Spiritual Pride

“Charity … vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up.” —I Corinthians 13:4

THE ACT OF vaunting oneself, or being puffed up, is reprehensible in all, but especially would it be so with those who name the name of Christ. Such conduct is the evidence of pride, and pride is the by-product of cultivated selfishness. The selfish spirit anxiously seeks after all that it esteems as valuable and gratifying, such as wealth, fame, and distinction among men. To the extent that it is successful in attaining these, the tendency sometimes follows to feel complacent, independent, and superior to others. Pride is nourished and cultivated until it enlarges itself to ridiculous proportions—‘puffed up’ with its imagined importance.

The proud do not realize how difficult it is for others to love them, or how really unworthy they are in the eyes of others. It is no wonder that the wise man declared that: “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.” (Prov. 16:18) This is so true because the egotistical have overestimated their value and ability, and when they are weighed in the balances they are found sadly wanting.


The one who underrates his worth usually comes much nearer the truth than the one who overrates. When we stop to consider soberly we realize that by nature we are all fallen and degraded by sin, that even at our best we come far short of perfection along every line. Thus we really have nothing of which to boast. When we compare ourselves with those who are less fortunate than we, we must make a sober estimation of our capabilities.

Aside from the Scriptures, man cannot trace his history back to his origin, nor can he ascertain his destiny. He is unable to understand the philosophy of his physical and mental organisms. He cannot fully fathom or understand the life principle, and does not know how the mind can think or reason. Neither does he know why the simple blade of grass should be green, nor why glass is transparent. He cannot understand how it is that from a little acorn comes the mighty oak, and much less can he know the miracle involved in human propagation. He finds his days limited largely to three score years and ten and full of sorrow, entering the world with nothing, and leaving it with nothing.

He makes a watch to keep himself informed as to the movement of the earth in relation to the sun, but finds it helpful to check up on his timepiece occasionally by the movement of the stars. He is surrounded by a vast unknown, and his limitations are far greater than his abilities. Not only is he confounded by the mysteries of life, but he finds difficulty in living up to what he recognizes as being just and good. Surely, only the narrow or dishonest soul can be proud.


Pride is manifested in varying degrees, and usually those who are affected with this common malady do not realize it. The fact that some do not go around with a haughty look, or an all-knowing spirit, showing only disdain for those whom they feel less honorable than themselves, does not mean that they are not proud. The absence of the extreme evidences of this trait is not sufficient grounds for believing oneself free from such an affliction.

Pride also manifests itself in various ways. One is stubbornness, where a strong-willed person wants his own way. Touchiness, or hurt feelings, indicate that we want others to think well of us. The same is true of those who are hypocritical. Boasting is an obvious form of pride which often involves possessions, knowledge, accomplishments, and the honor of men.


The pride which is merely foolishness, or partial hypocrisy in the world, takes a much more serious aspect when it is found among the Lord’s true people. The world and the merely professing Christian people are not on trial at this present time, whereas the true people of God are. We are living during a “day of salvation” for the church, so judgment is taking place with “the house of God.”—II Cor. 6:2, Rotherham Translation; I Pet. 4:17, Rotherham Translation

The Christian has no cause for pride or glory in himself, for he has nothing that he did not receive. (I Cor. 4:7) All that he has, all that he is, and all that he hopes for, comes from the Lord. The Lord has blessed and enriched his people, he has taken them “out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay,” and has set their feet upon the Rock of Ages. He has clothed them “with the garments of salvation,” and has covered them “with the robe of righteousness.”—Ps. 40:2; Isa. 61:10

The Apostle Paul said, he “hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.” (Eph. 1:3) How altogether unbecoming for any who have been so blessed and so benefited by the grace and favor of the Lord, to endeavor to glorify themselves or to take pride in what they have or are. Surely only a small and beggarly mind could feel that pride in any form becomes the saints. All the glory belongs to the Lord, so “Let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the Lord.”—Jer. 9:24

The Scriptures declare that “God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.” (I Pet. 5:5) Hence, we can safely conclude that to the extent any of the Lord’s people have pride, to that degree God is resisting them, and to the same extent they are without the grace that otherwise would be their portion if they had the proper humility. What real progress can we make as Christians if God were to resist us? The Scriptures answer saying, “Without me ye can do nothing.”—John 15:5

Without the Lord’s grace we surely cannot develop or bring forth any grace to perfection, and much less shall we be able to accomplish anything of enduring value if, because of secret or hidden pride in our hearts, the Lord is resisting us. If there is any vaunting of self, any ‘swelling’ or ‘puffing up’, it is manifest that such a one is not made perfect in love, for ‘charity [love] vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up’.

The true Christian is exhorted to be “clothed with humility.” How very becoming is such attire, and how beautifully it adorns the saints! Contrariwise, what poor and wretched apparel is the cloak or covering of pride! Not only is humility beautiful clothing for the saints, but it helps to cover any of the imperfections of their fallen humanity. But pride is so ugly and undesirable that it hates to be known for what it really is, and so it often uses modesty to give it the same appearance as humility.

The Christian should prepare his mind and heart to resist pride in every form, however small or insignificant the symptoms may be. He should also learn to detect pride in whatever form it appears, whether as envy, evil-speaking, stubbornness, touchiness, self-assurance, know-all attitude, aspiration or ambition, spitefulness, vanity, hypocrisy, a proud look, or even a proud tone of voice. He will be better prepared to slay this adversary, when he learns to recognize it upon sight. Hence it would be in order for us to look into the lives of those who were made ensamples to us in the Holy Scriptures.


The first character that comes to mind when we think of pride is Lucifer. When first created he must have been extremely beautiful and bright, perhaps far excelling other heavenly beings in his glory. Unfortunately, however, his beauty and brightness became a snare to him, for it is written, “Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness.” (Ezek. 28:17) We see in him the awful effects of pride and ambition. How it debased and defiled his character when he said in his heart, “I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the Most High.”—Isa. 14:13,14

Let us consider well the example of Lucifer and note carefully how pride of thought on his part paved the way for full corruption of his heart. Pride led to other sins, and ultimately to the complete debasement of his character. This brought him to the lowest depths of depravity, where he opposes the God of mercy to the utmost of his ability. Lucifer’s downfall should warn us to flee pride, despise it, and to loathe its slightest appearance.


There was a holy man of old, beloved of the Lord, self-sacrificing and “very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth.” (Num. 12:3) He served the Lord faithfully for forty years, but on one occasion was guilty of spiritual pride and self-assurance. It was Moses, who, at the beginning of his career, was meek and humble, and who later was hindered from entering the Promised Land because of a wrong act indicating pride.

Moses, as the Lord’s faithful servant, had led the Israelites out of Egypt across the Red Sea into the wilderness, en route to Canaan. To provide for the needs of the people in that barren land, it was necessary for Moses to perform some miracles by the power of the Lord. One of them was the smiting of the rock when the people were thirsty for water. When Moses, by the Lord’s direction, smote the rock, waters gushed forth for the refreshment of the people. This beautifully pictures Christ, the Rock of Ages, who was smitten so that the water of life might flow from him to the people.—I Cor. 10:4; Exod. 17:1-6

However, many years later, the children of Israel again thirsted in the wilderness, and cried to Moses for water. On this occasion, Moses was commanded to speak to the rock that it bring forth water. Instead, angered at the people, he said, “Must we fetch you water out of this rock?” (Num. 20:10,11) Instead of speaking to the rock as he was commanded, he struck the rock twice. In this act of disobedience, we see that he made a picture of those who once received the living water that comes from the Rock of Ages, but who do “despite unto the Spirit of grace.” (Heb. 10:29) These have rejected the ransom merit of Christ, and in effect would “crucify … and put him to an open shame.” (Heb 6:6). The Scriptures say, however, that “Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more.”—Rom. 6:9

But the point of concern to us lies in the fact that so meek and humble a character as Moses could be so lifted up with pride and self-importance even for a moment, that he failed to sanctify the Lord before the people. We, too, are liable to magnify our own importance as, through the years, the Lord honors us with privileges of service, for we, perhaps were less humble and meek to start with than was Moses. How very careful we must be, lest we begin to feel that we ought to share in the glory that belongs to God alone.

Previous to Moses’ deflection by pride, we notice the largeness and beauty of his humility. On one occasion Joshua heard of two young men, Eldad and Medad, who were prophesying in the camp of Israel. He said, “My lord Moses, forbid them.” And to this Moses replied, “Enviest thou for my sake? would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit upon them!” (Num. 11:27-29) If Moses had any pride in his heart, how easily he might have acted in harmony with Joshua’s counsel. The Lord’s people everywhere should have a heart trained like this, free from pride or envy.


Another example of how the humble minded can often be lifted up with pride is found in Saul, the first king of Israel. When he was told that Israel desired to have him as their king he said, “Am I not a Benjamite, of the smallest of the tribes of Israel?” (I Sam. 9:21) And when Samuel desired to present him before the people and the Lord as the king of Israel, he could not be found for he had “hidden himself among the baggage.”—I Sam. 10:21,22, Margin

How quickly Saul seemed to forget, and begin to feel that he was important enough to decide what part of God’s commandments he should comply with, and what part could be omitted. He no longer remembered that he was from the least of all the families of the tribe of Benjamin when the people cried out: “Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands.” (I Sam. 18:7) The very thought of David, a lowly shepherd boy, being renowned as a greater warrior than he, was more than the proud and arrogant king could endure.

What had happened? He had forgotten his own insufficiency and insignificance, and that it was because God had been working through him that his efforts had been fruitful. Forgetting this, he was willing that all the credit and glory should be his. For this reason, Samuel was sent to remind him: “When thou wast little in thine own sight, wast thou not made the head of the tribes of Israel, and the Lord anointed thee king over Israel?”—I Sam. 15:17

We, too, as the Lord’s anointed people can easily forget our own unworthiness, and begin to strain our hearing for words of praise and commendation from our brethren or our fellowmen. The blessed work of proclaiming the glorious truth, and especially when this work prospers, can, in our own minds, so quickly become our own accomplishment. How important to remember that “this is the Lord’s doing; it is marvellous in our eyes.”—Ps. 118:23

While they are humble-minded—condescending to “men of low estate”—the Lord often leads his people to prominent positions in his service, or to some glorious triumphs in the Christian warfare. (Rom. 12:16) Too often, at this point, the Lord’s people are stumbled by pride. With their lips they may give glory to God for what he has done; in their hearts they feel that at last their talents are appreciated. Or they may think, “Now I am a hero in the strife and shall be glad to explain to others just how I was so successful in overcoming my difficulties.”


We reflect upon another less prominent character of the Bible—one whose advice was greatly esteemed and appreciated by King David and his son, Absalom. We are told that the “counsel of Ahithophel, which he counselled in those days, was as if a man had enquired at the oracle of God: so was all the counsel of Ahithophel both with David and with Absalom.”—II Sam. 16:23

Usually this counsel was well received and acted upon, but when Absalom rebelled against his father’s rulership, and fought against him, he inquired of Ahithophel as to what would be the best procedure to gain the victory against his father. Ahithophel counseled him to give command for the raising of an army that would pursue David and take him while he was weary and off-guard. However, Absalom called in another counsellor who thought that Ahithophel’s counsel was not good and who advised a different course of procedure which appealed more to Absalom. It was in the Lord’s overruling providence that Ahithophel’s counsel was defeated, for the Lord desired to bring evil upon the wicked Absalom.—II Sam. 17:14

The point of interest to us lies in the fact that Ahithophel, when he realized that his counsel had been rejected, found the pain of humiliation greater than his desire for life. He whose counsel had always been esteemed and appreciated was suddenly ignored, and his feelings were crushed. His pride and dignity could not stand such abuse, so we are informed that he “put his household in order, and hanged himself.”—II Sam. 17:23


Here again we can learn lessons as we see how pride can dominate and rule the spirit of man. It is well to examine ourselves and to ask:

Do I fret and feel offense when my counsel and suggestions are ignored or set at naught?

Do I quickly challenge statements that underrate my abilities and impugn my goodness?

Do I feel great embarrassment when others, with less background, can answer questions that I cannot?

Do I feel indignant with faultfinders who point out my misdeeds?

Do I encourage compliments and praise?

Do I hasten to put people “in their place”?

Do I shun reproof and hate instruction, especially when it comes from the less noble of the Lord’s people.

Do I belittle the deeds of others?

If our answers to some or all of these questions are in the affirmative there is need of great concern, for it would mean that there is a measure of pride in our hearts, which, if allowed to develop, could make shipwreck of our Christian lives.


Another example of one who was extremely proud and puffed up is found in the Book of Esther. That is, Haman. He was one of the honored servants of the Medo-Persian king, Ahasuerus (probably better known in history as Xerxes). Haman was promoted to a position of honor above the princes that were with him, so that all were commanded to bow before him. This, of course, gratified his egotism in no small way. But there was a certain man named Mordecai, who was a Jew and who would neither bow or give reverence to Haman under any circumstance. Hence Haman was filled with wrath and indignation against Mordecai and his kinsmen, the Jews. Haman had arranged with King Ahasuerus to have the Jews massacred on a given date, and planned further to have Mordecai hanged on a gallows which was specially made for this purpose.

However, when Haman went to the king to arrange for Mordecai’s hanging, he was greeted with the question, “What shall be done unto the man whom the king delighteth to honour?” (Esther 6:6) In his vain imagination, Haman conceived the thought that surely the king was thinking of him and accordingly he suggested that the one whom the king delighted to honor should be arrayed with royal apparel and placed on the king’s horse and delivered to the most noble of the princes to be proclaimed throughout the city as the one whom the king delighted to honor.

To Haman’s chagrin and sorrow he found that Mordecai was the one whom the king desired to honor, and, most painful of all, he was commissioned to the task of seeing that all he had suggested to the king be carried out in detail. Thus Haman was forced to lead Mordecai, whom he had clothed with the king’s apparel and whom he had set upon the king’s horse, throughout the city proclaiming, “Thus shall it be done unto the man whom the king delighteth to honour.”—Esther 6:11


The pain of humiliation was crushing to poor Haman, for we are told that he “hasted to his house mourning, and having his head covered.” The very one he despised most was the one he had to glorify before the people—and all by his own unwitting suggestion! But it did not end there. As the matter developed, Queen Esther exposed the wickedness of Haman before the king, and, in turn, the king’s wrath was not pacified until Haman was hanged on the gallows that he had built for Mordecai.

In this we see the end toward which pride leads; not that it always culminates in premature death, but that it ultimately leads to disappointment and to bitterness of soul. And if this is so among the ungodly, how much more would it be true among the Lord’s people. What a tremendous price to pay for self-gratification of so mean an attribute! With even the smallest ‘puffing-up’ of self, we are sure to incur the Divine displeasure, grieve our brethren with whom we have to do, and hinder greatly our joy and rejoicing in the Lord. It can be truly said that pride in no way enriches us, but leads to impoverishment of soul.


It is generally accepted by students of the Lord’s Word that the Laodicean period of the church is the harvest time at this end of the Gospel Age. The message given is directed to the professed people of God whom the Lord reproves and urges to repent. The charge the Lord lays to these is lukewarmness—a condition of indifference and pride. But at the very time that the professed people of God are in great spiritual poverty and wretchedness, and are spiritually blind, we find them saying, “I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing.”—Rev. 3:17

This well demonstrates the fact that the spiritually proud do not realize their own malady. The difficulty is that the disease of pride has a destroying effect upon the conscience, which creates an obtuseness of mind to the Golden Rule and to the still higher law of love—the new commandment. Pride cloaks and veils itself in such a manner that the afflicted person feels he is standing for principle, for wisdom, for virtue, hence in self-righteousness he spurns counsel, makes light of the warnings of others, and feels only indignation toward any who might be so bold as to imply that he is proud. While in this attitude, the Adversary leads him beyond the help that comes from the fellow members of the body of Christ—“that which every joint supplieth.”—Eph. 4:16

Conscience is the scale by which we weigh the various matters presented to our judgment to discern whether they are right or wrong. The scale can be very crude, or very fine and well-balanced. The Christian, if he has been long in the school of Christ, should have a very sensitive conscience; and, from the Word of God, should be able to draw the weights by which he would balance all the questions of life, and determine correctly whether they are right or wrong. Indulgence in sin would, no doubt, impair this scale, and especially so in the sin of spiritual pride. Nothing much can be done until the scale be rectified.

The Lord’s counsel to the Laodicean period of the church seems especially appropriate to remedy soul sickness. “I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.”—Rev. 3:18

If we would buy, at the cost of self-sacrifice, the gold of the heavenly riches, the Divine nature and the corresponding Divine likeness of character, we must first undergo fiery trials and experiences. And we need also to have our imperfections and sins covered with the white raiment of our Lord’s righteousness. This gives us a standing before our Father who is in heaven. Let us not forget to anoint our eyes with the eyesalve of meekness, consecration, and submission to the Divine will; for, if our eyes are properly anointed, we will behold quickly the approach of pride and prevent its perverse influence. The proper use of the eyesalve should help all to adjust the scale of conscience to an accurate balance of right or wrong, justice or injustice, truth or error.

The questions naturally arise, how can we safeguard against spiritual pride and avert its corrupting influence on our characters? How can we prevent the puffing-up of self which would obstruct the development of perfect love in our hearts?

The answer to these questions is found only by a careful introspection of self. It behooves the Lord’s people to go to him at the opening of each day and ask for Divine wisdom and guidance, and then throughout the day endeavor to live in accordance with that prayer. Additionally, at the close of each day we should examine ourselves as to the things done and the words spoken throughout the day to see how nearly they were in accordance with our vows of consecration. If we continue daily reckoning and balancing with the Lord, and if we make them honestly and with a properly guided conscience, we may be sure that we will be keeping ourselves in the love of God. We will be growing in grace and in love and there will be no occasion of stumbling in them.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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