Pastor David B. Curtis


The Sin of Pride

James 4:6

Delivered 10/15/2000

This morning, we're going to talk about the sin of pride, which is most likely the chief of sins. Some even think that pride is the root of other sins. It well may be; as it leads to so many other particular offenses. Older commentators spoke of pride as a "chief sin", in that other twigs grew from its fertile and fatal root.

James 4:6 (NKJV) But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: "God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble."

Please notice that this verse is both a warning to the proud and a promise to the humble. Pride is an attitude of self-sufficiency toward God. Humility is an acknowledgment that we are weak, unworthy, and inadequate. To the humble, God promises grace.

I believe everyone here knows what pride is. I think we certainly know it when we see it. But just in case you have any questions, let me illustrate it briefly for you.

A politician has been caught with his hand in the till. He has been skimming funds, while all the while sitting as Chairman of the prestigious and much-publicized "Ethics Committee". He has written several books on congressional ethics, has lectured widely, and appeared on many TV shows. Some called him "Saint." He had been a foe of the President, and regularly accused the administration of ethical lapses. Then, all of a sudden it is revealed that he too has been a recipient of sweetheart funds, and had profited by questionable financial transactions. There is no doubt that he is guilty. But here is his real problem: He compounds that guilt with lame excuses and fabricates rationales that do not ring true. He should resign and admit that he was wrong. But he is too proud to admit that he was wrong. After all his lecturing on ethics, he cannot dare admit that he was so blatantly unethical, so common. One of the fruits of pride is seen when a person cannot admit that they were wrong. People could probably be forgiven if they would ask for it. But most are too proud.

The scientist, a former candidate for an international award is known as the father of "X Theory", the leading explanation for many scientific variables. He has become nearly impossible to work with, however, because the graduate students and other associates who work with him, can do no right. He is always right - and in fact, the only person who is right - and they are always wrong.

Off to the side, several other young Korean scientists have started a working group, which should be of no threat. However, our laureate scientist cannot stand competition. He fears more than anything that his theory will be disproven. He begins to fight even against the data, the facts, the evidence which is accruing that says he is wrong. He is so proud that he will do anything to preserve his theory - even if it is wrong. Why, he would sooner distort the tests, or add irrelevant variables to avoid outright disproof.

Soon the body of evidence grows and the scientific community begins to move away from the old science. He then attacks the new theory put forth by the younger Korean working group, because it rivals his. He would rather fight than switch; he would rather be wrong than right - if that meant surrendering his theory. Pride grows even in the laboratory.

It also ferments quite well in churches. An older church member has been at the church for 327 years or so, with his grandparents there for another millennium or two. He has always been the Sunday School superintendent. A new Pastor comes on board. The SS superintendent helped hand-pick him. The only problem is that sometimes the pastor wants to do some things in a more biblical way than merely following past procedure, or tradition. A war begins. This holy war is led by pride, as the SSS seeks to regain a personal and spiritual kingdom he thought was his. Part of his problem is that he thought the church was his church, and that he was automatically right. Even though the pastor sought changes supported by the Bible, this SSS strenuously resisted - even biblical ideas - all in order to preserve "his way." He was proud of the program he'd built, and thought that due to his efforts, the program was a success. He also thought of himself as invaluable. And thereafter, he could never quite bring himself to agree with anything the Pastor did - even when the Pastor stumbled upon a good idea-, because his pride would not let him. He, too, would rather be wrong than be right if agreement meant changing his routine.

I could go on and on. We see pride in our neighborhoods, in all corners of human existence, even in our homes. It sprouts well in the corridors of power, and in every borough in America, down into the halls of the homeless. When that husband maintains one position in an argument with his wife, or when that wife stubbornly tries to get her way, pride grows. Pride seeds itself in the office suite, in the schoolroom, on the athletic field - in fact, in every corner of the universe, where the active Lordship of Christ is not present. Pride is characterized by self-assertion, selfishness; its opposite, humility, is known by its selflessness.

Right now you're probably thinking of someone who needs to hear this, and hoping they're listening or wishing they were here. Well, before you exclude yourself from this sin, let me read to you the comments of Albert Barns on the Greek word kenodoxia, which is pride:

Who is there who passes a single day without in some respect, desiring to display himself? What minister of the gospel preaches, who never has any wish to exhibit his talents, eloquence, or learning. How few make a gesture, but with some wish to display the grace of power with which it is done! Who, in conversation, is always free from a desire to show his wit, or his power in argumentation? Who plays the piano without the desire of commendation? Who thunders in the senate, or goes to the field of battle; who builds a house, or purchases an article of apparel; who writes a book, or performs a deed of benevolence, altogether uninfluenced by this desire? If all could be taken out of human conduct which is performed merely from 'pride,' how small a portion would be left!

In his book, Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis calls pride the `great sin' and says this about it:

There is one vice of which no man in the world is free; which every one in the world loathes when he sees it in someone else; and of which hardly any people except Christians ever imagine that they are guilty themselves.... There is no fault which makes man a more unpopular, and no fault which we are more unconscious of in ourselves. And the more we have it ourselves, the more we dislike it in others. (NY; MacMillan, 1943), p. 94.

Pride is willful arrogance, claiming to yourself what is really God's. It is essentially a lust for power, and it is far more prevalent than in rulers alone. Pride besets the commonest of people. It is no respecter of persons or position. In a power-centric society, pride is at the top of the list of sins. Today, many of us are routinely tempted with pride. Much of our very environment seduces us with pride. It is a sin of which we should constantly be aware, and seek to restrain. If a person tells me they have no pride, then I know I'm dealing with a person who does not know themself very well, or else a person who is in dangerous denial.

Today, let's look at what the Bible has to say about pride, and seek a cure. We need a pride-ectomy, or at the very least, an antidote for it.


Our society looks at pride as a virtue. Everything in our society is built to cater to man's pride, to build man up, to inflate his ego. But the Bible has nothing good to say about pride - nothing. The Old Testament Wisdom literature is quite helpful in exhibiting

the true nature of pride, and also calling us to avoid it:

Proverbs 6:16-17 (NKJV) "These six things the LORD hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him: 17 A proud look, A lying tongue, Hands that shed innocent blood,"
Proverbs 8:13 (NKJV) "The fear of the LORD is to hate evil; Pride and arrogance and the evil way And the perverse mouth I hate."
Proverbs 11:2 (NKJV) "When pride comes, then comes shame; But with the humble is wisdom."
Proverbs 13:10 (NKJV) "By pride comes nothing but strife, But with the well-advised is wisdom."
Proverbs 16:5 (NKJV) "Everyone proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD; Though they join forces, none will go unpunished."
Proverbs 16:18 (NKJV) "Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before a fall."
Proverbs 29:23 (NKJV) "A man's pride will bring him low, But the humble in spirit will retain honor."

The scriptures have nothing good to say about pride, it is a very destructive, very damaging sin that is to be avoided. This teaching runs all through Scripture - God brings the proud low, but he exalts the humble. Jesus taught this:

Matthew 23:12 (NKJV) "And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.

It is one principle with two sides. It is a promise of being brought low to those who exalt themselves, and it is a promise of exaltation to those who humble themselves. We also see the principle in:

Luke 18:14 (NKJV) 14 "I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."

We know that the world works by inflating egos and encouraging pride. But pride has no place in the Christian life. God calls us to humility, which is the opposite of pride. Peter and James both say, "God resists the proud, and gives grace to the humble." The Greek word they use for "resist" is antitassomai, which is a compound word from anti, which means: "against", and tasso, which means: "to station or arrange". In other words, God is the active antagonist of the proud. Pride is perhaps the most destructive attitude because it puts man at enmity with God.

All through the New Testament, pride is categorized as a sin:

Mark 7:21-23 (NKJV) "For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, 22 "thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. 23 "All these evil things come from within and defile a man."
Romans 1:30 (NKJV) backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,
2 Timothy 3:2 (NKJV) For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,

People, pride is a sin! The Word of God has nothing good to say about pride. Now, someone may ask, "What about taking pride in our work?" Pride says, "Look how good of a job I'm doing. Aren't I wonderful." Instead of saying we take pride in our work, we should say, "I do my work to the best of my ability for the glory of God." The Bible says that we are to do whatever we do for His glory.

Colossians 3:23 (NKJV) And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men,

Shouldn't we be proud of our children? No! Pride is a sin. We should be "pleased" when our children strive to do their best and seek to live godly. We need grace in order to raise our children, and God only gives grace to the humble.


A specific example of the judgement against pride is seen in the prophecy about Edom, a territory southeast of Jerusalem in the desert, which had many natural fortresses. The city of Petra, the great capital city of Edom, was well fortified; it was nestled between high cliffs, and the only entrance is just wide enough for a single individual to pass through. So it was very easy for that city to be guarded by one soldier, making it almost invulnerable.

Obadiah 1:3-4 (NKJV) The pride of your heart has deceived you, You who dwell in the clefts of the rock, Whose habitation is high; You who say in your heart, 'Who will bring me down to the ground?' 4 Though you ascend as high as the eagle, And though you set your nest among the stars, From there I will bring you down," says the LORD.

This prophecy was fulfilled and the city of Petra was destroyed. Petra had water coming into the city in little troughs, flowing down the sides of the cliffs. When the city's water supply had been cut off by its adversaries, the people eventually had to surrender for lack of water. God brought them down from their lofty pride.

We also see the consequence of pride in the story of Uzziah, King of Judah. God had exalted him to the position of King and was using him mightily until he became proud:

2 Chronicles 26:1 (NKJV) Now all the people of Judah took Uzziah, who was sixteen years old, and made him king instead of his father Amaziah.
2 Chronicles 26:3 (NKJV) Uzziah was sixteen years old when he became king, and he reigned fifty-two years in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Jecholiah of Jerusalem. 4 And he did what was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his father Amaziah had done. 5 He sought God in the days of Zechariah, who had understanding in the visions of God; and as long as he sought the LORD, God made him prosper.

Please notice that last phrase, " long as he sought the LORD, God made him prosper." Seeking God is a sign of humility, prayer is a sign of humility. Uzziah humbled himself, and God exalted him.

2 Chronicles 26:7 (NKJV) God helped him against the Philistines, against the Arabians who lived in Gur Baal, and against the Meunites.

In verses 10-15, we are told of Uzziah's military might and accomplishments, but then notice what happens in the end of verse 15:

2 Chronicles 26:15-16 (NKJV) And he made devices in Jerusalem, invented by skillful men, to be on the towers and the corners, to shoot arrows and large stones. So his fame spread far and wide, for he was marvelously helped till he became strong. 16 But when he was strong his heart was lifted up, to his destruction, for he transgressed against the LORD his God by entering the temple of the LORD to burn incense on the altar of incense.

According to Numbers 16:40 " outsider, who is not a descendant of Aaron, should come near to offer incense before the LORD...." Uzziah knew this, but in his pride he disobeyed the word of the Lord. Pride is an attitude of self glorification, and attempt to disown his dependence on God. Pride sets the will of the creature against the will of the Creator. Pride violates the first commandment - to have other gods before our Creator. Pride puts self before God. It seeks elevation above divinity. Because of this sin of pride, God judged him:

2 Chronicles 26:20-21 (NKJV) And Azariah the chief priest and all the priests looked at him, and there, on his forehead, he was leprous; so they thrust him out of that place. Indeed he also hurried to get out, because the LORD had struck him. 21 King Uzziah was a leper until the day of his death. He dwelt in an isolated house, because he was a leper; for he was cut off from the house of the LORD. Then Jotham his son was over the king's house, judging the people of the land.

He went from being the King of Judah, a powerful military leader, to being a leper, a social outcast. Uzziah is an example of the truth that God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.

I'd like to make a distinction here. There is a difference between pride and contentment (satisfaction). God wants us to be content, but not proud. The one gives glory to God, the other to self. There may be a fine line between smugness and satisfaction. We must be on our guard against pride, while at the same time continue to practice gratitude and thankfulness. The presence of contentment is a good sign that pride is being crucified again and again. Yes, God wants us content and thankful; in fact, those keep us from the demanding-ness of pride. Henry Ward Beecher said, "Pride slays thanksgiving, but an humble mind is the soil out of which thanks naturally grow.... A proud man is seldom a grateful man, for he never thinks he gets as much as he deserves."


The solution to the problem of pride is to see yourself in a proper manner. To see yourself as a sinner saved and sustained by the grace of God alone. All we are and all we have is a gift of grace from God, what do we have to be proud about?

1 Corinthians 4:7 (NKJV) 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?

We do differ from one another. Some of us are smarter than others, some of us are better looking than others, some of us are more talented than others. Some of us are more gifted than others. We do differ, but who makes us to differ? The answer of course is God!

Exodus 4:11 (NKJV) "So the LORD said to him, "Who has made man's mouth? Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing, or the blind? Have not I, the LORD?"

What do you have that is not a gift from God? Looks? Intelligence? Popularity? Talents? Possessions? This is true even of those things which are acquired by great self-denial and exertion.

Deuteronomy 8:18 (NKJV) "And you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day.

We have absolutely no good thing that we did not receive:

James 1:17 (NKJV) Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.
1 Chronicles 29:11-16 (NKJV) "Yours, O LORD, is the greatness, The power and the glory, The victory and the majesty; For all that is in heaven and in earth is Yours; Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, And You are exalted as head over all. 12 Both riches and honor come from You, And You reign over all. In Your hand is power and might; In Your hand it is to make great And to give strength to all. 13 "Now therefore, our God, We thank You And praise Your glorious name. 14 But who am I, and who are my people, That we should be able to offer so willingly as this? For all things come from You, And of Your own we have given You. 15 For we are aliens and pilgrims before You, As were all our fathers; Our days on earth are as a shadow, And without hope. 16 "O LORD our God, all this abundance that we have prepared to build You a house for Your holy name is from Your hand, and is all Your own."

What do we have that we have not received? In this single sentence, Augustine saw the whole doctrine of grace. When we think of what we have done, and think of what God has done for us, pride is ruled out, and only humble gratitude remains.

Have you ever realized what a pointless thing pride really is? Since we possess only what God has given us, why do we boast as if we had created the things ourselves or earned them? Everything you are and everything you have, you owe to God. In the life of a believer, there is no place for pride.

Before we close I would like to draw two things to your attention in relation to pride. For the past several months we have been talking about our need for love and our need to pray. I want us to understand that pride is a great hindrance to love and prayer.


2 Chronicles 7:14 (NKJV) "if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

Prayer is an act of humility, it is saying, "God, I need You, I need your help." And on the other hand, prayerlessness is pride. It is saying, "God, I'm not praying because I don't need you or any help from you." You can judge the extent of your pride by the amount of time you spend in prayer. Think about that!


1 Corinthians 13:4 (NKJV) Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up;

Paul tells us that love "is not puffed up." The NNAS puts it this way, "Love is not arrogant." The Greek word here is phusioo, (foo-see-o'-o) which means: "blowing; to inflate." Figuratively it means: "make proud."

This word is only used in the New Testament six times; five of those occasions are in 1 Corinthians. One of the great problems of the Corinthians was their pride. And the pride of the Corinthians demonstrated itself in a lack of love. Love is not proud. So often we are impatient and unkind to people, because we think we deserve better treatment than we are getting, this is pride. And we need to understand that the root problem in any conflict between two people is pride.

Proverbs 13:10 (NKJV) "By pride comes nothing but strife,

Whenever there is a division, between a husband and wife, between a parent and child, between one believer and another believer, there is always a root cause, which is pride. And where there is pride, there is no love. Love is not proud.

In One Church from the Fence, Wes Seelinger writes:

I have spent long hours in the intensive care waiting room ... watching with anguished people ... listening to urgent questions: Will my husband make it? Will my child walk again? How do you live without your companion of thirty years?

The intensive care waiting room is different from any other place in the world. And the people who wait are different. They can't do enough for each other. No one is proud. The distinctions of race and class melt away. A person is a father first, a black man second. The garbage man loves his wife as much as the university professor loves his, and everyone understands this. Each person pulls for everyone else.

In the intensive care waiting room, the world changes. Vanity and pretense vanish. The universe is focused on the doctor's next report. If only it will show improvement. Everyone knows that loving someone else is what life is all about.

Let's all seek to be characterized by a loving humble spirit before we're in the intensive care waiting room. Love is not proud.

Don't we all need to be a little more on guard against pride? Aren't there some looming examples of this in all our lives? The solution to the problem of pride is to see yourself in a biblical manner. The remedy for pride is a spirit of humility - to see yourself as a sinner saved and sustained by the grace of God alone. All we are and all we have is a gift of grace from God, what do we have to be proud about?

Believer, please remember: God resists the proud but give grace to the humble.

1 Peter 5:6 (NKJV) Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time,

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