The role of pride and true faith

Tutankhamun statue in Egypt

People naturally want to feel respected and valued, which forms the basis for their self-esteem. Pride is a common feeling that makes individuals want to show off their accomplishments and contributions in life. Not surprisingly, the Bible contains numerous references to the word “pride”. Often, we ignore such references, discarding their meaning as something not applicable to us. However, let's take a closer look at it.

If you have been a fool by being proud or plotting evil, cover your mouth in shame.

( Proverbs 30:32 )
He humbles the proud and brings down the arrogant city. He brings it down to the dust.

( Isaiah 26:5 )
He makes them turn from doing wrong; he keeps them from pride.

( Job 33:17 )

In our daily lives, we distinguish between two types of pride: a negative one, expressed in phrases like “this person was too proud to help,” and a positive one, conveyed in phrases like “Good job, I’m so proud of you!” The latter expression is pervasive in family life, where parents seek to motivate their children to persevere, progress, and develop into respected individuals. Regardless of whether we express praise or condemnation, both types of pride share a common foundation. Let's take a look at the most common definitions of pride:

  1. A feeling of deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one's own achievements, the achievements of those with whom one is closely associated, or from qualities or possessions that are widely admired
  2. Consciousness of one's own dignity.

Both definitions above share a common foundation around self-centric qualities. "Pride" reflects self-abilities or self-accomplishments as opposed to reliance on others' help.

Pride leads to conflict; those who take advice are wise.

( Proverbs 13:10 )

As we can see, that self-centered pride is heavily condemned in the Bible repeatedly. Here are just a few examples:

And when they cry out, God does not answer because of their pride.

( Job 35:12 )
You rescue the humble, but your eyes watch the proud and humiliate them.

( 2 Samuel 22:28 )
Though the LORD is great, he cares for the humble, but he keeps his distance from the proud.

( Psalms 138:6 )

Before we can make any conclusion, let's take a look at the Bible story of Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar, who became proud of the results of the work he did.

As he looked out across the city, he said, 'Look at this great city of Babylon! By my own mighty power, I have built this beautiful city as my royal residence to display my majestic splendor.'

( Daniel 4:30 )

While most of us aren't kings, and our achievements may not be grandiose, we often say or think, "I built this house with my own hands," or "I created such a great company," or "I won this game over someone else," taking pride in our efforts. Isn't it fair to feel proud when we've invested so much effort into something crucial for us, be it securing a good job, fostering a strong family, or winning a race?

The author of the renowned biblical wisdom book, "Ecclesiastes," recognized that personal qualities and skills don't solely determine life events' outcomes.

I have observed something else under the sun. The fastest runner doesn't always win the race, and the strongest warrior doesn't always win the battle. The wise sometimes go hungry, and the skillful are not necessarily wealthy. And those who are educated don't always lead successful lives. It is all decided by chance, by being in the right place at the right time.

( Ecclesiastes 9:11 )

It appears that success isn't guaranteed for those who invest significant effort in work, training, or practice. If we fast forward into New Testament times, Jesus asserts that nothing escapes God's attention, regardless of the event's perceived importance or insignificance:

What is the price of two sparrows-- one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it.

( Matthew 10:29 )

Let's return to Nebuchadnezzar and examine what transpired after he voiced his prideful words about his accomplishments:

"While these words were still in his mouth, a voice called down from heaven, 'O King Nebuchadnezzar, this message is for you! You are no longer ruler of this kingdom. You will be driven from human society. You will live in the fields with the wild animals, and you will eat grass like a cow. Seven periods of time will pass while you live this way, until you learn that the Most High rules over the kingdoms of the world and gives them to anyone he chooses.'

( Daniel 4:31-32 )

In an instant, King Nebuchadnezzar lost everything he had taken pride in, facing challenging times, just as foretold. The king lost his throne, pride, and dignity, a necessary experience for understanding and learning the lesson. After a while, Nebuchadnezzar came to realize who was truly behind all his achievements:

"After this time had passed, I, Nebuchadnezzar, looked up to heaven. My sanity returned, and I praised and worshiped the Most High and honored the one who lives forever. His rule is everlasting, and his kingdom is eternal. "Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and glorify and honor the King of heaven. All his acts are just and true, and he is able to humble the proud."

( Daniel 4:34-35,37 )

In the end, Nebuchadnezzar learned a valuable lesson about pride. Can we, too, learn this lesson the easier way, by reflecting on Nebuchadnezzar's story?

Does that story imply that our achievements aren't genuinely ours? What can we accomplish entirely on our own? A verse from the Gospel of John, quoting Jesus, provides the answer below. Notice that Jesus repeats the same words, subtly rephrasing them to underscore their significance.

Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.

( John 15:4 )
"Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.

( John 15:5 )

It is God who empowers us, enabling us to succeed in games or secure good jobs. God is the source of creative ideas when tackling complex problems and provides strength to persevere and complete what we've started. Recognizing these aspects reveals the true nature of God and His role in our lives, bringing us closer to Him.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.

( Proverbs 3:5-6 )
Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.

( Philippians 4:6 )
So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

( 1 Corinthians 10:31 )

Let's acknowledge our limitations and find comfort in understanding that relying on Jesus brings peace of mind, supporting us through challenges and guiding us in managing feelings of pride and dignity.