Day 188

The Dangers of Pride

Wisdom Proverbs 16:18–24
New Testament Acts 25:23, 26:1–23
Old Testament 2 Kings 15:1–4


Back when I was working as a lawyer, I remember a very straightforward case that I thought I was bound to win. I was so confident I decided that it was not worth even bothering to pray about it or commit it to the Lord.

When I stood up to speak, the judge asked me whether I was aware of a case that had changed the law in the last few days. I was not. The result was a very humiliating defeat. As the passage in Proverbs today warns (Proverbs 16:18), pride had come before a fall.

In my humiliation, I cried out to God for help. I read the recent case. Then, I wrote an opinion saying I thought the decision was wrong and would be reversed on appeal. Thankfully, it was.

We were able to go back to court and win the case. The solicitor, rather than judging me for my mistake, was kind enough to be impressed by the opinion I had written and sent me many more cases. So it became a double lesson; not just about the dangers of pride but also about the extraordinary grace of God and how ‘things work out when you trust in God’ (Proverbs 16:20, MSG).

I try not to forget the lesson I learnt about the dangers of pride and self-reliance whenever I stand up to speak. I would like to say that I have never made the same mistake again but it is a lesson that I have had to re-learn several times.

In English, the word ‘pride’ can have a good sense. For example, we would not say it is wrong for a person to be proud of their children, or to take pride in their work. However, when the Bible talks about pride it means something different from this and has very negative connotations.

It means to have an excessively high opinion of one’s own worth or importance; it suggests arrogant or overbearing conduct. It is the independent spirit that says, ‘I have no need of God.’ Arguably, therefore, it is at the root of all sin. How should we respond to the temptation and dangers of pride?


Proverbs 16:18–24

18 Pride goes before destruction,
   a haughty spirit before a fall.
19 Better to be lowly in spirit along with the oppressed
   than to share plunder with the proud.
20 Whoever gives heed to instruction prospers,
   and blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD.
21 The wise in heart are called discerning,
   and gracious words promote instruction.

24 Gracious words are a honeycomb,
   sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.


Cultivate humility

God wants you to learn to walk in humility and kindness, not arrogance and pride. Pride comes before a fall: ‘First pride, then the crash – the bigger the ego, the harder the fall’ (v.18, MSG).

We are reminded that ‘It’s better to live humbly among the poor than to live it up among the rich and famous’ (v.19, MSG).

A lack of power is very frustrating at times when we think we know how best to advance the kingdom of God. However, Jesus had very little power from a human point of view. He was ‘lowly in spirit and among the oppressed’ (v.19).

‘Lowliness of spirit’, the opposite of pride, brings:

1. Prosperity

Humility means a willingness to learn: ‘Those who give heed to instruction prosper’ (v.20a).

2. Happiness

The humble trust in God: ‘Whoever leans on, trusts in, and is confident in the LORD – happy, blessed, and fortunate is he’ (v.20b, AMP).

3. Healing

As opposed to the arrogant words of the proud (‘scoundrels plot evil, and their speech is like a scorching fire’, v.27), the humble use pleasant words (‘pleasant words promote instruction’, v.21b). ‘Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones’ (v.24).


Lord, help me always to stay dependent on you, to trust in you.
New Testament

Acts 25:23, 26:1–23

23 The next day Agrippa and Bernice came with great pomp and entered the audience room with the high-ranking military officers and the prominent men of the city.

26 Then Agrippa said to Paul, ‘You have permission to speak for yourself.’
So Paul motioned with his hand and began his defence: 2 ‘King Agrippa, I consider myself fortunate to stand before you today as I make my defence against all the accusations of the Jews, 3 and especially so because you are well acquainted with all the Jewish customs and controversies. Therefore, I beg you to listen to me patiently.

4 ‘The Jewish people all know the way I have lived ever since I was a child, from the beginning of my life in my own country, and also in Jerusalem. 5 They have known me for a long time and can testify, if they are willing, that I conformed to the strictest sect of our religion, living as a Pharisee. 6 And now it is because of my hope in what God has promised our ancestors that I am on trial today.

8 Why should any of you consider it incredible that God raises the dead?

9 ‘I too was convinced that I ought to do all that was possible to oppose the name of Jesus of Nazareth. 10 And that is just what I did in Jerusalem. On the authority of the chief priests I put many of the Lord’s people in prison, and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them.

11 ‘… I was so obsessed with persecuting them that I even hunted them down in foreign cities.
12 ‘On one of these journeys I was going to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. 13 About noon, King Agrippa, as I was on the road, I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, blazing around me and my companions. 14 We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.”

15 ‘Then I asked, “Who are you, Lord?”

‘“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” the Lord replied. 16 “Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen and will see of me. 17 I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them 18 to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.”

19 ‘So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven. 20 First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and then to the Gentiles, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and demonstrate their repentance by their deeds. 21 That is why some Jews seized me in the temple courts and tried to kill me.

22 ‘But God has helped me to this very day; so I stand here and testify to small and great alike. I am saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen – 23 that the Messiah would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would bring the message of light to his own people and to the Gentiles.’


Serve and witness

What should you do if you get the opportunity to testify about Jesus? How should you go about telling your story? We see in this passage a great example of what to do.

Paul, on trial, tells the court that Jesus gave him a commission to serve: ‘I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness’ (26:16). As Jesus came ‘not to be served, but to serve’ (Mark 10:45), all of us are called to be servants and witnesses. A witness humbly points beyond him or herself. Paul humbly points to Jesus. Here we see how he fulfils this calling.

Paul, in prison and on trial, comes face to face with pride and ‘great pomp’ as he is brought before Agrippa and Bernice (Acts 25:23). It must have been a very daunting experience.

Paul, once again, simply and humbly gives his testimony. He is polite and respectful to King Agrippa (26:2–3). He conforms to custom and social graces. He skilfully selects the parts of his story that are relevant to his audience.

In the first part of his testimony Paul uses ‘I’ messages as opposed to ‘you’ messages. Whereas ‘you’ messages can seem arrogant and patronising, ‘I’ messages are sometimes more effective, as well as being a more unthreatening and gracious way to make a point.

He says he used to be just like them: ‘I too was convinced that I ought to do all that was possible to oppose the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And that is just what I did in Jerusalem… I put many of the saints in prison, and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them’ (vv.9–10).

The implicit message is, ‘I was just like you. I was full of pride, power and pomp. I did what you are now doing. I persecuted Christians just as you are now persecuting me.’

He then tells how Jesus appeared to him and pointed out that in persecuting Christians, he was actually persecuting Jesus. ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting’ (v.15).

Jesus told him, ‘I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me’ (vv.17–18). Through this powerful ‘I’ message of his testimony, Paul is actually saying to them that they are in darkness and under the power of Satan, in need of forgiveness for their sins.

Not only does he point out their needs, he also points out the way to forgiveness: ‘I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds’ (v.20). In effect, he is saying to these proud and powerful people, ‘You need to repent and turn to God.’

He goes on, ‘I have had God’s help to this very day, and so I stand here and testify to small and great alike’ (v.22). Paul was willing to speak to everyone, to the powerful and to the weak.

Paul’s message was always centred on Jesus, who had appeared to him on the road to Damascus. He testifies that, ‘the Christ must suffer and... rise from the dead’ (v.23, AMP).


Lord, help me to take every opportunity to tell people about Jesus and to follow his example of humble service.
Old Testament

2 Kings 15:1–4

1 In the twenty-seventh year of Jeroboam king of Israel, Azariah son of Amaziah king of Judah began to reign. 3 He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, just as his father Amaziah had done. 4 The high places, however, were not removed; the people continued to offer sacrifices and burn incense there.


Resist pride

If, for example, you have anyone working for you, or if you are a parent, or if you are in any position of leading as a volunteer, you are in a position of power.

Pride is a particular temptation for anyone in a position of power – whether that power comes from status, success, fame or wealth.

The history of the kings of Israel and Judah demonstrates that it is extremely difficult to become powerful and resist the temptation of pride. During this period, the kings of Judah are doing rather better than the kings of Israel. King after king in Israel did evil in the eyes of the Lord (14:24; 15:18,24,28), while in Judah, Azariah and his son Jotham both ‘did what was right in the eyes of the LORD’ (15:3,34).

Azariah is also known as Uzziah (v.32). We know something more about him from other parts of the Old Testament (for example, Amos 1:1, Isaiah 6:1f. and 2 Chronicles 26:16–23).

Here we read that although he ‘did what was right in the eyes of the LORD… the high places… were not removed… The LORD afflicted the king with leprosy until the day he died’ (2 Kings 15:3–5). Why did his life end in such a mess?

The book of Chronicles gives the answer: ‘His fame spread far and wide, for he was greatly helped until he became powerful. But after Uzziah became powerful, his pride led to his downfall. He was unfaithful to the LORD his God’ (2 Chronicles 26:15–16).

This warns us that if God has blessed us with success there is always a temptation to become proud.


Lord, thank you for all the warnings in the Bible, as well as the encouragements. Help me always to take heed of these warnings. Lord, I am utterly dependent on you. Help me to keep my eyes always fixed on Jesus who was all-powerful and yet humbled himself, made himself nothing and took the nature of a servant (Philippians 2:6–8).

Pippa adds

Proverbs 16:18

I once managed to get into a small parking space in one manoeuvre and was rather pleased with myself. I told my mother, who was in the car with me, that I was the best at parking in our family and resented remarks about women not being able to park. Later that day, someone asked me if I'd go and pick something up in a bit of a hurry. So I jumped into the car with a friend and we returned to the same spot. And I tried to get into that spot. But could I? It took me five times to get into that spot and my friend was even offering to park for me! It serves me right. Pride comes before a fall!

Verse of the Day

Proverbs 16:24

‘Gracious words are a honeycomb,
  sweet to the soul and healing to the bones’.

Thought for the Day

Walk in humility and kindness, not arrogance and pride.



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The Bible with Nicky and Pippa Gumbel (commentary formerly known as Bible in One Year) ©Alpha International 2009. All Rights Reserved.

Compilation of daily Bible readings © Hodder & Stoughton Limited 1988. Published by Hodder & Stoughton Limited as the Bible in One Year.

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.

Scripture quotations marked (AMP) taken from the Amplified® Bible, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (

Scripture quotations marked MSG are taken from The Message, copyright © 1993, 2002, 2018 by Eugene H. Peterson. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers.

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