The Sin of Pride


Our Scripture reading is Ezekiel 28:12-17. This passage is primarily about the king of Tyre. The king of Tyre was both wise and handsome. He knew he was wise and he knew he was handsome. Yet, he certainly was not as wise as he thought he was nor was he as beautiful as he thought he was. His great sin was the sin of pride.


There was someone else who fell into this sin. That was Satan. Because Satan also fell because of pride, the Lord, through the prophet Ezekiel, likens the king to Satan. Verse 13, ostensibly still addressing the king, speaks of Satan. The enemy of God’s people was the one who was in the garden of Eden. Verse 14 calls him a cherub, which is an angel.


Verse 17 states plainly that his heart was proud. This was true of both the king of Tyre and Satan.


Pride then was the first sin to appear in all the universe, first manifesting itself in the life of God’s leading angel. It was also the first sin to appear on earth. When the serpent tempted Eve in the garden we see this:


            But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5             For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6             So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. (Genesis 3:4-6, ESV)


Note the nature and response to the temptation. First, the Devil denies what God has spoken. God said that of they ate of the tree then they would die (2:17). The Devil said they would not. He is still using that strategy today to lead people into sin. God has spoken on many subjects that address our lives. Sexuality is only one. But, in just this one subject, so many have fallen for the devilish lie that God has not said anything about it. The Father in the Old Testament and Jesus in the New Testament have both made it explicit, fixed, and sure that marriage is the only venue wherein sex may occur and that marriage is between a man and a woman. In fact, most of the world for the last 1500 years has held this view. Western society, Middle Eastern cultures, and the Far East have all held that marriage is sacred and the basic unit of society. Confucius, in the sixth century, taught that marriage is of grave significance both to families and to society as well as being important for the cultivation of virtue. Now, in the West, man is expressing sexual anarchy both in practice and in the godless laws that are being enacted.


Second, the Devil tells Eve that she will become like God if she eats the fruit of the tree. This is appealing to the pride that is latent in every heart, even before the fall!


What does Eve think? Look at verse 6:


“So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food,” - that is the lust of the flesh.


“and that it was a delight to the eyes,” – that is the lust of the eyes.


“and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise,” – that is the pride of life. She saw that she could rise above her present state. She could be wise and she could be like God.


Pride, then, is the first sin in the universe and the first sin on earth. A case can even be made that pride leads to all other sins, that it is the foundational sin.


In the apostle John’s first letter we read:


Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16             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. 17             And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. ( I John 2:15-17, ESV)


It has been said, and I think that there is merit to the idea, that these three temptations are the source of all sin.


  • The desires of the flesh: this leads to sexual sin, gluttony, and laziness.
  • The desires of the eyes: this is greed and it leads to murder, theft, and coveting.
  • The pride of life: this leads to the breaking of the first five commandments, lying, inordinate ambition, and so many other sins.


However, when one understands what pride is, one could say that even fleshly sins and greed have their source in pride.


Let us define pride. Richard Baxter, one of the great Puritan preachers, defines it well:


“Pride is a will to be greater than God would have us to be…it is an overvaluing of self…it desires others think more highly of us than we deserve.”[1]


Simply put, pride is putting ourselves first.


Now, the Christian is to be on guard against all sin. We must be vigilant to put remaining sin to death in our lives. The Christian life is not saying a prayer and then just going on our merry way hoping for heaven and maybe avoiding the “big sins” along the way. The life of a disciple is being aware of, identifying, and putting to death the desires of the flesh, the desires of the eyes, and pride.


Pride is a particularly deadly sin. When I say “deadly” I mean spiritually deadly. A person may have all kinds of outward benefits in life – money, cars, a nice house, a good job – and be dead inside because of pride. Yes, even Christians!


Brothers and sisters, if we could identify and even partially deal with pride in our lives, our lives would be so much better! We would find greater contentment and we would find the blessings of God upon our lives in greater ways!


[I] We must seek to recognize pride within us and put it to death because it is a hidden sin. Pride is a sin that is not hidden to others. They easily recognize it in us. It is a sin hidden to ourselves.


For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. (Gal 6:3)


The sad news is that almost all of us think of ourselves more highly than we ought. We think we are something when we are nothing. It is a self-deception. When we are self-deceived we are blind.


The Lord speaks to the church in Laodicea and says:


            For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. (Rev 3:17)


Do you see that the Laodicean church was self-exalted? “I am…I have…I need nothing…” They had pride but they were blind to it.


This is the nature of pride. It is hidden to those who have it.


  • Because it is hidden we must be all the more diligent to recognize it in ourselves.
  • Because it is hidden we must be sensitive to its presence within us.
  • Because it is hidden we must eradicate it as soon as we recognize it, otherwise, it will go back into hiding.
  • It is so hard to see in ourselves!


Pride makes us see things not as they really are. After a minister had preached a searching sermon on pride, a woman who had heard the sermon waited upon him and told him that she was in much distress of mind, and that she would like to confess to a great sin. The minister asked her what the sin was.

She answered, “The sin of pride, for I sat for an hour before my mirror some days ago admiring my beauty.”

“Oh,” responded the minister, “that was not a sin of pride—that was a sin of imagination!”


Do you see how deadly and deceptive is the sin? It not only is unseen, but it makes us see things as they are not! We imagine things about ourselves, and others, that are not so! We imagine others have impure motives because they may excel in certain attributes that we aspire to. In other words, pride leads to jealousy. If we thought less of ourselves and more highly of others then jealousy would lose its strength.


We must seek to recognize pride within us and put it to death because it is a hidden sin.


[II] We must put pride to death because God hates it.


There are six things that the Lord hates,

seven that are an abomination to him:

17    haughty eyes, a lying tongue,

and hands that shed innocent blood,

18    a heart that devises wicked plans,

feet that make haste to run to evil,

19    a false witness who breathes out lies,

and one who sows discord among brothers. (Proverbs 6:16-19)


“Haughty eyes” is a synonymous expression for pride. There are six things the Lord hates and the very first thing listed is pride. The Lord hates pride.


Everyone who is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord;

Assuredly, he will not be unpunished (Proverbs 16:5, NASB)


Because God hates pride we can understand the next reason why we must get serious in dealing with pride.


[III] We must put pride to death because it holds us back from growth in life and success.


But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6)


We are all in the process of growing in the life of God – of growing in grace. What hinders our growth in life more than any other matter is pride. God opposes us if we cater our pride. But, if we are humble, we get grace. Grace – the favor of God towards us even though we do not deserve it.  Do you wish the favor of God upon you in greater abundance? Then destroy your pride and embrace humility.

Dr. T. F. Cowan once told the story of a small religious college that was having financial difficulties, even though their academic standards had been exceptionally high. One day a very wealthy man came on the campus, found a white-haired man in overalls painting the wall, and asked where he could find the president. The painter pointed out a house on the campus and said he was sure the president could be seen there at noon.

At the designated time the visitor knocked at the president’s door and was admitted by the same man he had talked to on the grounds, though now he was attired differently. The visitor accepted an invitation to have lunch with the painter-president, asked a number of questions about the needs of the college, and told him he would be sending a little donation. Two days later a letter arrived enclosing a check for $50,000. The humility of a man who was fitted for his position as college president, but who was not too proud to put on the clothes of a workman and do the job that needed doing so badly, had opened his purse strings.


God will resist your working when it is accompanied by pride. But, when in humility you endeavor to do things you will find grace and success.


We must put pride to death because it holds us back from growth in life and success.


[IV] Finally, we must put pride to death because it is the root of many other sins. I alluded to this in the introduction.


One sin common among God’s people is envy. In one respect, envy is like pride in that it is difficult to see in oneself. When one lies or if one falls into a sexual sin it is immediately apparent to the one who has fallen. We are often aware of it in the midst of the act of sin. When we say something that is not true we know that we are sinning even as we speak. But, with envy we often do not recognize it within us. But, more than this, pride leads to envy. We are envious of others because we think that we deserve to have what they have.


Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. (Gal 5:26)


Conceit, of course, is just a form of pride. The apostle says that if we are conceited then we begin to provoke one another and we envy.


Why does pride result in provocation? Because we think so much of ourselves that we are offended at the slightest criticism or we are offended by another – even a loved one or a brother or sister in Christ – who does not agree with the way we think things should be done. If we were more humble then we would be more open to criticism and we would not be offended if others think things should be done differently. I am preaching to myself this morning as much as I am teaching you all. I find myself culpable of these very things. Lord, grant us all mercy and grace to lower ourselves and lift up one another!


The apostle, in his letter to Timothy, makes this so clear:


Let all who are under a yoke as bondservants regard their own masters as worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and the teaching may not be reviled. 2 Those who have believing masters must not be disrespectful on the ground that they are brothers; rather they must serve all the better since those who benefit by their good service are believers and beloved.


Teach and urge these things. 3 If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, 4 he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, (I Tim 6:1-4)


In verse 1 Paul says that servants must not only give their masters honor, but must regard them as deserving it (by virtue of their position if not by virtue of their character). In other words, we must not only give honor to our teachers, bosses, parents, and any other person who has authority over us, but we should believe that they deserve it.


In verse 2 he expands the same teaching. In verse 3 he states that if anyone teaches differently he is actually disagreeing with the Lord Jesus because that is where Paul received his teaching.


Verse 4: if a person teaches differently “he is puffed up with conceit.” There is pride again! What does it lead to? Quarrels, envy, dissension, name-calling, and suspicion (questioning the motives of others). Who wants more quarreling in their life? Who wants more name-calling? Who wants more suspicion? No one! Except the most contentious of people. If you want less of those things in your life then put pride to death in your own heart.


Do you know why pride leads to quarreling? Because we think so highly of our own opinions that, when someone disagrees with us, we become offended and deem is it as an affront to our…pride! If we thought less of ourselves and more of others then we would not consider it of much importance if someone disagrees with us. Let them disagree. Be humble and be at peace, knowing that you are right. (Because you do think you are right, don’t you?) Better still, exercise a listening ear, knowing that maybe you are not right after all.


We must put pride to death because it is the root of many other sins. We have only looked at a few.


[V] How can we put pride to death in ourselves? There are several things that we may do. But, I am going to apply the KISS principle. Do you know what that is? Keep it simple, stupid! Besides the obvious point of recognizing that pride resides in all of our hearts, I am going to give three practices anyone can do to diminish pride and its effects.


[1] Confession. Confess the sin each time we become aware of it. When we confess our sins to the Lord he has promised to both forgive us and cleanse us.  When I was in college I was driving my car in the downtown vicinity of the town where the college was – a city of about 90,000.  The downtown area had a series of traffic lights and I was driving slowly because I knew that the next light was red and they were long lights. I looked in my rearview mirror and there was a large man in a pick-up truck whose face was beat red and he was swearing profusely at me with his fist raised.  He was quite angry that I was driving so slowly. When I saw his reaction I got angry because he was angry. So I stuck my arm out the window and pointed for him to pull over which he did. He got out of his car all huffy. I was 24 or 25 at this time and I was an avid weightlifter, 6’2”, 240 lbs of solid muscle. I happened to be wearing a tight shirt that day. When I got out of the car you could see his countenance change. It went from anger to fear. I said, “What? What do you want to say to me now?” He said, “I don’t know what you are talking about.” I said that I had seen him swearing at me in my mirror and I thought he owed me an apology. He said, “I’m sorry. I don’t want any trouble.” And we both went on our way. What I did was foolish at several levels. But as soon as he drove away I knew I had sinned. I knew that the whole incident was fueled by pride, both his and mine. Why do we get angry? Because we think that someone has infringed upon our dignity or our opinion. No sooner had he left that I confessed to the Lord my sin and asked for forgiveness.


Not only should we confess our sins, and especially the sin of pride, when they occur. But it is good to assess our day each evening before we sleep and ask the Lord to bring to our minds anything we may have done or said that was wrong. If we keep a short account with him we not only sleep with a clear conscience, but our own reminders keep us humble.


[2] Ask a question. Ask it often. The question is: Why am I doing this? There are two circumstances where this is an appropriate question. One is when we are considering taking a certain action. The question we should ask is: For whose glory am I doing this? There are only three possible answers. We are either doing it for our own glory, the glory of another person, or the glory of the Lord Jesus. It should be for someone else and not yourself. The other circumstance is when we are angry. We ought to ask ourselves, “Am I angry because God has been dishonored or because I think I have been dishonored?” Most often we become angry because our pride has been pricked.


If we only do these two things we will find that pride is checked in our hearts. For those who continue to struggle with pride there is one more thing that is effective in wrestling with this sin. That is


[3] Fasting. Fasting has been designed by the Lord to make us humble. It works. Our Lord Jesus fasted as have many notable disciples of the Lord through the ages. It was a common practice in the apostolic church. It is available to you to conquer sin in your life, especially the sin of pride.


[VI. Conclusion] Pride was the first sin to appear on earth. It was the first sin in all the universe.

  • the Christian is to be on guard against all sin. We must be vigilant to put remaining sin to death in our lives.
  • We must put seek to recognize pride within us and put it to death because it is a hidden sin.
  • We must put pride to death because God hates it.
  • We must put pride to death because it holds us back from growth in life and success.
  • Finally, we must put pride to death because it is the root of many other sins, especially envy, anger, and quarreling.


Lord, help all of us to deal with pride in our lives and, by your great mercy and grace, may we see the victory. Amen.





[1] From his famous work, The Christian Directory.