One’s pride will bring him low,
but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor.
Proverbs 29:23 ESV
We only need to survey the culture around us to find evidence that the first half of this proverb is true. Secularized individuals (I say this instead of secularists simply because many people would certainly not call themselves secularists yet have nonetheless been thoroughly secularized, which is what has happened to liberal Christianity) are certainly those most supportive of celebrating pride as though it were a virtue. This is the same demographic that evidently faces the sharpest battle against despair. These two facts are related by causation not mere correlation.
No amount of affirmation and applause can change reality, both around us and within us. Like Lucifer, our greatest attempts at self-exaltation will always result in being cast down into the pit. Despair is the inevitable end (unless perhaps we can grip delusion tight enough) of worshiping ourselves as the embodiment of perfection and then discovering firsthand how pathetic deities we are. The exalted will certainly be brought low.
Yet the humble, said Jesus, will be exalted. That is, the ‘lowly in spirit will obtain honor.’ Or to put it another way in the words of Jesus again, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3).
Consider our origin in Genesis 1-3. After creating and filling the cosmos, God made man in His own image. The first man and woman were then given dominion over all the earth, to cultivate it and fill it with more image-bearers. This was a lofty position within the created order. Mankind was appointed to reflect God’s character and to steward the earth for Him.
Yet the serpent whispered a wicked word of discontent, suggesting to Eve that she could actually become equal to God by eating the forbidden fruit. That lust for greatness, that pride, brought humanity low, bringing the curse of death upon us all. We tried to be God, and we ended up becoming less human.
What makes our pride so tragic is that God is joyous to exalt us so long as we are humble enough to bear His image rather than our own. Full submission to Him means becoming fully human and the earthly representative of God Himself. We cannot accomplish such a task. Pride is too deeply woven into our DNA, so we look to Christ, the eternally glorious Son of God who took on humanity to slay death by His death. No great humility has ever been shown, and no greater exaltation will ever be known. We now find the greatest honor in submitting ourselves to His Lordship, in laying our lives and selves at His feet to be used as He sees fit. And all who refuse to give their humble fealty to this King, He “shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel” (Psalm 2:9).
Pride is not and never will be virtuous; humility, however, ever shall be.