the church.
Satan also loves to see this sinful pride in our covenant homes. Pride is destructive in our homes. In pride, parents are unwilling to confess their sins to their children, provoking their children to anger. In pride, children think they know better than their parents, and reject the instruction and rules of the home. The sin of pride is the root of fighting between children in the home. Selfishly each child thinks that what he or she wants comes first. This pride destroys marriages. Instead of humbly confessing sin to each other, each spouse holds the other responsible for the problems they are having. Even if a husband has sinned against his wife, he will blame his wife for provoking him. Proud parents, children, husbands, wives point fingers at others instead of themselves.
We must repent of our sinful pride!
We must repent of our sinful pride because God hates pride. Proverbs 6:16, 17a states this: “These six things doth the Lord hate; yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look….” Proverbs 6:16-19describes a seven-sin monster. God hates and detests the seven sins listed. But there is one sin God especially hates. This one sin that God hates leads a man to commit the other six sins. At the head of this monster is the sin of pride! Especially this sin stokes up the fury of His wrath!
Because God hates and detests the sin of pride, He will punish those who continue to walk therein. God declares in Psalm 101:5, “Whoso privily slandereth his neighbor, him will I cut off: him that hath an high look and a proud heart will not I suffer.” God will punish eternally those who continue to walk in this sin in the hardness of their hearts.
Why does God hate this sin so much? First, God hates this sin because man in pride believes a lie about himself in relationship to God and his neighbor. Secondly, God hates this sin because it leads to many other sins. The proud man does not trust in God or obey God. The proud man manifests his pride in hatred to the neighbor. Thirdly, God hates this sin because pride robs God of the glory due to His name. The proud man shakes his fist in the face of God, declaring boldly, “I don’t need you or your salvation! I am fine on my own!” The proud man robs God of the glory and praise He deserves and gives it to himself. God will not allow such an attack on His name and glory to go unpunished.
Therefore, we must repent and turn from sinful pride. Pride has no place in our lives as children of God because God has graciously revealed to us what we are: weak and sinful. No matter how strong we are, no matter how long we can work each day, the truth is that we are weak. We cannot provide for ourselves any of the things of this earth. In relationship to God, we are sinners. We are conceived and born in sin. Because of our sins, we are the proper objects of His eternal wrath. We can do absolutely nothing to earn eternal life. As those who are totally depraved by nature, we also realize that we are no better than anyone else. What good we are able to do is only because of the grace of God. Although we can do some good, there are still many sins cleaving to us.
Only by the grace of God can we have this knowledge. Only by the grace of God can we repent of and put away sinful pride.
As those enabled by the grace of God to put away sinful pride, we must, then, live positively in humility. The opposite of pride is humility. God calls us to live according to the humility of Jesus Christ in Philippians 2:3-5: “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus….” InMatthew 5:5, Jesus reveals that one of the spiritual characteristics of those who are citizens of God’s kingdom is meekness, or humility: “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.” Christians must be humble in relationship to God and in relationship to their neighbors.
True humility is based on the knowledge of faith. The man who is humble not only knows his weakness and sinfulness, but he also understands his complete dependence on God. The humble man knows that God provides his daily food and all the things he possesses on this earth. The humble man knows God is the source of his salvation in Jesus Christ. Saved by grace alone! is the humble confession of the child of God, for he knows that the only way to be delivered from the punishment of all his sins (including the sin of pride) is the cross of Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit must apply this salvation to the one for whom Christ died. The humble man confesses always that every good work he performs is the work of God’s grace.
Just as the proud man manifests his pride in life, so also the humble manifests his humility in life. The humble man trusts and obeys. Because he trusts in God, he prays fervently to God and studies diligently His Word in the consciousness of His need for God’s grace and guidance. The humble man submits to the will of God by obeying His commandments. When he misses the mark of obedience, the humble man readily confesses his sin to God. The humble man fears God.
The humble man also manifests his humility in relationship to his neighbor. He asks the question, “What is best spiritually for my neighbor? What is best for my wife, my husband, my parents, my children, my fellow church member…?” He shows his care and concern for the neighbor by listening and responding in humility, esteeming the brother better than himself.
God will bless humility. In the way of humility, we can be assured that God will bless our homes and our churches with peace and unity. Let us put away all sinful pride and live humbly before Him in the strength of God’s grace. Let us pray in humble dependence on God for the grace to do this.