Pride and Humility


 
The Book of Proverbs makes four interrelated claims regarding pride and humility.
 
First, pride and humility are fundamentally spiritual in nature. They are outward manifestations of the inward state of your heart toward God. If you are proud, your heart is far from God. If you are humble, your heart is drawing closer to God. As an example of the former, consider what this proverb says about the mocker, i.e., a militantly anti-religious person:
 
The proud and arrogant man — “Mocker” is his name;
he behaves with overweening pride (21:24).
 
Haughty eyes and a proud heart,
the lamp of the wicked, are sin! (21:4)
 
By contrast, “fear of the Lord,” which is parallel to “humility,” results in blessing:
 
The fear of the Lord teaches a man wisdom,
and humility comes before honor (15:33).
 
Second, God himself strives against the proud but blesses the humble. Consider the following two proverbs:
 
The Lord tears down the proud man’s house
but he keeps the widow’s boundaries intact (15:25).
 
The Lord detests all the proud of heart.
Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished (16:5).
 
Third, because of God’s contrasting attitudes toward pride and humility, God brings about contrasting consequences on the proud and the humble. Pride leads to disgrace; humility leads to honor.
 
When pride comes, then comes disgrace,
but with humility comes wisdom (11:2).
 
Pride goes before destruction,
a haughty spirit before a fall (16:18).
 
Before his downfall a man’s heart is proud,
but humility comes before honor (18:12).
 
A man’s pride brings him low,
but a man of lowly spirit gains honor (29:23).
 
Another contrasting consequence is that pride leads to folly, but humility to wisdom:
 
Do you see a man wise in his own eyes?
There is more hope for a fool than for him (26:12).
 
A final contrasting consequence concerns poverty and wealth:
 
Humility and the fear of the Lord
bring wealth and honor and life (22:4).
 
And yet, the Book of Proverbs recognizes that in a sinful world, virtue does not always result in wealth. We know there are arrogant billionaires and humble hundredaires, after all. In such cases, Proverbs clearly prioritizes virtue:
 
Better to be lowly in spirit and among the oppressed
than to share plunder with the proud  (16:19).
 
Consequently, the virtue of humility is highly desirable and should be cultivated in practical ways. This proverb gives canny advice about how to act when you’re among the rich and powerful:
 
Do not exalt yourself in the king’s presence,
and do not claim a place among great men;
it is better for him to say to you, “Come up here,”
than for him to humiliate you before a nobleman (25:6-7).
 
And this proverb compares pride to gluttony, to the detriment of both:
 
It is not good to eat too much honey,
nor is it honorable to seek one’s own honor (25:27).
 
If you want honor, and wisdom, and wealth that lasts, the path to take is not that of pride but of humility. “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6).

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