The Danger of Pride and Arrogance

Pride is one of the most dangerous sins possible because it is at the height of human folly to assume we are better than others or are something we are not. Unfortunately, this type of thinking has manifested itself more now than at any other time in history (most likely at least). The more wealthy and advanced we become as a society, the less people feel inclined to rely on God and serve Him with all their hearts. And this problem isn’t limited only to the secular world but also to most of the true church of Jesus Christ consisting of all born-again believers who have become complacent (sound familiar) about fulfilling the mission they were born to complete.

Proverbs 8:13 (NIV)

13 To fear the Lord is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech.

Today, people are more selfish, materialistic, secular, proud, and arrogant than ever before because they have accustomed themselves to the easier life that technological advancement has provided. As the world becomes more civilized with less primitive societies, people begin to see little need to give back to their Maker. However, we don’t need to survey the problems of unbelievers because their condition will only go from bad to worse (except for those who receive the gospel). 2 Timothy 3 clarifies that people would become proud lovers of themselves. But Revelation 3:14-22 explains that believers would suffer a similar (though less severe) problem. Therefore, we will concern ourselves with the church.

The sad truth is that pride has caused so many Christians over the past few generations to think that they are better than all the generations that came before simply because they have more and know more about the world around them. But none of these worldly things has anything to do with true spirituality or biblical knowledge. The more education has developed, the more presumptuous Christians have become, thinking that having so much knowledge of the secular world (in whatever field) must equal gnosis and epignosis (true knowledge about God and His Word lived out). But biblical knowledge and worldly thinking do not mix—at all. Zeal without knowledge is not only dangerous; it is useless. That is the big mistake in the church today. Most think of themselves with profound knowledge and zeal when, in reality, they lack those qualities. The self-deceiving nature of pride hides the actual inner realities from a person who believes they stand well when they do not. Their arrogance goes so far that they do not even think they need to examine themselves because they are so well-off in their lives that they must be so special to have received everything they did (Galatians 6:3). We must not mix this concept up with the prosperity gospel, which has its differences.

The problem with the above mentality (lukewarmness) is that it causes people to trust more in themselves and what they have instead of God. If worldly circumstances were far more difficult, then the indifference among the majority in the church would decrease by quite a bit. Thankfully, the tribulation will end this frustrating trend from those who would prefer to stay in one place as long as they can. The thing is, no believer can live this way forever. We DO need God! He doesn’t need us, but we must rely on Him at all times! No types or changes in circumstances will ever alter that as long as we live in these sin-infested bodies.

The church is undergoing a major prosperity test and failing miserably at it. The more we involve ourselves in the affairs of this life, the more inclined we feel about investing in those things instead of directing most of our efforts toward pleasing our true Master. If the church realized just how much they needed Christ day by day, moment by moment, then they wouldn’t be living the way they are now. The thinking is that being saved is enough, and manifesting a slight change in lifestyle by relying on God to some extent will do the trick. But the reality of this belief system is that we only need to rely on the Lord a little and not as much as possible. That is arrogance in an indirect form. That is like saying a person can live the Christian life their way and God’s simultaneously. But people left by themselves to their own devices can do nothing on their own. We can never take credit for anything we do that is truly good in God’s eyes. We cannot give glory to ourselves because the Lord is due all the credit. It matters little whether people realize this is what they are doing. A person does not have to sense they are acting in pride because good intentions do not affect the truth of the matter in any way. It is perilous to think we are doing a good job and then give ourselves a pat on the back when our spiritual efforts have been subpar.

On the contrary, what is most arrogant is those who (despite thinking otherwise with good intentions) do not wish to learn much truth and take it seriously. The fact that people can but choose not to expose their faulty thinking is undeniable proof of that. Refusing to acknowledge a problem and change it is a sign of a hardened heart.

1 John 2:15-17 (NIV)

15 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. 16 For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.

So what are the dangers of the above on an individual level? The problem and the results are still the same (and do not change) whether we discuss single believers or the church collectively. But what about (to shift the discussion) how pride and arrogance affect the treatment of others? What are the dangers of that?

Pride, arrogance, and love do not mix. If we possess these negative qualities to such a bad extent and don’t care to grow out of them, that is not an appropriate love for God. And if we do not love our Redeemer as much as we should, then our love for other believers and all people, in general, will lack. A follower of Christ without love is a hypocrite who makes nothing but noise with no impact (1 Corinthians 13). A proud and haughty heart is one of the things the Lord hates (Proverbs 6:17). We can see very clearly from the example found in 1 Corinthians 12:15-26 that “superiority complexes” developed among those that thought of themselves as better than they were. Certain spiritual gifts were elevated above others, so some began to think of themselves as more important than their brothers and sisters. Pride causes disunity and separates people. It does not stem from love because self-seeking makes the individual the issue instead of the truth and whether the other person receives it. Believers cannot sharpen one another when this attitude is consistent because discussions with people like that almost always become a competition all about ego instead of spiritual growth.

We all have and will continue to struggle with pride to some extent as long as we remain in these sinful bodies. Plus, we will never be perfect in our applications. But there is a difference between someone aware of their problem with the resolve to fix it and someone who refuses to see themselves as they truly are. Of course, change for those who want to please Jesus won’t necessarily be easy, nor will it come quickly for everyone. Some thinking patterns take time to unlearn through properly taking the Word and keeping it at the forefront of our minds in everything we think. But repentance is necessary. Pride always damages the person who acts in that manner and sets a negative pattern that others may catch onto and think, “there is nothing wrong with being this way”. The biggest problem comes when people create their own definition of pride and what it constitutes. But this pattern leads to all kinds of sinful behavior and blinds all those involved therein. We all struggle with pride to some extent, but spiritual growth can never occur absent of any humility and willingness to bring oneself low. The Christian life is all about glorifying God and relying on Him to please Him the best we can. But putting too much self-confidence and self-esteem in oneself wrongfully puts one as the foundation for all their success. It robs God of all the credit due Him and puts the focus more on ourselves.

Matthew 23:11-12 (ESV)

11 The greatest among you shall be your servant. 12 Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

Romans 12:3-10 (ESV)

3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. 4 For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; 7 if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; 8 the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

It is always spiritually dangerous to believe one knows more than what they do or think of oneself as something they are not. When people view themselves and others through a false lens, they will make unfair judgments misaligned with reality. Change through repentance becomes impossible as long as one continues to carry this flawed thinking with them wherever they go. The unity of Christian fellowship will begin to dwindle, and those affected by this behavior may become tempted to sin out of their bitterness toward those who hurt them through their haughty treatment. Plus, the truth gets clouded and often compromised by those involved trying to discern it.

The good news is that God will not stand by and do nothing at all. If repentance is forthcoming, it may very well come about through divine discipline intended to humble the individual (Proverbs 16:18). But there is little hope for the man who scorns chastisement and continues to selfishly walk in his own ways according to his preferred standards.

Proverbs 26:12 (NIV)

12 Do you see a person wise in their own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for them.

Psalm 101:5b

The one who has a haughty look and a proud heart, Him I will not endure.

We live in a day and age (although this has been the reality since the beginning in every generation) where so many people just don’t like to accept that they don’t know the answers to so many things. This point is especially true for many believers who compromise by choosing one or two extremes. Either they give up searching for answers because of disinterest and the unwillingness to overcome the obstacles to get to the bottom of a difficult matter, or they assume they know the truth when they lack sufficient knowledge to give a proper answer. There is no shame in admitting we don’t know something or remaining silent when overhearing a discussion over whatever issue. However, we must never compromise the truth or assume we know it when we don’t. Humility requires patience, the exact ingredient needed to work alongside a humble heart that zealously searches for the answers. No believer should ever just “wing” their answers by throwing whatever pops into their brain onto the table. And they must also never assume that what they have to say is more important than the words of the person next to them without hearing them first. Wherever pride exists, love will be absent. It is a sure sign that we are not attuned to the Holy Spirit’s power.

All people are fearfully and wonderfully made in the image and likeness of God. It is utter folly to set one’s own standards of what they think defines “better” because that is extreme arrogance to assume that one has more knowledge of the created than the Creator does. God knows every human being better than any of us, and He is not a respecter of person’s or one who shows favoritism and partiality (Romans 2:11). It is He and He alone who defines the true qualities, judgments that only He can make. It is always a terrible mistake to look down on others as if one was better or knows more because it is based on fleshly human standards. No person will ever be worth more to God than another because the Lord loves them all and desires everyone to come to the knowledge of the truth. Those who have more value to God in that they obey Him and bring forth (fruit) (as opposed to the unbeliever) are not so because they were any better than those who don’t do so. There is nothing inherently better about any particular believer that makes them any more deserving of eternal life. God is the maker of both the righteous and the wicked, the rich and the poor (Proverbs 22:2). It is only because of His grace and what He has done for us that any one of us has the opportunity to receive His offer of salvation. No person would practice righteousness unless God had reached out to us first (1 John 4:19). There is no boasting before Him, which means there is never any room for pride or arrogance. Those who refuse to relinquish “their” way to embrace God’s will seldom succeed. They are only setting themselves and others up for failure.

1 Corinthians 1:18-31 (NIV)

18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” 20 Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. 26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”

Pride and arrogance always cause all kinds of damage. The number of dangers they pose is so numerous that time and space do not permit us to list and examine them here (nor would that be necessary). The message is clear, and the solution to the problem just as much. There can be no playing around with either one of these follies! They are among the most dangerous and subtle sins any believer could commit; the damage they do is manifested enough among those in the church who should know better. All sin is wrong and dangerous, but pride and arrogance present a special kind of risk, one taken that resulted in the very first transgressions ever committed (Isaiah 14:12-14; Genesis 3:1-6). The rest is history.

Where pride is, divisions and errors will occur. We all stumble in many ways, meaning we all act from poor attitudes at varying points in our lives. So we must learn to be patient with those who struggle to practice humility, knowing that none of us are perfect and that it is hypocritical and even arrogant to assume such a person is not worth bearing with. And just because a brother or sister may not be aware of their problem does not mean they will not realize it later. Only the Lord can help us determine who is a real “swine” and who is worth investing in. It is proud to assume we know by deciding ourselves without the Lord’s consent. Time, experience, and the Spirit’s guiding will eventually reveal all such things.