Pride is like patience in at least one way: both can be either good or bad. Patience in waiting for a guard to move so you can rob a bank is a bad thing. Patience in helping your child learn to ride a bike is a good thing. In the same way, pride can be good or bad.
In Proverbs 17:6 we read, “Children’s children are a crown to the aged, and parents are the pride of their children.” But in Isaiah 20:5 we read the same Hebrew word for pride with a very different meaning: “Those who trusted in Cush and boasted [were proud of] in Egypt will be put to shame.” The thing that distinguishes the moral value of the pride in these two different circumstances is the object of that pride. If you are proud of what God has done in others, for example, you are proud of your parents who have been blessed to see their grandchildren, that is good! However, if the object of your pride is something that is not a response to God’s goodness but rather an alternative to acknowledging him, that is not good. In Isaiah 20:5-6 the reference is to the people of Judah who, instead of looking to the LORD for deliverance from the king of Assyria, they trusted in worldly alliances.
So what does our text for this month, “love is not proud,” mean? How can we apply this truth in our lives? First let me say that being proud of the ones you love is eminently biblical – see Proverbs 17:6. When those I love are used and blessed by God I am extremely proud of them and am grateful to God. Love does those things and has that kind of pride.
The key to understanding what is meant here by “love is not proud” is to read it in connection with what has come immediately before: “love does not boast.” The ungodly boasting, the one-upmanship, the superiority complexes… all of these ways that we can exalt ourselves over others in supposing that we are wiser, work harder, are more committed, are better than… all of this kind of boasting is absolutely deadly to healthy relationships and is opposite to love. Boasting like this is symptomatic of an inner disorder. And that disorder is pride – the kind of pride we might call arrogance. If boasting is what spills out of our mouths and body language, arrogant pride is what lurks within and prompts it. If boasting is the fruit, this kind of pride is the branch that it grows from.
Proverbs 13:10 states that, “Pride only breeds quarrels.” If we choose to accommodate this kind of arrogant pride it will result in contention. The old Puritans translated this verse from the Hebrew differently. They read Proverbs 13:10 to state that, “Only by pride cometh contention.” (KJV). In a sense those old Englishmen were right; if you take pride out of the equation, disagreements cannot turn into fights. Whatever may have started your quarrels or contentions, you may sure that pride is the oxygen that enables the fire to continue burning. The surest way to stop a fire is to deny it air. The surest way to stop an argument is to get rid of arrogance.
It is far easier to stop boasting than it is to stop being arrogant. Would you commit yourself to digging beneath boasting and uncover any areas of unhealthy pride in your own heart that might foster the growth of boasting? If you somehow manage to stop boasting but never deal with pride, I can only imagine that a great discontent and bitterness will become a wider and deeper reality in your heart. Let’s repent of our arrogance and join one another in being proud of and rejoicing in what the living God is doing in each other’s lives – that we might grow in reflecting the “affections of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:3-8).