Why is pride a sin?

Proverbs 16:18 says, "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall." There are many other biblical warnings about the sin of pride. But why is pride so strongly warned against? Why is pride a sin? Is it always a sin to feel proud of something you have accomplished? It is very important to understand what precisely is the pride that God hates (Proverbs 8:13).

In the movie Evan Almighty, the main character, Evan, is seen praying to God before he goes to bed. Evan thanks God for his house, despite the fact that he worked hard to pay for it, because, well, God created matter. Evan understood that neither he, nor his house, would even exist were it not for God. That seems to be the key distinction between "good" pride and "bad" pride. Sinful pride is refusing to recognize God's sovereign role in everything. "Good pride" is recognizing that apart from God, you can do nothing (John 15:5), and, therefore, giving God the glory for the things you accomplish.

A few years ago my wife and I were given a prestigious award. I really struggled with what my attitude should be regarding the award. We had to travel to receive the reward, and people kept asking us why we were in town. What were we supposed to say? How could we have informed them that we were receiving a very distinguished award without sounding prideful and/or conceited? Ultimately, I think being mistaught on what sinful pride actually is made the proper response much more difficult than it had to be. We entirely recognize that nothing we have accomplished would have been possible without God. We entirely recognize that God is the one who has given us the wisdom, discernment, and strength to accomplish what we have. At the same time, we have worked exceedingly hard. Am I saying that God needed our efforts to accomplish what He desired? Of course not. Did God choose to accomplish His will through us due to our willingness to submit to Him? Yes, I think so. Is it a sin to feel pride in what God has accomplished? No, I do not think so.

While God is absolutely sovereign, and while nothing happens outside of His providence, our efforts, or more accurately, our willingness to be used of Him, do play a role in what God chooses to accomplish through whom. Of course, no one can come to God or submit to God without God's enablement (John 6:44). But, there is still an aspect to our relationship with God which "depends" on how willingly we submit to Him. God will accomplish His plan no matter what. How much God incorporates you into how He accomplishes His plan depends at least somewhat on you.

Assuming that Isaiah 14:12-15 and Ezekiel 28:12-15 refer symbolically to Satan, Satan's sin was pride. Despite the fact that God had created Satan, and despite the fact that it was God who gave Satan the power and beauty he possessed, Satan wanted the glory and credit for himself. Satan did not want to worship God in response to the gifts God had given him. Instead, Satan wanted to be worshipped. Satan viewed himself as glorious instead of what he actually was: a reflection of God's glory. That is the sin of pride. Sinful pride is not recognizing that only God is worthy of worship because only God is able to accomplish things entirely in and of Himself. Only God is holy, beautiful, glorious, and powerful in and of Himself. Everything and everyone else relies on God. The most we are is evidence of the amazing creative power of God.

First Corinthians 4:7 summarizes this nicely: "What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?" Everything we have, we have received from God. Therefore, we should not act as if we have accomplished anything on our own. It is not wrong to feel good about something you have accomplished as long as you recognize, and admit, that you could not have accomplished it apart from God.

What would have been the proper response to people asking us why we were in town? Something to the effect of: "We are being recognized for the great things God has accomplished through us in response to our willingness to submit to His will and be used of Him." Now if I could only come up with a more concise way to say that.

S. Michael Houdmann

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Why is pride a sin?