The Bible in Everyday Life: Pride and Humility
by Hugh Houchin 5/02/2011 / Christian Living
In the culture of today's world, pride is often seen as character strength, while humility is a character weakness. However, in the Bible 1Peter 5: 5 says, "You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble."
Unfortunately, the contrasts of pride and humility are examples of God and the world's culture finding themselves at opposite ends of the continuum. However, a short, but profound, word study reveals why God and culture disagree on what these two characteristics represent.
At one end of the continuum the Merriam-Webster Dictionary tells what culture's viewpoints of pride are: "1: conceit, 2: justifiable self-respect, 3: elation over an act or possession, 4: haughty behavior: distain 5: ostentatious behavior, or pretentious and excessive display." In contrast, using Merriam-Webster's definitions, this is how God's book of definitions, the Bible, feels about pride.
1- Conceit: "Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him." Proverbs 26:12
2- Justifiable self-respect: "Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight." Isaiah 5:21
3- Elation over an act or possession: "For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?" Mark 8:36
4- Haughty behavior: "And You (God) save an afflicted person; but Your eyes are on the haughty whom you abase." 2 Samuel 22:28
5- Ostentatious behavior: "How blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit." Psalm 32:2
The problem God has with pride in the world is culture directs it inwardly, which glorifies something fallible. (I'll clarify that later in the article.)
Merriam-Webster's Dictionary lists three characteristics of humility: "1: low, humble, not proud, or haughty, 2: not pretentious: unassuming, 3: insignificant syn. lowly." In my opinion, those characteristics can be construed to give a condescending view of humility.
Whereas, in the Bible, God supports humility inspiring Paul to say in Romans 12:3, "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."
In addition, in Matthew 5:3 He again supports humility by saying, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, (humble) for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Heaven and humility are synonymous, and that sort of says it all doesn't it?
Yes, even though humility is not a natural human characteristic, and is contrary to culture norms; God commands us to display that trait. Micah 6:8 is straight forward, saying, "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? Humility is a God-given characteristic, with no negatives attached to it.
The "and to walk humbly with your God" is key, because God's glory is of paramount importance to Him. Everything God does is for His glory. In Isaiah 48:11 He says, "For My own sake, for My own sake, I will act; for how can My name be profaned? And my glory I will not give to another."
When culture directs pride to self it's sinful, because it takes from God glory that belongs to Him. In His perfection He has done it all, and He doesn't share His glory:
He spoke the world and everything in it into existence. Genesis 1
He created Adam from the dust of His earth and Eve from one of Adams ribs. Genesis 2
He separated the water in the sea and the Israelites walked from one shore to the other, on dry ground. Exodus 14: 21-30
He flooded the entire earth. Genesis 6-8
He healed the sick and raised the dead. Matthew 4:23,24; John 11
He alone draws His elect to Himself. Romans 5:8
What does this have to do with humility? When was the last time you did any of the above? Humility is the result of seeing yourself in relation to God.
All scripture is quoted from the New American Standard Version of the Holy Bible
Hugh Houchin is retired, but enjoys fulltime freelance writing. His publishing credits include articles and columns in western Nebraska newspapers and numerous websites.