What does it mean that “pride cometh before a fall”? Pride is inordinate self-exaltation. Because it forgets God and distorts reality, pride puffs us up only to eventually burst, as pride leads to destruction, lowliness, disgrace, and strife. Because pride is so destructive, we ought to oppose it in our lives. Here are three practical ways you can fight against personal pride.
If you google “pride,” you get mixed results. On the one hand, pride is seen as something to celebrate (e.g., gay pride parades; school pride). On the other hand, it’s listed as one of the “deadly sins.” Taking our cue from the Bible, we see that pride isn’t something to be proud of. It’s actually something to try to eradicate from your life as quickly and thoroughly as possible. Why? Well, because it always goes before a fall.
Pride cometh before a fall? Here’s what pride does.
Here are some Scriptures that talk about why we need to fight pride instead of giving into it. Notice from these verses how pride always gives you the opposite of what you think you’re getting:
- “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Prov. 16:18)
- “Pride brings a person low…” (Prov. 29:23)
- “When pride comes, then comes disgrace…” (Prov. 11:2)
- “Where there is strife, there is pride…” (Prov. 13:10)
“When pride comes, then comes disgrace.”
Destruction, lowliness, disgrace, strife—these are not what we figure on getting when we give into pride in our lives. Yet these are the kinds of disastrous results which pride brings. What has a longer history of causing abuse, destruction, disrespect, deceit, corruption, or sexual misconduct than pridefully thinking you’re more important than others? This is why the apostle John is so serious about us choosing the love of the Father over the temptations of the world:
“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.” (1 John 2:15-16)
The Bible is written from the perspective that there’s a God—and he’s not us. The end game of pride, which gives me a puffed-up perception of myself, is for me to take God’s place as the most important being in the universe. So, from an objective perspective in which God is God, pride makes me ridiculous and pathetic—a danger to myself and to others.
Pride cometh before a fall? Here’s what pride is.
If you study pride throughout the Bible, you see the following characteristics of it:
- Pride is inordinate self-love, in which your estimation of yourself swells and crowds out other people.
- Pride is seizing glory and praise that should be reserved for God and taking it for yourself.
- Pride is exalting yourself over people (and God) in a way that causes you to look down on others and treat them with contempt.
We can’t find a list of “seven deadly sins” in the Bible (theologians came up with them after the Bible was written), but we do have a fascinating list of “7 things God hates.” The first in this list is the way that pride manifests in how we look at people: Proverbs 6:16-17a says, “There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes.”
Pride cometh before a fall: “We are living in a particularly dangerous time in history.”
Since pride comes before a fall, it stands to reason that we are living in a particularly dangerous time in history. How so? Well, the culture we live in loves pride. It rewards pride. In this cultural moment, whether or not we are living the good life is measured in large part by how many reasons for pride we have: more social media followers, more views, more fame, more money, more reasons for people to respect my identity.
The following verses remain true regardless of our culture’s attempts to invert pride into a virtue:
- “The Lord detests all the proud of heart. Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished.” (Prov. 16:5)
- “The Lord Almighty has a day in store for all the proud and lofty, for all that is exalted (and they will be humbled).” (Is. 2:12)
- “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” (James 4:6)
Pride cometh before a fall: “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”
It’s just a matter of time before the prideful are painfully shown who is God and who is not. If you’re not excited about being punished, humbled, and opposed by God, then you’ll want to get serious about fighting pride in your life. Although pride is a natural tendency for sinners (and we’re all there!), here are three steps you can take to humble yourself before God—before he humbles you with a painful fall.
#1 – Crave prayer.
Praying to God is a powerful reminder that you aren’t God. When we feast on prayer, it helps us humble ourselves, understand our place in the universe, and worship God more genuinely. Moses was known as an incredibly humble person (Num. 12:3), and this humility was no doubt connected to his regular communication with God.
Ironically, our ultimate example in humility is God himself. Although Jesus was “in very nature God,” Jesus “made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant” (Phil. 2:1-7). This humility was nurtured by Jesus’ daily, consistent walk with his Father, as he “often withdrew to lonely places and prayed” (Luke 5:16). If we are to have Christ formed in us (Gal. 4:19), then this spiritual development is not unlike eating plenty during a pregnancy: we develop a strong appetite for daily prayer in order for Jesus to grow in us fully.
#2 – Reject ownership.
One of the fuels for pride is the illusion that we are the owner of our lives and possessions. If we’re thinking Christianly, however, we recognize that everything we have—including our very lives—belongs to God. Our money, possessions, and even our abilities and accomplishments come from God and ultimately belong to him. Seeing our life accurately means that we give God credit in our lives and acknowledge his ownership over everything we are and have. Seeing reality in this way will go a long way in helping us fight pride in our lives.
#3 – Serve others.
The apostle Paul showed us a very practical way to fight “selfish ambition” and “vain conceit” in our lives. We do it by serving people and keeping their needs front and center. Here’s how Paul put it:
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” (Phil. 2:3-4)
Then Paul went on to point us to the example of Jesus, who “made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant.” If we want to fight pride and grow in humility before God, we take our cue from Jesus and take the posture of a servant. So, there’s a very real sense in which either I bow before God as a servant today or fall as an imposter tomorrow.