There are several Hebrew words for pride in the Bible; some have different meanings depending upon the context. Some can mean majesty or excellence; others can mean lofty, exalted, or (negatively) pride. However, some are almost always negative—meaning also presumption, haughty, or lifted up.
In many Old Testament verses, words with normally different meanings are used euphemistically to symbolize pride. Common Hebrew words for tall, broad, high, and exalted can be used to denote pride. It is safe to say that pride infects the human heart and is also interwoven throughout the biblical Hebrew and Aramaic texts.
Pride Before the Fall?
That should be no surprise, as pride is the most ancient sin. It actually occurred in Satan before the fall of mankind. What was that first sin? We learn about it and Satan’s fall from Isaiah 14:12–14 (NKJV):
How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!
How you are cut down to the ground, You who weakened the nations!
For you have said in your heart: “I will ascend into heaven,
I will exalt my throne above the stars of God;
I will also sit on the mount of the congregation On the farthest sides of the north;
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.”
This passage in Isaiah 14 is a proverb or a taunt addressed to the king of Babylon (verse 4). But the prophecy goes beyond a mortal man’s description and refers to the “power behind the throne”: Satan. And in verses 12–14, we see clearly that Satan’s chief sin was pride (and envy).
Another prophecy in Ezekiel 28:14–15, again addressed to a human king but also directed to the controlling influence of Satan, tells us that Satan was perfect until unrighteousness was found in him. This passage can’t be talking about a post-fall human because no human (except Christ) has been perfect (or blameless before God) since the fall.1
Even Satan’s deception of Eve, which boiled down to getting her to doubt God’s single prohibition, was, in reality, carefully crafted and aimed at her pride.
Even Satan’s deception of Eve, which boiled down to getting her to doubt God’s single prohibition, was, in reality, carefully crafted and aimed at her pride. Although we must be careful in assigning or assuming motives where Scripture does not explicitly state, it is not unlikely that Eve’s mind began to wander in the direction of “Why should we be denied anything—were we not given dominion over all creation? And why doesn’t God want me to know good and evil?” Eve was deceived (Genesis 3:13; 2 Corinthians 11:3)—but deceived by what? She was deceived by the serpent in the garden, externally, but almost certainly by her pride, internally.
Of the seven sins which God hates the most, pride is at the top of the list!
These six things the Lord hates,
Yes, seven are an abomination to Him:
A proud look,
A lying tongue,
Hands that shed innocent blood,
A heart that devises wicked plans,
Feet that are swift in running to evil,
A false witness who speaks lies,
And one who sows discord among brethren. (Proverbs 6:16–19 NKJV)
And when you look over that list, you can clearly see that Satan (even prior to or just in Genesis 3) exhibits every one of those character traits. Pride (“I will make myself like the Most High”), a lying tongue (“has God said?”), shedding innocent blood (he knew that Adam and Eve would be punished by God with instant separation from him, as well as mortality leading to eventual death), a heart that devised the wicked plan (of man’s fall), swiftly enacting his evil purposes (quite possibly within a few days after day 7 of creation week) and a false witness (perjury against God’s own words)!
Pride After the Fall (and Pride Month)
Has mankind improved any since the fall? No, if anything, we have gotten worse. Every June now, many celebrate “pride” month, but in reality, those outside of Christ celebrate pride every day of the year. Scripture does not paint a rosy picture of the heart of man, and pride figures in almost every condemnation passage.
In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek him; all his thoughts are, “There is no God.” (Psalms 10:4)
The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate. (Proverbs 8:13)
Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. (Proverbs 16:18)
And he [Jesus] said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” (Mark 7:20–23)
For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. (2 Timothy 3:2–4)
And when you stop to think about it, couldn’t these next three passages be the theme verses for “pride month” since they sum up what is being celebrated?
So now we call the proud blessed, For those who do wickedness are raised up; They even tempt God and go free. (Malachi 3:15 NKJV)
And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to [i.e., “celebrate”] those who practice them. (Romans 1:28–32)
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. (1 John 2:16)
Christians Need to Battle Against Their Own Pride
But it is not only the world that has problems with pride; Christians battle this sin every day. Peter reminds us to “Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble’” (1 Peter 5:5). James gives us the same warning as Peter did (James 4:6). Paul instructs us to “Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion” (Romans 12:16 NKJV), to put on “compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience” (Colossians 3:12), and to “speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men” (Titus 3:2 NKJV).
Why all these warnings against pride and reminders to conduct ourselves with humility? Because the Holy Spirit knows we are prone to this error. Paul even has to remind us that we need to watch our pride even when telling others about the gospel: “And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth” (2 Timothy 2:24–25 NKJV). And Peter tells us the same thing, “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).
Truly, pride is one of the sins Christians struggle with the most.
Pride infects us so deeply that we as Christians can be too proud or act too proudly even when telling someone about the salvation of Jesus, who showed the greatest humility of all (Matthew 11:29; Philippians 2:8). Even pastors/elders are susceptible to this sin, which is why Paul exhorts Timothy not to commission new Christians as elders (1 Timothy 3:6). Truly, pride is one of the sins Christians struggle with the most. It may be a trite turn of phrase, but it is true nonetheless: humility is the one thing that, once you think you have it, you’ve lost it.
It is worth noting here that we sometimes use the word pride in a sense which does not denote the biblical sin of pride. For example, we might say we “take pride” in a job well done, or we are “proud of our children.” These terms are more closely related to “satisfied/satisfaction,” “pleasing/pleased,” or “pleasant/pleasure.” And these concepts are mentioned (positively) in Scripture. See Proverbs 12:14, 18:20; Romans 15:17; 1 Corinthians 15:31; 2 Corinthians 7:4, 12:10; and Philippians 2:16.
Pride is a very serious sin. It lay at the heart of Satan’s fall (1 Timothy 3:6) and was likely the sin that motivated Eve to eat the forbidden fruit (and was also likely Adam’s sin in following Eve’s rebellion). It is frequently mentioned in Scripture as one of the chief sins God hates and is one of the sins that God “gives people up to” when they suppress the knowledge of him.
Pride month, as it is celebrated by the anti-God, sexually humanistic culture of today, is especially abhorrent. It endorses and flaunts sinful behavior right (as it were) in God’s face. And the activities associated with pride month (parades, drag queen story hours, etc.) target children with the desire to normalize sexuality of every kind, indoctrinate them into sexual exploration, and groom children for sexual exploitation.
The psalmist Asaph characterized the hearts of those who push pride month and the gender and sexual confusion it introduces to young children and teens:
Therefore pride is their necklace;
violence covers them as a garment.
Their eyes swell out through fatness;
their hearts overflow with follies.
They scoff and speak with malice;
loftily they threaten oppression.
They set their mouths against the heavens,
and their tongue struts through the earth. (Psalm 73:6–9)