In the Bible, the story of Saul, Moses, and Jonah are great examples of verses that explain what pride is and what selfish ambition leads to if you don’t repent (destruction or grace).
In the story of Moses, God gave Pharaoh multiple chances to repent and he didn’t take it. In contrast, God gave Saul the chance to repent and he humbled himself and changed his behavior. Saul choose to humble himself and receive God’s grace, mercy, and forgiveness. Remember, without repentance and changed behavior a prideful person is ultimately choosing sin.
1. Defiant Pharaoh
The Pharaoh was COMMANDED by God to let the Israelites go and He refused to listen despite multiple warnings. He is a perfect example of a prideful man in the Bible because he refused to surrender despite God giving him chances to repent.
Pharaoh thought he was a God, literally. So, God showed the Pharaoh how weak He actually was. God did this by defeating His confidence in “man-made” powers (sorcery).
“So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did just as the Lord commanded. Aaron cast down his staff before Pharaoh and his servants, and it became a serpent. Then Pharaoh summoned the wise men and the sorcerers, and they, the magicians of Egypt, also did the same by their secret arts. For each man cast down his staff, and they became serpents. But Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs.” Exodus 7:10-12
No magician, magical witch, or false God can compete with the all powerful God (The Great I AM). After plagues and demonstrations that God was more powerful, Pharaoh still refused to be wrong, apologize, or admit that God was the ultimate power. The Pharaoh was an arrogant and wicked man. Despite this God still loved him. If he choose humility and humbled himself before God, he could have forfeited the consequences of pride.
I think it’s interesting that God then used the most humble man on earth to combat the injustices done by Pharaoh. In my opinion, when a prideful person comes into contact with a humble person they recognize the depth of their tainted heart.
Just like the pharaoh, Moses had the opportunity to get carried away with fame, wealth, power, and other fleshly desires. Moses was raised in the Pharaoh’s courts and was chosen as a messenger of God (the highest calling know to man). Still, unlike pharaoh, Moses didn’t let power get to His head. He also didn’t let Pharaoh’s high positions and behavior make him feel inferior (fortunately Moses was secure in Himself, because sometimes pride rises up in us when we feel others are better than us.)
I am sure Moses received backlash from people for going against an almighty pharaoh. People probably criticized him and laughed at him. But, He still remained humble and unafraid of being seen as “nothing” or “crazy” by others: “Now the man Moses was very humble, more than any man who was on the face of the earth.” Numbers 12:3
Related Article: 7 Causes Of Pride: How To Be More Humble!
2. Self-Righteous Saul
Saul (later renamed Paul) is another GREAT example of pride in the Bible. At first, he was so proud of being the perfect Jew and believed that He had the right to kill heretics and blasphemers (Christians) because He had the wisdom to know what God wanted.
Saul’s selfish ambition and pride caused him to be blinded to God’s love and more focused on being right, being better than everyone, and the law. God hated Saul’s attitude because he hates pride.
“Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.” Jeremiah 9:23-24
In trying to protect the purity of Judaism, Saul killed people that spread the simple message of forgiveness through Christ. Clearly, Saul had a very corrupt and twisted understanding of God’s love. So, God had to blind Saul physically, so that he could understand what true righteousness was. Godly discipline caused Paul to realize: “you will corrupt the word of God with your own THEOLOGY and OPINIONS if you have a superiority complex, self righteous attitude, and proud heart.”
By human standards, Paul had a right to feel He was better than everyone else. But, he realized the point of the Gospel isn’t for a few righteous and perfect people. God’s love isn’t reserved for those that are perfect; He has unrelenting love for sinners. This is good news for all people including murderers, pedophiles, drunkards, and people that don’t deserve it. That’s why the gospel is GOOD news.
Therefore Paul says this: “If anyone else thinks he has grounds for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin; a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, persecuting the church; as to righteousness in the law, faultless. But whatever was gain to me I count as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things as loss compared to the surpassing excellence of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God on the basis of faith.” Philippians 3:4-9
3. Entitled Jonah
Jonah was the prophet in the Old Testament that was ordained to rebuke the Ninevites of horrendous acts. “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me” Jonah 1:2
When Jonah heard God’s request, He disobeyed and ran away which led to him getting swallowed by a whale. After escaping the Whale, God asked him to deliver the message again. Jonah obeyed God’s second request. Nineveh received the rebuke and the entire city repented including the King. “When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.” Jonah 3:10
However, Jonah was not happy with God’s mercy towards them. He wanted the Ninevites to be punished and didn’t believe they deserved God’s love. They were so wicked! How could they deserve forgiveness and grace?
“That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.” Jonah 4:2
Through this situation, God taught Jonah about his pride and entitled attitude. Jonah thought love was only intended for people that deserve it. He didn’t understand that God’s love is unconditional. When we think love is EARNED or DESERVED, we are entitled and self-righteous. It is because of grace that we can be righteous. We need God’s help to avoid sin. Since Jonah’s birth, God guarded him and gave him everything He needed to bring others into the love of God.
Jonah didn’t earn it. Jonah didn’t deserve him. Through the grace of God, Jonah was called and purposed.
God even used a plant to further teach him this lesson. He gave him a plant to provide shade. Then the plant withered and God sent heat to him. That’s when Jonah’s whole attitude changed. When the plant died and the heat scorched Jonah, He wanted to die. Jonah was ANGRY about the plant.
God replied to Jonah in his frustration about the plant: “You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?” Jonah 4:10-11 Wasn’t that selfish of Jonah to be more concerned with the plant than the Ninevites?
I would argue that He was angry with God for removing the plant. Isn’t it interesting how we can have different viewpoints and emotions towards God based on what he allows to happen to us? The truth is, no matter how “perfect” we are, when God allows trials it will show our true nature and reveal any impurities in our hearts.
This is so symbolic of how our behavior shifts based on the situations we are in. Imagine the alcoholic that was beaten and raped by his father. Or the woman that has a hard time submitting to her husband because every man has abused her. And think of the murderer and drug dealer that grew up in violence and doesn’t know how to escape the lifestyle. Ultimately, God understands each of our trials and He graciously gives us a path out of that darkness. But, He often uses people in better situations to be the light out of the darkness.
Jesus shows us how to do this. He was PERFECT and He made it his mission to help others live without sin and get closer to the father. Jesus didn’t turn his back on the people that denied, betrayed, laughed, distrusted, and abused him. None of the disciples or biblical characters deserved God’s love, they all fell short in some way. Nevertheless, Jesus loved them. This is what makes him so humble and so loving. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8
Related Article: Follow Me As I Follow Christ: 12 Bible Tips To Imitate Jesus!
4. Power Hungry Eve
In Genesis, we see that pride caused the ultimate fall of mankind into sin. Eve wanted to be at the same level as God and didn’t trust God’s authority. When Satan tempted Eve, it was easy for her to be led astray because she wasn’t submissive to God’s leadership and she wanted power:
“God has said, ‘You must not eat of it or touch it, or you will die.’ ” “You will not surely die,” the serpent told her. “For God knows that in the day you eat of it, your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Genesis 3:3-5
Ultimately, you can’t submit to God if you don’t trust him. Similarly to Eve, when we distrust God our internal dialogue leads us to question biblical promises and God’s goodness. We may say: Can he really help me? If I don’t fix it who will? Maybe I should do XYZ just incase he doesn’t move in my life? I need to get the ball rolling or it wont happen. Is God really real? Why is God withholding things from me? Is God trying to punish me?
So, don’t be so quick to judge Eve. Our lack of submission to God isn’t revealed when everything is going well… No, it’s truly revealed when we are tempted and/or going through hard situations. Can you submit to God’s promise that He will help you when your husband or wife does something wrong? Can you be kind to your enemies that took everything from you? Will you choose to be thankful when your entire body is slowly dying due to a disease? Can you respect your boss when they are messing up? OR, will you listen to the enemy and take matters into your own hand?
In one scenario, I was guilty of doing this at work. With the help of my co-workers, I tried to fix a situation where my boss was clearly messing up. Even though my solution was right, God showed me I was manipulating the situation and conspiring against my boss behind the scenes! Oh my! The truth is, I didn’t trust God in that situation, so I didn’t submit to authority. And I didn’t trust my boss to hear my frustrations and help me resolve it. Unfortunately, we tend to conspire, control, manipulate and derail God’s plans for us when we don’t trust him with prayer and patience.
But, don’t forget there is redemption to this story. God didn’t point out my sin to make me feel bad. He wanted to make me aware and heal me. In the beginning, Satan kidnapped humanity into sin and continued to whisper prideful thoughts in our ears to get us to sin. In the end, Jesus paid for our freedom from captivity with his blood. Jesus defeated Satan by resisting pride and offering himself as a holy sacrifice for all sin.
Jesus: “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:28 AND “For you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” 1 Corinthians 6:20
While fasting In the desert, Satan tempted Jesus with power, lust of the flesh, and then asked him to prove himself. This blows me away, because it teaches me that a truly powerful Christian doesn’t have to defend their power. Jesus modeled this humility even before the desert. He never tried to LOOK like he was more powerful, wise, and special than everyone else.
He defeated our expectations of holiness with true humility: obedient to His father, born in manger, riding on a donkey, friends of sinners, and he was viewed as a child born out of wedlock.
Jesus could be humble because He didn’t have unstable self-esteem and self-worth; He knew His identity in Christ. He KNEW that His father in heaven was powerful and He didn’t need to listen to temptations, fix things in his own strength, nor prove others wrong. He let His hater (Satan) talk trashand each time replied with scripture that exalted God rather than his own power and flesh.
Through Jesus, you can escape pride too. You don’t have to give into the voices that make you fight for power, greed, control, and appearances of perfection. Let him into your heart. “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” 1 Peter 2:24
Related Article: Dying To Self: 4 Tips To Crucify The Flesh!
10 Characteristics of a Prideful Person:
- Self Righteous
- Power Hungry
- People Pleaser
Read more: 7 Causes of Pride: How to be More Humble!