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Q93 : Can Pride be Good?

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Q93 : Can Pride be Good?

I taught at my church last night and the issue of pride with regard to servant leadership came up and I mentioned that nowhere in scripture is pride used in a positive sense. I was brought to task on that by a very respected person and elder who claimed that in bible school they had found several instances where it was used in a positive light. He gave a verse off the top of his head regarding Jerusalem being the pride of the nations. Well I went home not remembering what book it was in and the only thing I found was in Jeremiah about Jerusalem being the JOY of the nations. Very different then pride I think.

Any thoughts or helpful insights into this subject?

A93 : by Tony Garland

One of the challenges of teaching Biblical truth at church comes about because the views of believer’s often have more in common with the culture than Scripture. Many believers today seem motivated to ‘spin’ pride into a positive thing. I think it is a sign of the heavy emphasis of many upon self-esteem along with a confusion of the concept of pride with other biblical concepts (e.g., blessing, humility).

The scriptures uniformly promote humility—not pride. They uniformly condemn pride (for it is the lifting up of self, just the opposite of humility). Just think of Jesus—can you imagine Him promoting pride?

One of the sources of confusion here is the choice of some translations to render καύχημα [kauchēma] as ‘pride’ which some lexicons give as a legitimate translation in the sense of ‘something to boast about.’ But in the majority of the passages where these translations wind up putting a positive spin on pride, the KJV and NKJV translators, being aware of the overwhelming number of passages which condemn pride, chose another emphasis (to boast) and hence used other words in these passages. The problem here is lack of precision.

The scripture passages are emphasizing “glorying in” and having “confidence in” or even “rejoicing in” — not the concept of pride that is often held up as a positive character trait in our culture.

Another complicating factor is that the concepts connected with the word “pride” have shifted with time. Previously, solid performance, quality, reliability, etc. — all desirable and biblical traits — were described by other words and disconnected from the self-conceit and self-exaltation that is “pride.” As a result, when you preach against pride nowadays, people get offended because they think you are attacking godly character traits which they now connect with pride, but in the past were not so connected. But the biblical truth is that we are to exhibit high-quality, reliable character and works done in humility, not pride. The connection to pride is unnecessary and unwarranted.

Among NT passages where some translations give a positive spin to pride one will find 2Cor. 1:14, 2Cor. 5:12, and Php. 1:26. Yet that doesn't change the clear message of the bible which overwhelmingly condemns the concept of pride (self-exaltation). Pride is pride and in our culture it involves self-exaltation: something that is only fair game for the Trinity.

If pride is both “bad and good” or there is a “good pride” and a “bad pride” then the issues get muddied. When can I have pride and it not be sin? How much pride can I have and still be godly? And how is it that the first sin in the universe was fueled by pride (Eze. 28:15-17; 1Ti. 3:6-7) but elsewhere in the NT we are to consider pride as something good?

It is unfortunate that the translators rendered καύχημα [kauchēma] as ‘pride’ because it leads to potential confusion. Consider the following verses from the NASB:

Paul: “I have reason to be proud of my work for God” (Rom. 15:17).

James: “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6).

To avoid logical contradiction, we'd have to conclude that a person can have pride, but not be prideful. Or perhaps there are different types of pride (which the Scriptures fail to elaborate upon). Or should we conclude that God opposed Paul?!

As Christians, we are to recognize that even the tiniest amount of pride (self-exaltation) constitutes sin. Pride, by its very nature, is deceptive and almost always begins as a dangerous, but tiny seed. Rather than saying we are “proud” of our country and our children, wouldn't it be more Biblical to to say we are “blessed” or “pleased” with them instead?

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