The Dangers of Pride in the Bible and Tips for Overcoming It

C.S Lewis said this about pride: “…According to Christian teachers, the essential vice, the utmost evil, is pride. Unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere flea bites in comparison: it was through pride that the devil became the devil: Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind.” In short, the dangers of pride are too risky to be ignored.

Lewis essentially said that pride is the mother of all sin. The Bible backs him up through several stories and scriptures. Over and over, the Bible depicts prideful people as those who are against God's will. And each time the Israelites became proud, trouble followed.

What is the “Pride of Life” and How Did Jesus Overcome it?

The pride of life is finding pleasure in status. It is rooted in worldliness and a love for what the culture deems as achievements. The pride of life removes God from His throne and places the self in the seat. 

Instead of recognizing His grace as the reason for what we have, we think we earned the lives we have and glory in them.

First John 2:15-16 warns us against loving the world, explaining its dangers of pride…

  • “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For 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.”

After Jesus was baptized, the Spirit led Him into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan (Luke 4:1). Satan used the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life to tempt Jesus in hopes He would fail as not be proven as perfect and blameless. 

In verses 9 -11, Satan told Jesus to throw Himself off the pinnacle of the temple. He quoted Psalm 91:11-12 and tried to convince Him to test God and prove His status as the Son of God.

Jesus recognized the pride of life in Satan's offer and quoted Deuteronomy. 6:16, “You shall not tempt the Lord your God…”

Pride tests God. 

Examples of How Pride Ruined People in the Bible

The best examples of the dangers of pride are widespread in God's Word:

King Saul

In 1 Samuel 15, God was determined to punish the Amalekites for ambushing the Israelites in the wilderness on their way to Canaan. Samuel gave Saul clear instructions, insisting that he wipe out everything and everyone in the land, including animals, but Saul disobeyed God in a display of self-importance.

He not only spared King Agag but also took the fat livestock. His disobedience displeased the Lord, causing Him to grieve making Saul king. Saul lost his kingship that day, eventually lost his life, and was replaced by David.

  • Dangers of Pride #1: A loss of authority and blessings

King Nebuchadnezzar

King Nebuchadnezzar was a great achiever and a force to reckon with in his days. The Lord had allowed him to grow and become strong. His greatness had grown and reached the heavens and his dominion to the end of the earth (Daniel 4:22). He also grew incredibly proud. 

Despite God’s warning through a dream that he'd be humiliated for his pride and offering him a chance to repent (Daniel 4:26), Nebuchadnezzar thumped his chest when he saw all he had built. His refusal to repent caused God to drive him out of the palace to eat grass like oxen for seven years (Daniel 4:33).

  • Dangers of Pride #2: A mighty fall in position

Goliath and the Philistine Army

Away from kingdoms and arrogant rulers, 1 Samuel 17 narrates a story we love to tell about how God comes through for those who trust in Him. 

The Philistines and the Israelites had drawn up the battle line, and the Philistines had a champion called Goliath. Verses 4 to 7 detail his might. Goliath was a giant with armor fit for his size, and these facts fuelled his pride. He taunted Israel, even made a bet he was sure to win: the losers of the battle would become the servants of the victors. All Israel cowered in fear at his words (1 Samuel 17:8-11).

Yet, God had prepared a shepherd boy named David who trusted in Him to bring Goliath down. With a sling and a stone, David killed Goliath, and the Israelite army rose up to destroy the rest of the Philistine army (1 Samuel 17: 40-54). 

  • Dangers of Pride #3: An eventual defeat

Bible Verses About Pride

Pride is an elevation of self that manifests in different ways. 

The Pharisee, who recounted his good deeds in prayer and thanked God that he was not like the tax collector standing a distance from him, was opened to the dangers of pride (Luke 18:11).

Naaman's disappointment with Elisha's directive to bathe in the river Jordan to find healing displayed pride (2 Kings 5:10-11). 

God wants us to see the dangers of pride that come from focusing on ourselves. Here are five verses that reveal God’s heart toward the spirit of pride:

  • James 4:6

“But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’”

  • 1 John 2:16

“For 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.”

  • Philippians 2:3

“Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.”

  • Proverbs 11:2

“When pride comes, then comes shame; but with the humble is wisdom.”

  • Proverbs 16:18

“Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”

What Do We Do If We Struggle with Pride?

God detests pride and will always humble those who operate out of it. In God's mercy, He seeks to humble us to save us from the dangers of pride. Hebrews 12:6:11 reminds us that He chastens us because He loves us, and we are His children in Jesus. You can humble yourself before God humbles you. The best way to start is to recognize your pride and repent for it.

Tips to Help You Avoid the Dangers of Pride

Acknowledge God's Grace in Your Life

Everything we own is a gift from God. It is human nature to compare ourselves to others and either become proud because we think we're better or descend into self-pity (a form of pride) because we feel inferior. Paul warns us against this kind of boasting in 1 Corinthians 4:6-7.

  • “Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes, that you may learn in us not to think beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up on behalf of one against the other. For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?”

Commit Your Plans to God

Being so caught up in your plans rather than seeking God’s opens you up to the dangers of pride. As James points out in James 4:13-16, we don’t know what tomorrow will bring. Instead, commit your plans to God and ask Him to lead you.

  • “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit’; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.’ But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.”

Remember the Cross

Colossians 3:12-13 tells us the attributes we ought to have instead of pride while encouraging us to forgive others as we've been forgiven. Acknowledging the cross, the gospel, and everything it afforded us stirs humility. God forgave us much. We must respond in humility.

  • “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.”

Become a Servant Instead of Waiting to Be Served

In his letter to the Philippians, Paul admonishes Christians not to do anything out of pride but be humble and regard others as better than themselves. Philippians 2:5-8 gives an excellent example of how Christ did not consider His equality with God but became a servant and died for us. Therefore, we ought to emulate Christ and serve one another.

  • Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.”

Understand Greatness from a Kingdom's Perspective

Greatness is not about power and positions. When the sons of Zebedee came to Jesus seeking positions of power, the rest of the disciples felt betrayed. Jesus, however, called them and told them greatness in the kingdom is servanthood (Mark 10:42-44).

  • “But Jesus called them to Himself and said to them, ‘You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all.”

In Summary

Pride gratifies a fallen and corrupt flesh. Humility is its antidote. Be protected from the dangers of pride by:

  • Turning the spotlight onto God rather than yourself
  • Repenting of the sin of pride in your life
  • Apologizing to people you've hurt 
  • Asking God to help you remove all behavior that glorifies the self
  • Keeping a godly view of self
  • Giving God credit for your achievements.

When you can adopt the thought patterns mentioned above, your chances of being protected from the dangers of pride increase. In your humility, God gives you healing, and you find restoration. Want to discover more about the healing God wants to do in you? Healing comes from God’s Word and in community. Check out Re:generation and receive what God has for you today.