What Are You Proud Of?

Everyone who is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord. Assuredly, he will not be unpunished. (Proverbs 16:5)

All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. (1 Peter 5:5)

You hear it almost daily, and from people whom you hold in highest regard: "I'm really proud of you."  Parents say they're proud of their children, athletes tell us they're proud of their teammates, teachers are proud of their students, employers are proud of their employees, and so it goes.  

You will find it very challenging to buy a birthday, or Mother's Day, or any other kind of card, that doesn't say how proud you are of the recipient.  But then, if pride is such a good thing to have, why would you look for a card that doesn't say, "I'm so proud of you"?

People whom we respect even tell us that they're proud of their own accomplishments, and no one seems to think there's anything wrong with this.  The Bible universally condemns pride, as sampled in the two texts above, yet Christians regularly tell us of the things that make them proud.

Does anyone but me find this the least bit strange, or even disturbing?  A "proud look" ("haughty eyes") is number one on the list of the seven things God hates.1  And yet respected Christians unabashedly and regularly tell us of the things and people which make them proud.

This positive use of the word proud has even found its way into the more recent translations of the Bible.  Here is an example from the NASB translation of 2 Corinthians 5:12:

We are not again commending ourselves to you but are giving you an occasion to be proud of us, so that you will have an answer for those who take pride in appearance and not in heart. 

Compare this with the KJV version of the same text:

For we commend not ourselves again unto you, but give you occasion to glory on our behalf, that ye may have somewhat to answer them which glory in appearance, and not in heart.

Now, I am fully aware that word meanings change, and that the meaning of any word is finally determined by the context in which it is used.  But this is my contention: why would Christians want to take a word that clearly speaks of something God hates, and attach a positive meaning to it?

What is the biblical meaning of the word "pride"?

Pride is a manner of thinking whereby one takes credit unto oneself that rightfully belongs to God.

Here's what the scripture says about this kind of thought processes:

For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. (Romans 12:3)

Let's break this down.  The apostle Paul, who has been grace-gifted by God, exhorts us: don't think more highly of yourself than you ought to think.  The trouble with most of us is that we immediately think: "Well then, how highly should we think of ourselves?"  In fact, some even take this text, and interpret it thus: "We should think highly of ourselves, just not too highly."  

I hope you will not be too disappointed to find out that that is not what God meant by what he said here.  How can I be so confident that this is not what God means?  Because he goes on to say through his apostle, "But think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith."  

What does sound judgment tell us about how highly we should think of ourselves?  Well, consider these expressions of God's sound judgment regarding you and me:

But you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who is giving you power to make wealth. (Deuteronomy 8:18)

What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it? (1 Corinthians 4:7)

For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. (1 Corinthians 1:21)

At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. (Matthew 11:25)

Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:10)

Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you thinks that he is wise in this age, he must become foolish, so that he may become wise. (1 Corinthians 3:18)

The Lord did not set his love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but because the Lord loved you and kept the oath which he swore to your forefathers. (Deuteronomy 7:7-8)

If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. (Galatians 6:3)

And how did the most godly evaluate themselves:

Isaiah: Then I said, "Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips." (Isaiah 6:5)

Paul: It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. (1 Timothy 1:15)

David: I am a worm and not a man. (Psalm 22:6)

How does the scripture speak of our Redeemer?

For he grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of parched ground; he has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to him. Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, and like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, so he did not open his mouth. (Isaiah 53:2,7)

And how did our Savior speak of himself?

Therefore Jesus answered and was saying to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of himself, unless it is something he sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner." (John 5:19)2

OK then, what credit can we rightfully take for ourselves?  Jesus taught his disciples: "Apart from me you can do nothing."3  What could be more clear than this?  I once heard a preacher say, in jest, "We're willing to give God the glory, as long as we get the credit."  This is about as schizophrenic as saying that pride is a sin, and yet we're proud of our accomplishments.  

Which is it?  Is pride a vice, or is it a virtue?  The Bible is very clear about this, why aren't we?  The answer seems obvious: our enemy wants us to be confused, ambivalent, and frankly, just wrong, about what pride is.

Pride is described as the reason for the fall of Lucifer, son of the morning.4  The scriptures tell us that pride goes before a fall.5  The Bible says that God is opposed to the proud;6 that everyone who is proud is an abomination to God.7  It is God who humbles the proud in heart.8

Since pride is so universally decried in the word of God, how then did it ever become so widely accepted by 21st Century Christians?  I theorize that it has come about as a result of verbal and cultural engineering carried on by the enemy of all mankind; the one who, himself, fell from glory because of his own pride.

Since Satan fell from God's grace because of his pride, why wouldn't he want to also cause all of mankind to get caught up in the same error, and to suffer the same consequences he suffered?  Yes, I believe that the devil has conspired to cause all mankind, and Christians especially, to think that pride is a virtue.

Now, before you get all huffy, I know that you may think there are two kinds of pride: a good pride and a bad pride.  And you will tell me that the pride you feel and speak of is the good kind, surely not the bad kind.  I invite you to try this kind of reasoning with any other sin in the Bible: there's a good kind of adultery and a bad kind of adultery; there's a good kind of lying and a bad kind of lying.  You get the idea — seems preposterous, doesn't it?

So, what is verbal engineering?  This is a process by which a culture is purposefully changed, beginning with the words that are used.  Here are some examples of social engineering that begins with verbal engineering:

• How can we make it acceptable to kill unborn babies in the womb?  Rather than saying we are pro-abortion we say that we are pro-choice.  Rather than saying that a mother can destroy the body of the baby within her, we say that it's her body, she can do with it whatever she wants.  Rather than call the life within the mother a baby, we call it a fetus.  These words are far more palatable to our sensibilities. 

• How can we make homosexuality acceptable?  At first we called it a sexual preference, but that sounded too much like a choice a person can make.  Now we call it sexual orientation; something that a person is supposedly born with.  The word homosexuality seemed too pejorative, so we changed it to gay.  There, now, these are happy people, not people who are caught up in the bondage of sin.

Here, I believe, are a couple of examples of Satan's use of verbal engineering:

• How can I get people to not think of Jesus as both a real person as well as the God that loves them and died for them?  I will get them to use the word Jesus as an interjection in their daily speech.  For a vast number of people, the word Jesus has become nothing more than a word to spice up one's speech, and does not refer to the person at all.

• How can I get people to discount the reality of hell?  I will get them to use the word hell as a word to spice up their speech.  So then, to say, "Just for the hell of it," means simply: "For no particular reason."  The word hell is used with many different meanings in context, but rarely as that fearful place where all who reject Jesus Christ as Savior will suffer for eternity.  In fact, this reality is mocked by the very ones who use the word in their daily speech.  Mission accomplished!

So then, I believe Satan has reasoned thus: If I can get people to use the word pride/proud in a way that is clearly different from the concept taught in the scriptures, then perhaps they will not be as careful to avoid the sin of pride.  And if they are less concerned about being proud, they will be more likely to stumble into other sins, and the resulting personal and societal destruction.

What I'm saying is this: there is a very real danger of losing the hatred of pride when we regularly speak of pride in a positive manner.  In fact, the use of pride in a positive sense has become so prevalent in our contemporary culture that if you were to ask most young people what's bad about pride, they would likely respond: "Why, nothing; pride is a good thing!"

And yet, the clear teaching of God's word tells us that pride is evil, destructive, and hated by God:

The fear of the Lord is to hate evil; 

Pride and arrogance and the evil way 

And the perverted mouth, I hate. (Proverbs 8:13)

When pride comes, then comes dishonor, 

But with the humble is wisdom. (Proverbs 11:2)

Pride goes before destruction, 

And a haughty spirit before stumbling. (Proverbs 16:18)

People will tell me that when they say, "I'm proud of my kids," they don't mean "I think I'm wonderful because of my kids".  They're not telling others to look at them as parents because their kids performed well.  They simply mean, "My kids really make me feel good; I am so happy to be their parents."  

When an athlete says, "I'm really proud of my teammates," he is probably not meaning to say: "I think I'm great because of my teammates."  He probably means, "I am so encouraged by my teammates' efforts, and am privileged to be associated with them."

Why, you say, if people understand that I'm not trying to draw attention to myself when I say I'm proud of someone else, is it so wrong to say "I'm proud of them"?  My answer?  For the Christian, there is a much more positive way to make the statement you are meaning to communicate.  Instead of saying, "I'm proud of them," say, "I am so thankful to be related to or associated with them."  Say: "Their actions encourage and motivate me so much."  "They make me really happy!"  

Why is this distinction so important?  Here are my reasons:

1) Using pride in a positive sense diminishes the evil of that which God hates and which leads to destruction.

2) Using pride in our speech limits us from expressing feelings and attitudes within us that should be drawing attention to God and others, rather than ourselves.

3) Using pride in a positive sense, teaches the next generation that pride is a good thing which, in turn, hinders them from understanding the biblical meaning of pride, and the attitude of God toward it.

Now, then, what about the person who says not "I'm proud of you," but, "I'm proud of myself"?  This seems to be a more obvious misuse of the word proud, but even so, there are plenty of Christians that use this kind of expression, and who encourage others to use it as well.  We're told that it's good to be proud of your accomplishments; it's healthy to take pride in your work.

Again, what I'm contending is this: apart from the working of God in and through you, nothing good can be accomplished by you.  These words were first written in scripture by King David, then quoted by the apostle Paul: "There is no one who does good, not even one."9  Apart from God there is no wisdom, there is no knowledge, there is no ability, there is no life.  Apart from God there is no light; there is only darkness, both physically and spiritually.  It is an arrogant fool who takes credit for what only God can accomplish.

Read the book of Job.  He defends himself throughout it, but at the end of the book God challenges Job regarding his knowledge and abilities, and he realizes and admits that he is nothing and can do nothing.  Consider his confession:

Job answered the Lord and said, 

"Behold, I am insignificant; what can I reply to you? 

I lay my hand on my mouth. 

Once I have spoken, and I will not answer; 

Even twice, and I will add nothing more.

I know that you can do all things, 

And that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. 

I have declared that which I did not understand, 

Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.

I have heard of you by the hearing of the ear; 

But now my eye sees you; 

Therefore I retract, 

And I repent in dust and ashes." (Job 40:3-5; 42:2-3,5-6)

This is universally the viewpoint of those who are godly: they recognize that they are totally dependent upon God for knowledge, wisdom, ability, and life.  They admit that, apart from God's grace, they are nothing.  In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul felt foolish because he found himself in the very uncomfortable position of defending his apostleship to this church; he says:

I have become foolish; you yourselves compelled me. Actually I should have been commended by you, for in no respect was I inferior to the most eminent apostles, even though I am a nobody. (2 Corinthians 12:11)

There was a poor Syrian woman who just wanted her daughter to be healed by Jesus.  When Jesus spoke of her as a "dog" (an expression commonly used by Jews to refer to gentiles), she took no offense, but humbly accepted the designation for herself, as she pleaded with Jesus to heal her daughter.  Did Jesus tell her to stop considering herself to be of such insignificance?  Did he chide her for her low self-esteem?  No, she was one of only two people, in the gospel records, that Jesus commended for her great faith.10

These are not examples of false humility, or an "inferiority complex", being communicated by these godly people; they are illustrations of sound judgment.  It's how we ought to think of ourselves.  Do not think more highly of yourself than you ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment.11

So, if you find yourself in agreement with the argument I've presented here, how can you take a more positive, biblical approach in your thinking and communication of what you have accomplished or what those related to, or associated with you, have accomplished?  Instead of using pride/proud in a positive way, what can you say?

Since you cannot take any credit for the good that you, or anyone connected with you has done, give the credit to whom it rightfully belongs: God.  Express your joy and pleasure as thanks to God:

Thank you, Lord, for the wonderful children you've given to me.

I am so thankful that God gave you to me for a daughter.

My heart was filled with gratefulness to God as I watched you perform tonight.

I am so thankful God has given me the privilege of being a part of a team of dedicated, committed, passionate individuals.

I am grateful that God allowed me to complete this task.

God is so good to give me the skill to serve others in this way.

Or, express your joy and pleasure as praise of others:

You are a great bunch of guys to play with.

I love you just the way you are.

You make me feel so happy whenever I see you doing your job.

Or, express your joy and pleasure as...joy and pleasure:

It gives me such joy whenever I hear you speaking to others.

I am so pleased to be related to you.

It makes me feel so happy whenever I finish a job well.

You can give much more thanks to God, and praise to others, when you choose words other than I'm so proud of you, or I'm proud of what I've accomplished.  When you thank God and praise others, God gets the glory he deserves and the people in your life get much-appreciated encouragement.  To thank God and praise others is to humble yourself.  To say I'm proud...well...how can that be humbling yourself?

Pride is the opposite of humility.  Humility is what endears you to others, and it is what qualifies you to receive spiritual insight from God.  Pride is the possession of those who walk in darkness, bondage, and deception.  Those who walk in humility possess light, freedom, and truth.  

I encourage you to stop calling darkness light, and to stop calling pride virtue.  The line between right and wrong will become blurred for you.  And for the next generation, who is watching your every move, and listening to every word, wrong will become right, and vice will become virtue.

Call pride what it is: the sin that God hates the most, the cause for the fall of Satan from beside the throne of God, and the reason for the ruination of countless lives and relationships.  Think about yourself they way God thinks about you, and think about God the way that he has described himself to you in the scriptures.  

He has told you, O man, what is good; 

And what does the Lord require of you 

But to do justice, to love kindness, 

And to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8)

1 There are six things which the Lord hates, yes, seven which are an abomination to him: haughty eyes,... (Proverbs 6:16-17)

2 Now this doesn't mean that Jesus was powerless to do something on his own, but rather that he was unwilling to do anything apart from cooperation and companionship of his Father.  No member of the trinity does anything independently of the rest of the trinity.  While they are three separate persons, they always operate in perfect unity.  It is in this respect that Jesus said he could do nothing of himself, apart from his Father.  See also: John 5:30; 6:38; 7:16; 8:28-29; 12:49; 14:10.

3 John 15:5

4 Isaiah 14:12-15 and Ezekiel 28:12-18 speak specifically about the kings of Babylon and Tyre respectively.  They also are generally believed to be speaking about Satan, the power behind these two individuals.  Both of these texts indicate that it was pride that was the reason for the fall of Satan.  He wanted to be God rather than a servant of God.

5 Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling. (Proverbs 16:18)

6 James 4:6 and 1 Pete 5:5

7 Proverbs 16:5

8 Job 40:11-12

9 Psalm 14:3; Romans 3:12

10 Matthew 15:21-28

11 Romans 12:3

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