The Sin of Pride According to the Bible

Man Studying the Bible

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The sin of pride is a heart attitude expressed in an unhealthy, exaggerated attention to self and an elevated view of one’s abilities, accomplishments, position, or possessions. Pride has been called “the cancer of the soul, “the beginning of all sin,” and “sin in its final form.” Ten Hebrew words and two Greek words are generally used in the Bible to refer to it. Pride, in its sinful form, is the direct opposite of humility, a trait that is highly praised and rewarded by God.

The Sin of Pride

  • The sin of pride is an excessive preoccupation with self and one’s own importance, achievements, status, or possessions.
  • This sin is considered rebellion against God because it attributes to one’s self the honor and glory that only God is due.
  • Pride is the opposite of humility, a character quality that greatly pleases God, and one He rewards.
  • The Bible frequently talks of God humbling the proud.

What Is Pride?

Pride is not always expressed as a negative quality in the Bible. It can carry a positive connotation of self-worth, self-respect, and self-confidence. The apostle Paul communicated a positive sense of pride when speaking to the believers in Corinth:

“I have the highest confidence in you, and I take great pride in you. You have greatly encouraged me and made me happy despite all our troubles” (2 Corinthians 7:4, NLT).

Pride becomes sinful when it is excessively self-focused and self-elevating. This kind of pride is what most often appears in the Bible. The biblical sin of pride refers to a high or exalted attitude—the opposite of the virtue of humility, which is the appropriate posture people ought to have with God.

Charles H. Spurgeon described pride as “an all-pervading sin.” He said, “Pride is so natural to fallen man that it springs up in his heart like weeds in a well-watered garden … its every touch is evil. You may hunt down this fox, and think you have destroyed it, and lo! Your very exultation is pride. None have more pride than those who dream that they have none. Pride is a sin with a thousand lives; it seems impossible to kill it.”

Synonyms for pride in the Bible are “insolence,” “presumptuousness,” “arrogance,” “conceit,” “high-mindedness,” “haughtiness,” and “egotism.”

In Hebrew, the concept of pride is often expressed figuratively with words that suggest height. An interesting expression in Greek refers to a person being “puffed up” or inflated with pride. Rather than having substance, the prideful person is filled only with air:

“He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil” (1 Timothy 3:6, ESV; see also 1 Corinthians 5:2; 8:1; 13:4; Colossians 2:18).

Why Is Pride a Sin?

Pride is viewed as a great sin and rebellion against God because it presumes to possess excellence and glory that belong to God alone. The danger of pride is that most people are unaware of their pridefulness: “You have been deceived by your own pride” (Obadiah 3, NLT). 

Pride is perilously deceptive: “Pride leads to disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom” (Proverbs 11:2, NLT). It gives way to conflicts and quarreling (Proverbs 13:10). Pride adversely affects one’s speech (Malachi 3:13; Proverbs 6:17).

Proud people do not think they need to ask forgiveness from God because they can’t admit or even recognize their sinful condition. As a result, pride also affects a person’s attitude toward others, often causing them to look down on others as less worthy or less able. Prideful people treat others with contempt and cruelty: “Mockers are proud and haughty; they act with boundless arrogance” (Proverbs 21:24, NLT). Pride is at the heart of prejudice.

The greatest danger in the sin of pride is that it keeps our eyes on ourselves instead of on God Almighty. In essence, pride causes spiritual blindness and eventual death.

Pride in the Bible

Pride is cited among some of the most glaring sins in the Bible. In Romans 1:30, Paul describes unrighteous people who will incur the wrath of God as “backstabbers, haters of God, insolent, proud, and boastful. They invent new ways of sinning.”

The Pharisees and other Jewish leaders were some of the most prideful people in the Bible, noted for how they mistreated and spoke down to those beneath their social level. Jesus said of them:

“And they love to sit at the head table at banquets and in the seats of honor in the synagogues. They love to receive respectful greetings as they walk in the marketplaces, and to be called ‘Rabbi.’ … But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (Matthew 23:6–12, NLT).

Pride caused the downfall of King Uzziah, who dared to burn incense on the altar of incense and was struck with leprosy as his punishment from God (2 Chronicles 26:16). Hezekiah became proud of heart after the Lord healed him. His pride brought God’s wrath not only against him, but also against all of Judah, and Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 32:25-26).

King Herod’s pride in accepting the people’s worship and refusing to give God the glory for his greatness brought judgment. God struck him with sickness, and he was eaten by worms and died (Acts 12:21–23).

Of the Prince of Tyre, the Lord said, “In your great pride you claim, ‘I am a god! I sit on a divine throne in the heart of the sea.’ But you are only a man and not a god, though you boast that you are a god” (Ezekiel 28:2, NLT). Many Bible scholars believe this passage refers to the original fall of Satan, which is also mentioned in Isaiah 14:12–15:

How you have fallen from heaven, morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations! You said in your heart, “I will ascend to the heavens; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of Mount Zaphon. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.” But you are brought down to the realm of the dead, to the depths of the pit. (NIV)

King Solomon said, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18, NIV). In the Bible, pride not only caused the ruin of individuals but also of nations. Israel became proud and forgot God. Ultimately, it was the sin of pride that caused the people of Israel and Judah to be cut off from the promised land of Canaan (Isaiah 3:16; Ezekiel 16:50; Hosea 13:6; Zephaniah 3:11). James 4:6 tells us that God opposes the proud but shows grace to the humble.

Pride is one of the sins that will be widespread among people in the last days:

“For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God” (2 Timothy 3:2–4, NLT).

The Bible says that pride is one of seven things that God hates:

“There are six things the LORD hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up conflict in the community” (Proverbs 6:16–19, NIV).

People who love God and godliness reject pride:

All who fear the LORD will hate evil. Therefore, I hate pride and arrogance, corruption and perverse speech” (Proverbs 8:13, NLT).
“I will not tolerate people who slander their neighbors. I will not endure conceit and pride” (Psalm 101:5, NLT).

The Bible warns people to evaluate themselves honestly for the sin of pride:

“Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us” (Romans 12:3, NLT).

Sources

  • The Altar Of Sexual Idolatry (p. 126).
  • Tyndale Bible Dictionary (p. 1072, 1752).
  • Humility, Pride. New Dictionary of Biblical Theology (electronic ed., p. 567).
  • Pride. Lexham Theological Wordbook.
  • Pride. Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (p. 1327).
  • Dictionary of Bible Themes: The Accessible and Comprehensive Tool for Topical Studies.
  • Holman Treasury of Key Bible words: 200 Greek and 200 Hebrew Words Defined and Explained (p. 140).