THEME: Overcoming Pride

by Kevin Maxey

Synopsis: Through the grace of God, we can overcome worldly, religious, competitive, and vengeful pride.


Pride presents a theological conundrum: the proud heart, by definition, lacks the humility needed to repent of pride. “God opposes the proud” (Jas. 4:6), so we must overcome this sin. How is this accomplished? If pride fills our hearts, we must first admit it. This is not the time for judging the hearts of others. This is the time for purging one’s own heart. Next, identify it. Why is this in me? From whence does it come? Then destroy it. After acknowledging and identifying the problem, the only option is to “put to death” (Col. 3:5) any aspect of self that rises in arrogant rebellion to God. Pride manifests in four facets: worldly pride, religious pride, competitive pride, and vengeful pride.

Thankfully, we have help. God is able to humble the proud heart. He will “put an end to the arrogance of the proud” (Isa. 13:11). The Lord offers two paths for the extermination of pride: Humble yourself now or be humbled later. Which way will you choose? Let us, therefore, consider biblical examples of how God helps us overcome worldly, religious, competitive, and vengeful pride.

Overcome Worldly Pride Through Self Abasement

God helped Nebuchadnezzar. The boastful king of Babylon exemplified worldly pride on an imperial scale. Vainly seeking to preserve his legacy, history records that Nebuchadnezzar stamped his name on an estimated 15 million bricks that were used to construct Babylon’s palaces, temples, and walls. Modern museums house bricks that boast, “Nebuchadnezzar. . .king of Babylon, am I.”

While surveying Babylon from his palace rooftop, Nebuchadnezzar bathed himself in praise, saying, “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?” (Dan. 4:30). Rather than heeding God’s warnings, he basked in self-glorification and worldly pride. “While the words were still in the king’s mouth,” God intervened (Dan. 4:31).

God abased Nebuchadnezzar to rove about the fields with animals for seven periods of time, i.e., years or seasons (Dan. 4:31-33). He became a living example of the proverb: “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Prov. 16:18). Nebuchadnezzar finally understood the preeminence of God’s sovereignty, dominion, and holiness. The once-proud earthly king learned to praise the heavenly King: “Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, all of whose works are truth, and His ways justice. Those who walk in pride, He is able to humble” (Dan. 4:37). Nebuchadnezzar overcame worldly pride because God helped him.

Are you guilty of worldly pride? Look in the mirror. Has achieving worldly success tempted you to admire self and disdain others? Are you guilty of evening strolls of self-glorification? “Behold how hard I have worked for my house, my possessions, my education, my career, and my family!” Destroy your pride. Do it now, or God will do it later.

Overcome Religious Pride Through Divine Enlightenment

God helped Paul. Saul of Tarsus, the relentless persecutor of the church, allowed religious pride to fuel his righteous indignation for Christians. As his self-righteous robe swished down the Damascus road, Jesus stopped him in his tracks, literally enlightening him about his stubbornness and ignorance. The same light that exposed his sin magnified his Lord. Finding the light, Paul afterward counted all earthly accolades and religiosity as “rubbish . . . because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ” (Phil. 3:8).

Religious pride glorifies self for attaining high levels of spiritual knowledge, rightness, and piety. This kind of pride honors external appearances of righteousness while disdaining those who seemingly don’t measure up. Religious pride prays, “God, I thank You that I am not like other men” (Luke 18:9-14). Paul overcame religious pride because God helped him.

Are you guilty of religious pride? Look in the mirror. When you are tempted to glory in religious accomplishments, learn from Paul to fall at the feet of Jesus. Let His light expose your sin. Darken self-glory in the light of Christ’s glory. When tempted to magnify your knowledge, rightness, and piety, boast instead in the cross. “Far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord” (Gal. 6:14). Allow God’s light to dissipate your religious pride. Instead of trusting our goodness, we confess, “We are unworthy servants. We have only done what was our duty” (Luke 17:10). Repeat after Isaiah: “All our righteousnesses are like filthy rags” (Isa. 64:6). May the eyes of our understanding be enlightened (Eph. 1:18).

Overcome Competitive Pride Through Humble Service

God helped the apostles. The twelve, chosen to walk with Christ, struggled with competitive pride. While walking in the shadow of the Great I AM, they selfishly jockeyed for positions of greatness, disputing over who would sit where (Mark 9:34; Luke 22:24). Patiently, Jesus taught them a radically altered view of greatness. The path to true greatness, Jesus explained, is through humble service. “Let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves . . . I am among you as the one who serves” (Luke 22:26-27). The apostles overcame competitive pride because God helped them.

Competitive pride among brethren leaves a trail of divisive carnage. The greatness of your Christianity is not measured by your age, accomplishments, wealth, or lineage. The greatness of your congregation is not measured by the size of its directory, building, or bank account. The greatness of your preacher is not measured by his eloquence, education, or popularity.

Are you guilty of competitive pride? Look in the mirror. Do fires of jealous indignation burn deep within? Do you feel displeasure when good things happen to people you deem unworthy? Does your determined lust for “rightness” drive people away?

The antidote to competitive pride is humble service. Instead of desiring to be served, Jesus commands us to serve (Matt. 28:20). When in college, I frequently fell into the social trappings of competitive pride. Thankfully, God helped me. Once a month, a friend and I took our turn helping to bathe a paralyzed Christian. Our job was to help carry our fragile brother into the shower. As his broken body collapsed into our arms, my foolish pride washed away. Helping a brother who could not help himself revealed my ungrateful pride, and I felt ashamed. Overcome competitive pride by serving others.

Overcome Vengeful Pride Through Childlike Trust

God helped David. The son of Jesse, God’s anointed king, fought the temptation of vengeful pride. While ruthlessly pursued by envious king Saul, David found himself with an opportunity to exact vengeance. Rejecting his men’s advice to kill Saul, David entrusted vengeance to God, stating, “The Lord forbid that I should do this thing to my Lord . . . May the Lord judge between me and you, may the Lord avenge me against you, but my hand shall not be against you” (1 Sam. 24:6, 12). David overcame vengeful pride because God helped him.

Vengeful pride emerges when we are hurt, offended, or threatened by the actions of others. Many humbly serve the Lord, purposefully turning away from lures of worldly, religious, or competitive hubris. However, personal suffering inflicted by the hands of others can induce the sly rise of vengeful pride from within.

Are you guilty of vengeful pride? Look in the mirror. Even when one consistently exhibits humility, an unexpected betrayal or unjustified offense often initiates that familiar feeling of “How dare you?” How dare you hold yourself above me, scorn me, hurt me? How dare you lie about me, falsely accuse me, second-guess me? How dare you judge my motives, my loyalties, my heart? As a result, a sudden urge arises to avenge self, justify self, defend self. Can you relate?

It may be correct that your offender is wholly at fault, as were the accusers of Jesus. He is God, yet they arrogantly mocked Him. He is truth, yet they pridefully lied about Him. He is the perfect Lamb of God, yet they judged Him harshly. The offenders were wholly at fault, yet no pride induced the Son of God to avenge Himself: “When He suffered, He did not threaten but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously” (1 Pet. 2:23). Jesus did not succumb to vengeful pride; instead, He left it in God’s hands. He didn’t lash out; rather, He chose to love. “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God: for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine. I will repay’ saith the Lord” (Rom. 12:19).


God offers two paths for overcoming worldly, religious, competitive, and vengeful pride: Either humble yourself now, or be humbled later. Which path will you choose?

Author Bio

Kevin has worked with the Port Royal church of Christ in Spring Hill, TN for twelve years. He and his wife, Jennifer, have five children. The church website is He can be reached at