Is Pride Always Condemned in the Bible? (Part 1)
When reading the Bible in the Authorized Version or the New King James Bible, as well as in most other English translations, one will find that the words “pride” or “proud” are exclusively applied to wrong human conduct or emotions. This is especially true when analyzing Scriptures in the New Testament.
There, three different Greek terms are used to describe pride, but all have a slightly different underlying meaning.
In Mark 7:21-22, we read that “from within, out of the heart of men, proceed[s]… pride…”
In this case, the Greek word for pride also designates “haughtiness.”
In 1 Timothy 3:6, Paul addresses the qualifications of a minister, emphasizing that he should not be “a novice, lest being puffed up with pride, he fall into the same condemnation as the devil.” We know from the Old Testament that Lucifer, who became Satan, sinned when his heart was lifted up and became proud. The Greek term, which Paul uses in 1 Timothy 3:6, alludes to this historical fact. The word actually means, “inflated with self-deceit.”
Finally, in 1 John 2:15-16, we are told not to love this world or this present evil age, nor the things in the world. John continues to say that “all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.”
Satan is the god and ruler of this world, and so he broadcasts his feelings and emotions, including those of pride, to unsuspecting people. The Greek word for pride here has the meaning of “self-confidence” and “boasting.”
From these three examples, we can see that human pride, which is actually Satan’s pride being instilled into man, is condemned. Emphasis is especially placed on haughtiness, inflation with self-conceit, and self-confidence.
“Proud” is a related word in the English translation of the New Testament, which describes similar concepts.
In 1 Timothy 6:4, Paul warns of false teachers who do not agree with Christ, calling them “proud, knowing nothing.” The meaning for “proud” here is “being inflated with self-conceit.”
The word “proud” is also used in five more passages, in which the meaning is, “appearing above others.” But Paul tells us to look at others higher or superior than ourselves, as Philippians 2:3 should be translated (compare the Amplified Bible).
We read in Luke 1:51 that God “has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.”
In Romans 1:30, Paul speaks about those who turned against God and His Law and describes them as “backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters…”
In 2 Timothy 3:1-5, the perilous end times are described. People love themselves and are haughty, proud and blasphemers, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power.
James 4:4 describes people who want to be friends with the world and therefore become enemies of God, adding in verse 6 that “God resists the proud But gives grace to the humble.”
Finally, 1 Peter 5:5 repeats the same statement (that “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble”), adding in verse 6: “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time.”
All these passages, taken together, show us that human pride is condemned as an emotion or wrong character trait which is in opposition to God and which is unwilling to submit to Him, while feeling superior, more important and higher than others, which prevents the manifestation of love and outgoing concern for the welfare and benefit of others.
When turning to the Old Testament, a similar picture emerges.
The most common Hebrew word translated in the Authorized Version or the New King James Bible with “pride,” is “gaon.” As we will see in the second part of this series, this Hebrew word has several meanings, but we will concentrate in this first part on “pride.”
In Leviticus 26, God prophesied to the modern houses of Israel and Judah that they would be blessed for their obedience, but they would be cursed for disobedience. In verse 19, He tells them that in case of continued sinful conduct against Him, He would “break the pride of” their power; that is, their human pride in their power.
God has begun to do this, especially to the USA, the UK, and other English-speaking nations. He says in Hosea 5:5: “The pride of Israel testifies to his face; Therefore Israel and Ephraim stumble in their iniquity; Judah also stumbles with them.” In verse 4, God makes very clear what the problem is: “They do not direct their deeds Toward turning to their God.” Their human pride in their own “greatness” prevents them from repenting and from seeking God, as Hosea 7:10 reiterates and emphasizes: “And the pride of Israel testifies to his face, But they do not return to the LORD their God, Nor seek Him for all this.”
God says in Amos 6:8: “I abhor the pride of Jacob.” Also, note Amos 8:7 in connection with Israel’s transgressions of the Sabbath: “The LORD has sworn by the pride of Jacob: ‘Surely, I will never forget any of their works.’”
Again, in Ezekiel 24:20-21: “Then I answered them, ‘The word of the LORD came to me, saying, “Speak to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “Behold, I will profane My sanctuary, your arrogant boast [lit.: the pride of your strength], the desire of your eyes, the delight of your soul; and your sons and daughters whom you left behind shall fall by the sword.”’”’”
God will also punish the modern house of Judah for exactly the same kind of transgression and proud attitude. He says in Jeremiah 13:9-10:
“Thus says the LORD: ‘In this manner I will ruin the pride of Judah and the great pride of Jerusalem. This evil people, who refuse to hear My words, who follow the dictates of their hearts, and walk after other gods to serve them and worship them, shall be just like this sash which is profitable for nothing.’”
Again, God condemns here human pride with the accompanying unwillingness to submit to Him.
God made similar statements about other end-time nations which likewise sin against Him. In Ezekiel 30:6, God says about Egypt that the “pride of her power shall come down” and that He will punish “her arrogant strength” (verse 18) and destroy her many idols (verse 13).
God will also punish “the pride of Moab—He is very proud… his haughtiness and his pride and his wrath” (Isaiah 16:6). Jeremiah 48:29 reiterates this statement, but adds that Moab “exalted himself against the LORD” (verse 26).
In addition, God will “cut off the pride of the Philistines” (Zechariah 9:6). Likewise, “the pride of Assyria shall be brought down” (Zechariah 10:11), and “the pride of the Jordan” will be “in ruins’ (Zechariah 11:3).
God also has this to say about end-time Babylon, in Isaiah 13:19: “And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, The beauty of the Chaldeans’ pride, Will be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah.”
We all know that God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah because of their sins, and the sin of homosexuality comes immediately to mind. However, there is more to the story, as Ezekiel 16:49-50 explains:
“Look, this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: She and her daughter had pride, fullness of food, and abundance of idleness; neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty and committed abomination before Me; therefore I took them away as I saw fit.”
Pride would most certainly include here the “pride” to be gay (thinking of gay pride parades, etc.), but pride is also used here in a more general sense, referring to the pride about all the sins mentioned in this passage.
And so, God condemns human pride which is directed against Him and His Way of Life. In Job 35:9-13, we read:
“Because of the multitude of oppressions they cry out; They cry out for help because of the arm of the mighty. But no one says, ‘Where is God my Maker, Who gives songs in the night, Who teaches us more than the beasts of the earth, And makes us wiser than the birds of heaven?’ There they cry out, but He does not answer, Because of the pride of evil men. Surely God will not listen to empty talk, Nor will the Almighty regard it.”
David pleaded with God for His intervention on his behalf and for help from evil and godless people who were trying to destroy him. He said in Psalm 59:12-13:
“For the sin of their mouth and the words of their lips, Let them even be taken in their pride, And for the cursing and lying which they speak. Consume them in wrath, consume them, That they may not be; And let them know that God rules in Jacob To the ends of the earth. Selah.”
Finally, we read in Proverbs 16:18: “Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before a fall.”
Human pride, which is directed against God, His Word and His people, will not go unpunished. Somebody who is too proud and haughty to submit to God by showing love and outgoing concern for his fellow human being stands condemned by God. It is important to remember that in all the Old Testament passages, which were quoted above, the Hebrew word for pride is “gaon.”
A related Hebrew word to “gaon” is “gaavah,” which the New King James Bible translates likewise with “pride” in the following passages, reiterating what we already know to a large extent from passages quoted above (This Hebrew word has several meanings as well, but again, we will concentrate in this first installment on “pride.”).
In Isaiah 25:10-12, God speaks again of the punishment of Moab:
“For on this mountain the hand of the LORD will rest, And Moab shall be trampled down under Him, As straw is trampled down for the refuse heap. And He will spread out His hands in their midst As a swimmer reaches out to swim, And He will bring down their pride Together with the trickery of their hands. The fortress of the high fort of your walls He will bring down, lay low, And bring to the ground, down to the dust.”
Zephaniah 3:11-13 speaks of a future time when God will have destroyed the inappropriate human pride of Israel and Judah and when the people will be humble and trust in Him:
“In that day… I will take away from your midst Those who rejoice in your pride, And you shall no longer be haughty In My holy mountain. I will leave in your midst A meek and humble people, And they shall trust in the name of the LORD. The remnant of Israel shall do no unrighteousness And speak no lies, Nor shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth…”
Proverbs 29:23 emphasizes that “A man’s pride will bring him low, But the humble in spirit will retain honor.”
Finally, in the book of Psalms, we find several passages equating human pride with wicked and evil men who are unwilling to submit to God and who are persecuting God’s people. In Psalm 36:11, David pleads with God: “Let not the foot of pride come against me, And let not the hand of the wicked drive me away.”
That proud wicked person is described in verses 1-4 as follows:
“There is no fear of God before his eyes. For he flatters himself in his own eyes, When he finds out his iniquity and when he hates. The words of his mouth are wickedness and deceit; He has ceased to be wise and to do good. He devises wickedness on his bed; He sets himself in a way that is not good; He does not abhor evil.”
Let us also turn to an interesting passage in Psalm 10:2-4, 11-13, where David states:
“The wicked in his pride persecutes the poor; Let them be caught in the plots which they have devised. For the wicked boasts of his heart’s desire; He blesses the greedy and renounces the LORD. The wicked in his proud countenance does not seek God; God is in none of his thoughts… He has said in his heart, “God has forgotten; He hides His face; He will never see. Arise, O LORD! O God, lift up Your hand! Do not forget the humble. Why do the wicked renounce God? He has said in his heart, ‘You will not require an account.’”
The above-quoted passages, using the Hebrew word “gaavah,” which is translated as “pride,” relate the fact that wicked, evil and rebellious persons act with pride against God, while those who are humble submit to Him.
Another word translated with “pride” is the Hebrew word “geuth.” It, too, has different meanings, and “pride” is one of them. It is used in Isaiah 28:1-3, 7-8 and describes the leaders of modern Ephraim (mainly the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand) who should rule righteously, but miserably failed, even though they swallow in pride:
“Close Woe to the crown of pride, to the drunkards of Ephraim, Whose glorious beauty is a fading flower Which is at the head of the verdant valleys, To those who are overcome with wine! Behold, the LORD has a mighty and strong one, Like a tempest of hail and a destroying storm, Like a flood of mighty waters overflowing, Who will bring them down to the earth with His hand. The crown of pride, the drunkards of Ephraim, Will be trampled underfoot… But they also have erred through wine, And through intoxicating drink are out of the way; The priest and the prophet have erred through intoxicating drink, They are swallowed up by wine, They are out of the way through intoxicating drink; They err in vision, they stumble in judgment. For all tables are full of vomit and filth; No place is clean.”
We have seen that God condemns human pride, which is opposed to God and which is unwilling to submit to Him. God despises those who wallow in haughtiness and who boast in their self-confidence and self-conceit. Such an attitude prevents a person from loving and obeying God with all of one’s heart and from loving his neighbor as oneself.
But could there be another form of “pride” which we could even call “godly pride” and which is acceptable or even desirable? Could the concept of “pride” be applied to God Himself? We will explore this question in the next installment.
(To Be Continued)
Lead Writer: Norbert Link