Pride: Sin’s Sinister Seed (Part II- Its Basic Definition)

Christian Living, Worship

Part I

While we have already observed in the last post the basic meaning of the word translated as pride in Proverbs 16:19, and seen that it literally means something like a swelling excellence, it is helpful to broaden out the base of that definition a bit.  To help us get started, here are some definitions of pride offered by various men who have spent time giving this issue serious biblical thought.

C.J. Mahaney in part defines pride as when sinful human beings aspire to the status and position of God and refuse to acknowledge their dependence on Him.

William Farley calls pride spiritual blindness, a delusional, inflated view of self.  It is unreality on steroids.

Farley also writes

here is the great paradox:  the proud man thinks he is humble, but the humble man thinks he is proud.  The humble man sees his arrogance.  He sees it clearly, and as a result he aggressively pursues a life of humility, but he doesn’t think of himself as humble.  The proud man is completely unaware of his pride.  Of all men he is convinced that he is humble.[1]

Finally, Jonathan Edwards writes along those same lines in The Religious Affections, that

the proud hypocrite is quick to discern the mote in his brother’s eye… while he sees nothing of the beam in his own.  He is very often denouncing others’ pride, finding fault with others’ apparel and way of living; and is affected ten times as much with his neighbor’s ring or riband as with all the filthiness of his own heart.[2]

What are the consistent themes in these wise words from others who have thought long, hard and Biblically about this?  Pride holds others to impossible standards while constantly excusing itself.  It does this by gaining the high ground through self-exaltation.  When I have exalted myself in my own mind and have depreciated others, I will always have a better view of other people’s faults than my own.

Eventually my pride places me at the pinnacle of my own universe.  And then what has happened?  There is only one who is worthy, who ought to occupy that position at the pinnacle of my universe.  That is the position of worship, and therefore it is a throne which we can only allow God to occupy in our hearts.  But our pride actually dethrones God from the place of worship in our universe and rather than installing some idol of stone, takes a seat for ourselves on the throne of the Most High.  Unchecked pride makes a man exalts himself over others until he worships and serves himself rather than God.

There is therefore both a horizontal and a vertical dimension to pride, yet the two are always linked and increase in proportion to one another.  Horizontally, we want to be above others; vertically, we want to occupy the highest place of worship in our own realities.

Here is my basic definition of pride:  Pride is self-idolatry.  

What is an idol? It is anything we worship in the place of God.

What is worship?  It is our highest rendering of service and honor and glory and devotion and praise and accolade and significance and joy and fame and love.  It is saying to the object of worship: you are what I will live for and you are what I will find my ultimate identity in and you are what I will make sacrifices in life for and it is you who I will delight in.  The heart of pride does all this for itself.

Pride is in-grown worship, which is just another way to say self-idolatry.

When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was he answered in Matthew 22:37-40

You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.

Jesus says that the greatest commandments, the way God wants us to live, is that we would put other people above ourselves and put God above all.  We love others as we would love ourselves, therefore showing preference to them and seeking their best above our own; and above all we give God all our heart, all our soul, and all our mind.  Again, there is the horizontal and the vertical- but this time we see it as God would have us live.

Pride is the complete opposite of the greatest commandment.

Pride pushes others down and lifts itself up until it loves itself with all its heart, with all its soul and with all its mind.

Pride is self-idolatry.  That is its basic definition.

Having seen that, in the next post we’ll continue to look at pride by considering its Biblical Dimensions.

[1] The above quotes from C.J. Mahaney and William Farley were gleaned from this post on

[2] Edwards, The Religious Affections, p. 261.

(By: Nicolas Alford)

4 thoughts on “Pride: Sin’s Sinister Seed (Part II- Its Basic Definition)

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