Everyone knows that pride is bad, but not everyone knows why. Sometimes we hate pride for prideful reasons. That is, we hate it when others try to lift themselves above us. When we detect pride in another, though we would never say it like this, even in our minds, we silently think to ourselves, “How dare he think he’s better than I when I know I am greater than he!” Our pride-filled hearts hate anyone who contends with us for greatness. Sometimes we hate pride in others because we are prideful. However, that is not the reason pride is evil; but it is close.
Pride is evil, not because someone is contending with us for greatness, but pride is evil because it contends with God for greatness. Pride yearns to eclipse God. Pride wishes to be praised, adored, applauded, and loved more than God.
Pastor C.J. Mahaney teases this out well:
Pride is when sinful human beings aspire to the status and position of God and refuse to acknowledge their dependence upon Him.
Charles Bridges once noted how pride lifts up one’s heart against God and “contends for supremacy” with Him. That’s a keenly insightful and biblical definition of pride’s essence: contending for supremacy with God, and lifting up our hearts against Him. (Taken from Humility, p. 31).
In this light, pride quickly turns from being a casual sin we lightly confess to a more terrifying crime: the act where we face off with God to get more glory than Him. Far from a small sin, pride is the act of pulling ourselves up by pulling God down.
How can we fight against such an evil? Among the many things we can do, specific confession is a very needed work. Mahaney elaborates:
For purposes of personal confession, I began adopting this definition of pride a few years ago after I came to realize that, to some degree, I’d grown unaffected by pride in my life. Though I was still confessing pride, I knew I wasn’t sufficiently convicted of it. So rather than just confessing to God that “I was proud in that situation” and appealing for HIs forgiveness, I learned to say instead, “Lord, in that moment, with that attitude and that action, I was contending for supremacy with You. That’s what it was all about. Forgive me.
And rather than confessing to another person, “That statement was prideful on my part; will you please forgive me?” I began saying, “What I just did was contending for supremacy with God, ” and only then asking for forgiveness. This practice increased my conviction in my heart about the seriousness of sin.
Pride take innumerable forms but only has one end: self-glorification. That’s the motive and ultimate purpose of pride – to rob God of legitimate glory and to pursue self-glorification, contending for supremacy with Him. The proud person seeks to glorify himself and not God, thereby attempting in effect to deprive God of something only He is worthy to receive. (pp. 31-32).
With this definition of pride in mind, no wonder God hates it (Proverbs 16:5). With this definition of pride, may we be rightly terrified of it, run from it, and pray that God never let it grow within us.