It was a wintry, February day as I scurried across the church parking lot, eager to begin the week-long biblical counseling conference. I walked into the building genuinely wanting to learn how to help and comfort others, but somehow forgetting it might be my own heart in need of help.
The very first session was a topic I felt confident in. Still, I took copious notes . . . so I could share my gleanings with my “struggling” friends back home, of course! But as the speaker probed deeper into the topic, the uncomfortable realization of how closely I fit her descriptions slowly sunk in.
I had been living under the illusion that I was somehow better than others by focusing on the areas I didn’t struggle with (or so I thought), all the while failing to see the pride that was greater than my so-called success. Thankfully, my good Father didn’t leave me in that frightful condition. He reminded me of something even greater than my ugly pride—His beautiful grace.
This is what the good news is all about—coming to a full, frightening recognition of your sin, yet finding in Jesus Christ the glorious realization that His grace is sufficient to cover it.
A Heart Stained with Pride
The Bible doesn’t leave us wondering what God thinks of our pride. While there are dozens of passages we could look at in the New Testament on pride and humility, there are two specific passages that address both the dangers of pride and the favor God bestows on the humble. The first one is from James 4:
“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. . . . Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you (vv. 6–8, 10).
Similarly in 1 Peter we read:
Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you (5:5–7).
Reading a statement like “God opposes the proud” should really make us think twice about justifying our arrogance and selfishness. It’s not a mere character flaw. Our pride is a serious offense against a righteous God. It turns us into glory thieves against our Creator.
But thankfully, our God is not only holy but also merciful. The warning against the proud is miraculously followed by an invitation to the humble to draw near. Imagine: The God of the universe is waiting with open arms to embrace you—because He cares for you! This glorious reality of being welcomed and accepted by God is yours through Jesus. On our own, none of us can ever shake the label of “glory thief.” We will never be righteous or humble. It is only through the perfect life and atoning death of the Son that we are clothed with humility by the Spirit and able to draw near to the Father.
A Life Marked by Humility
A few chapters earlier in 1 Peter we read of Jesus’ perfect example of a truly humble life, who, even in the midst of betrayal, torture, and death, “committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly” (2:22–23).
This passage and others like it (Philippians 2 comes to mind) describes Jesus as a man marked by humility, never seeking His own advantage, fully surrendered to His Father’s will. He who never sinned came to bear our sins “that we might die to sin and live to righteousness” (1 Peter 2:24). As one hymn says it:
Because the sinless Savior died,
My sinful soul is counted free,
For God the just is satisfied
To look on him and pardon me.
When your sin elevates your thoughts to shameless heights or plunges your spirit to shame-filled depths, remember and give thanks for the cross and what it represents—the pardon for your sin; the exchange of your guilty record for Christ’s perfect one; the grace to walk in truth and light; the promise of peace, fellowship, and oneness with the Father.
A Heart Fully Surrendered
Is pride keeping you from growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord? Do you need a fresh encounter with God? Are you willing to examine your heart and repent of any pride you find that is stealing God’s glory?
Below is a condensed list from the book Brokenness: The Heart God Revives by Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, which contrasts characteristics of a proud person and a broken (or humble) person. Use this list to guide you through a time of prayer and confession, remembering that there is no room for pride in a heart fully surrendered to God.
- Proud people focus on the failures of others.
- Broken people are overwhelmed with a sense of their own spiritual need.
- Proud people have a critical, fault-finding spirit; they look at everyone else’s faults with a microscope but their own with a telescope.
- Broken people are compassionate; they can forgive much because they know how much they have been forgiven.
- Proud people have an independent, self-sufficient spirit.
- Broken people have a dependent spirit; they recognize their need for others.
- Proud people have to prove that they are right.
- Broken people are willing to yield the right to be right.
- Proud people are self-protective of their time, their rights, and their reputation.
- Broken people are self-denying.
- Proud people have a drive to be recognized and appreciated.
- Broken people have a sense of their own unworthiness; they are thrilled that God would use them at all.
- Proud people are self-conscious.
- Broken people are not concerned with self at all.
- Proud people are concerned with being respectable, with what others think; they work to protect their own image and reputation.
- Broken people are concerned with being real; what matters to them is not what others think but what God knows; they are willing to die to their own reputation.
- Proud people have a hard time saying, “I was wrong; will you please forgive me?”
- Broken people are quick to admit failure and to seek forgiveness when necessary.
- Proud people are concerned about the consequences of their sin.
- Broken people are grieved over the cause, the root of their sin.
- Proud people don’t think they have anything to repent of.
- Broken people realize they have need of a continual heart attitude of repentance.
- Proud people don’t think they need revival, but they are sure that everyone else does.
- Broken people continually sense their need for a fresh encounter with God and for a fresh filling of His Holy Spirit.
View or download a complete version of this list here.