THEME: Portraits of Pride

by Jesse Flowers

Synopsis: Solomon warns us that “pride goes before destruction” (Prov. 16:18). This truth is powerfully illustrated in the lives of various individuals who serve as portraits of pride in the pages of Scripture.


One dangerous allurement of this world of which John warns is “the pride of life” (1 John 2:15-17). Pride has influenced and infected humanity from the very beginning (Gen. 3:1-7). The Bible is replete with teachings and warnings to us regarding the sin of pride and the destruction that will surely follow. defines “pride” as “a high or inordinate opinion of one’s own dignity, importance, merit, or superiority, whether as cherished in the mind or as displayed in bearing, conduct, etc.” The Cambridge Dictionary defines pride as “the belief that you are better or more important than other people.”

The book of Proverbs contains numerous verses condemning the sin of pride. Notice just a few:

These six things the Lord hates, yes, seven are an abomination to Him: a proud look. . . (6:16-17a).

Everyone proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord; though they join forces, none will go unpunished (16:5).

When pride comes, then comes shame; but with the humble is wisdom (11:2).

A man’s pride will bring him low, but the humble in spirit will retain honor (29:23).

Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall (16:18).

Regarding the text of Proverbs 6, John Stott wrote, “Pride is more than the first of the seven deadly sins; it is itself the essence of all sin.” How fitting it is that the center of sin and pride is “I.” To better understand and identify the sin of pride in ourselves and others, let us consider several portraits of pride in both the Old and New Testaments, i.e., individuals found in the Bible who vividly depict and represent the sin of pride.


The story of Uzziah is a tragic one, especially when it had such a promising beginning but such an unfortunate ending. “Uzziah. . . did what was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his father Amaziah had done. He sought God in the days of Zechariah, who had understanding in the visions of God; and as long as he sought the Lord, God made him prosper” (2 Chron. 26:3-5). Two statements in the ancient text provide us with some insight as to what led to Uzziah’s pride. “His fame spread as far as the entrance of Egypt, for he became exceedingly strong” (26:8). “So his fame spread far and wide, for he was marvelously helped till he became strong” (26:15).

Then notice what we are told in the very next verse: “When he was strong his heart was lifted up, to his destruction, for he transgressed against the Lord his God by entering the temple of the Lord to burn incense on the altar of incense” (26:16). The priests of God withstood the king of Judah, rebuking him for unlawfully entering the sanctuary and ordered him to leave. Uzziah became furious with the priests. Immediately leprosy broke out on his forehead. King Uzziah was a leper until the day of his death (26:21). The wise man said: “Before destruction, the heart of a man is haughty” (Prov. 18:12). Uzziah’s pride prompted him to take it upon himself to enter the temple to burn incense. However, he had no authority from God’s law to do so.

Pride will often cause others today, as well as the people of God, to practice things without Bible authority such as using instrumental music (Eph. 5:19), employing women preachers (1 Cor. 14:34), holding to error on marriage, divorce and remarriage (Matt. 19:9), promoting the AD 70 doctrine (2 Tim. 2:17-18), as well as tolerate sin in the local church (1 Cor. 5:2— “and you are arrogant,” ESV).


Before pride brought king Nebuchadnezzar low, God warned him to turn from his wicked ways through dreams that Daniel interpreted (Dan. 4:4-27). However, he did not heed the divine warning:

At the end of the twelve months he was walking about the royal palace of Babylon. The king spoke, saying, “Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for a royal dwelling by my mighty power and for the honor of my majesty?” While the word was still in the king’s mouth, a voice fell from heaven: “King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: the kingdom has departed from you! And they shall drive you from men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. They shall make you eat grass like oxen; and seven times shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses” (4:29-32).

This proud king was greatly humbled, and eventually came to praise, honor, and glorify the King of heaven (4:34-37). In fact, the chapter ends fittingly with Nebuchadnezzar saying: “And those who walk in pride. He is able to put down” (4:37).

The Pharisees

If there is a definitive portrait of pride, it would be the Pharisees (Matt. 23:1-12). Jesus said of them, “All their works they do to be seen by men” (v. 5). Such a description gives us a real insight into their heart—the motive and reason behind what they did and why they did it. They engaged in charitable deeds, offered public prayers, and fasted to be seen of men (Matt. 6:1-4, 5-6, 16-18). The Pharisees liked to be noticed in their clothing (v. 5), seating arrangements (v. 6), and titles (v. 7). Jesus rebuked the scribes and Pharisees for seeking to be called of men, “Rabbi, Rabbi.” Rabbi literally means “My great one.” These Jewish rulers viewed themselves as great and desired that the people address them as being great. Their conceitedness caused them to trust in themselves that they were righteous and viewed others with contempt (Luke 18:9-14). These men were so arrogant that they would even boast to God in prayer of their good works. However, Christ declared, “whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (23:12).


Warning the brethren about a man named Diotrephes, John said:

I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to have the preeminence among them, does not receive us. Therefore, if I come, I will call to mind his deeds which he does, prating against us with malicious words. And not content with that, he himself does not receive the brethren, and forbids those who wish to, putting them out of the church. Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. He who does good is of God, but he who does evil has not seen God (3 John 1:9-11).

Diotrephes’ chief fault was “he loves to have the preeminence among them.” He had an inflated and dictatorial ego. As the RSV reads, he “likes to put himself first.” This is a problem since it is said of Christ “that in all things He may have the preeminence” (Col. 1:18). Sadly, and tragically, there have been many “Diotrephes’s” in the Lord’s church who are ego-driven and seek to dominate and rule the brethren, causing envy, strife, and division. Saints are instructed to submit to one another in the fear of God (Eph. 5:21). We are to have the mind of Christ in humbling ourselves and becoming servants (Phil. 2:5-8). Past and present “Diotrephes’s” would do well to heed Paul’s teaching in Philippians 2:3-4, which says, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind, let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests but also for the interests of others.”


Let each of us learn from these Bible examples of “portraits of pride,” lest we bring shame and destruction to our lives. Every Christian needs to remember that “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (Jas. 4:6). So, “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up” (Jas. 4:10). As the book of Isaiah concludes, the Lord declared: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool; what is the house that you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest? All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the Lord. But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word” (66:1-2).

Author Bio

Jesse has labored with the Pruett and Lobit church of Christ in Baytown, TX for the past twelve years. He and his wife, April have four children. The church website is He can be reached at