“Pride is the worst viper that is in the heart; it is the first sin that ever entered into the universe, and it lies lowest of all in the foundation of the whole building of sin, and is the most secret, deceitful and unsearchable in its ways of working, of any lusts whatsoever; it is ready to mix with everything; and nothing is so hateful to God, and contrary to the spirit of the Gospel, or of so dangerous consequence; and there is no one sin that does so much let in the Devil into the hearts of the saints, and exposes them to his delusions” (Jonathan Edwards, Distinguishing Marks, Yale 4:277-78).
The book of Proverbs wants us to understand two fundamental truths about pride:
1. God hates pride (Proverbs 6:16-19; 16:5)
“There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him; haughty eyes . . .” (6:16-19).
“Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the Lord; be assured, he will not go unpunished” (16:5). See James 4:6.
What does it mean to say that God “hates” or that something is an “abomination” to Him?
a. when a human hates – we loathe things, seek to avoid them, destroy them, speak ill of them, vote against them, try to forget them, wish the worst for them, etc.
b. when God hates – a pure, unalloyed, unmitigated, righteous displeasure, disgust, revulsion; to be an abomination to God = a stench, a repulsive and altogether putrid thing.
2. Pride is the precursor to virtually all other forms of sin; it is the soil in which all kinds of wickedness germinate and grow (Proverbs 16:18-19; 18:12; 21:4; 29:23)
“Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. It is better to be of a lowly spirit with the poor than to divide the spoil with the proud” (16:18-19).
“Before destruction a man’s heart is haughty, but humility comes before honor” (18:12).
“Haughty eyes and a proud heart, the lamp of the wicked are sin” (21:4).
“One’s pride will bring him low, but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor” (29:23).
Is it really the case that pride is the precursor to or perhaps the root of most sin? Yes!
Envy is a resentful awareness of an advantage enjoyed by another. But why does this evoke resentment in us? Why not joy? Because we don’t want others to appear better than ourselves; or we think we are more worthy of that advantage than they are. Why? Pride!
Bitterness is often the result of being personally offended or wronged by another. But why does that evoke bitterness? Because it either makes you look bad in the eyes of others or it deprives you of some blessing or comfort or convenience you think you deserve. Pride!
Strife often flows out of a competitive desire to be number one, a desire to be acknowledged by others, a desire for power and authority (cf. 28:25-26). What is the source of such desire? Pride!
Deceit is usually our strategy when we want to gain something for ourselves or when we want to hide something that might make us look bad. Why? Pride!
Hypocrisy is often the result of the fear of being seen and known for what we really are. Why do we experience such fear? Pride!
Slander erupts when someone has been hurt or offended by another, or when you want to gain acceptance and the only way is to lower others in the opinion of those whose favor you desire. Why? Pride!
Greed comes from the desire to make more of oneself than God wishes or permits. Pride is the poker that stokes the fires of materialism. Someone once said that the reason why so many are going into debt is that their neighbors keep buying things they can’t afford! But why do we desire to “keep up with the Jones’s”? Pride! We can’t stand the thought of people thinking we aren’t as rich or successful or as talented and deserving as others.
Pride = that ugly part of our souls that causes us to be more concerned about ourselves and our reputation than we are about Christ and his.
Other observations on pride in Proverbs:
It is destructive in its effects (30:11-14)
It is an irritant to others (25:14)
It often places a person beyond hope (26:12)
(1) What is the underlying cause of pride? 1 Cor. 4:7.
(2) What is the ultimate antidote to pride? Humility and Meekness
· Although meekness is not weakness, let us not lose sight of an essential element: tenderness and sensitivity, capacity to deal gently/compassionately with others.
· The humble person is not easily provoked: “A meek spirit, like wet tinder, will not easily take fire” (?). Again: “Those who seek my life lay snares for me; and those who seek to injure me have threatened destruction, and they devise treachery all day long. But I, like a deaf man, do not hear; and I am like a dumb man who does not open his mouth” (Ps. 38:12-13). Meekness is the antithesis of hastiness, malice, revenge.
· Meekness is living in accordance with the abilities God has given us, neither as if we had more nor less; neither pressing ourselves into situations we are not equipped to handle (for fear that if we don’t people will lose respect for us), nor shying away from those we can.
· The key to meekness/humility is a healthy acknowledgement of and submission to the sovereign grace of God (1 Cor. 4:7). Meekness should always be in direct proportion to one’s grasp of grace. Pride is the fruit of the lie that what I have I didn’t receive. Meekness or humility is the fruit of the truth that everything is of God. See also John 3:22-30, esp. vv. 27 and 30.
· An essential element in meekness is the willingness to allow others to say about me in public the same things I readily acknowledge before God in private.
· Meekness is being like Jesus: “I am gentle and humble in heart” (Mt. 11:29; Phil. 2:5-11). The measure of Christ’s humility was his compassion. Proud people don’t love the unlovely very well. The measure of your humility is the degree to which you happily embrace the unembraceable, touch the untouchable, love the unlovable.