If you know me, this article is for you. If you’ve ever discovered my arrogant heart by teaching me or disagreeing with me, this is for you. In a more general sense, if you’ve ever tried to collaborate with or constructively critique another person, and they lacked the teachability or humility...
I am a prideful person, but by God’s grace my repentance grows deeper each day.
Even though this sin repulses me, I return to it. I’ve found that condescension and haughtiness are appealing at first but they leave a terrible aftertaste. When I return to pride, I’m always left wondering: How did I end up here? Why did I eat the fruit of pride yet again?
I want to explore why pride can feel so powerful. It plays these 5 games on us, and it is a master at them. Be careful to avoid its tricks, because joining in will come at a great cost.
5 Games Pride Plays on You
1. Pride promises you what you want at the cost of what you need.
For the wicked boasts of the desires of his soul,
and the one greedy for gain curses and renounces the Lord.
In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek him;
all his thoughts are, “There is no God.” (Psalm 10:4)
What do I want? More twitter follows. A couple of book deals. The admiration and respect of everyone I meet. Is that too much to ask for? Pride says, “That’s not too much at all. In fact, you deserve those things. You are entitled to them.”
A person who has great want is a willing victim of their own pride.
But note, if you take the hand of pride, you leave God’s hand behind. The prideful doesn’t think, “I don’t follow God” but thinks, “There is no God.” For the existence of God necessitates that we are secondary to him—but pride says you’re second to no one.
2. Pride offers a shortcut to knowledge at the cost of true wisdom.
I, wisdom, dwell with prudence… [I hate] pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech. (Proverbs 8:13)
Pride offers a shortcut to knowledge because it suggests you already have it!
Wisdom, however, dwells with prudence. That means true wisdom comes from a spirt caution that makes sure it doesn’t stray from God’s word. In other words, it takes time and work. It takes an acknowledgment that you are not wise immediately.
But what dwells with pride? Wisdom gives and receives counsel with Prudence, but whom does Pride interact with?
Perhaps Folly, who says, “There is no truth. Everything is equal so go with your gut!” Perhaps Recklessness, who says, “There’s no time to waste! Act now!” Or maybe even Perversion, who asks, “Have you considered the benefits of evil? There is much gain to be found there.”
Proverbs 21:4 calls a proud heart “the lamp of the wicked.” How does a prideful person find their way? By the light of their own pride, which is not light at all but darkness.
3. Pride makes you feel better at the cost of your relationships.
Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. (Romans 12:15-17)
Many things can happen in our lives to upset us. Someone gets something instead of us, someone disappoints us, or maybe someone harms us. For these moments, Jesus set the ultimate example of grace and selflessness and calls us to imitate his humility. However, pride offers us a different way to react.
When your friend gets the thing you have been wanting, pride will bolster you up through hate. When someone you know has been brought low, pride will protect you as you distance yourself from them. And, when someone commits evil against you, pride encourages you, saying you have all the right in the world to do the same to them.
4. Pride promises money and power at the cost of your soul.
As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. (1 Timothy 6:17)
The verse above from Timothy tells us what we all know about riches—they are uncertain. They rise and fall. And, when we die we cannot hold them. But herein lies the interconnectedness of pride’s schemes:
The prideful person doesn’t care that they can’t hold their money after death because they only care about this life. They’ve already said, “There is no God” (Psalm 10:4).
Money is never enough, though, and men quickly seek power. Taking the hand of pride makes you first a materialist and then a blasphemer. Consider this striking sentence from the last book of the Bible:
And the beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months. (Revelation 13:5)
The beast must have thought he had great power. He was blaspheming God, and God did not stop him. In the beast’s mind, he may have even thought that God could not stop him. He was drunk with power, but we can see his folly. The power he thought he had over God was actually “given” and “allowed” by God.
This is a warning to all who eat the fruit of pride. You will love your power, it will make you foolish, and it will lead you to blaspheme God.
5. Pride gives instant gratification at the cost of eternal joy.
For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:16-17)
I have said that pride promises what you want—to feel better through self-worth, money, and power—and the most alluring part of pride is that it offers all this right now. There is an urgency, a time-boundness, to pride. This urgency is set up to lure you away from “the will of God.”
When the devil offered to give Jesus all the authority of “the kingdoms of the world…and their glory” (Luke 4:5-6), it was a now-or-never kind of deal. The devil said all he had to do was bow down to him, and then it would all be Jesus’s. Just like that!
The devil is the supreme tempter. He knows exactly how to get to people. He knows here in Luke 4 that he is telling the prophesied Messiah that he could obtain all the power in the world without having to go through all the pain and misery of the crucifixion.
But Jesus, who was the incarnate Word, is too strong for that. He said in response to the devil: “You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.”
Our Lord and Savior is stronger than sin, and if we are in him then so are we. He spoke directly to the face of pride and said, “You shall worship the Lord your God” so we can do the same when it tempts us.
Jesus Offers Something Greater
Reader, what do you find in pride’s empty promises that you cannot find in Jesus? Jesus offers greater, and more life-giving, things to you.
Jesus gives you what you need, grants true wisdom, soothes your soul while redeeming your relationships, brings us to the rich generosity of the Father, and holds out in his hand eternal joy.
Will you lay hold of that joy? I pray that you will.