What All Christians Should Understand About "Pride Comes Before the Fall" Warning in Scripture
- Amanda Idleman Contributing Writer
- 2020 8 May
Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall. – Proverbs 16:18
From a young age, I remember my Mom reminding me that when I get full of myself then comes my fall. At the time, I took her words as a sort of superstitious warning, like it’s “bad luck to brag,” just like it’s bad luck to pass a black cat on Friday the 13th.
If you think too highly of yourself, you're bound to trip over your own two feet and make a fool of yourself (which in my case does seem to happen often).
As I’ve grown, I’ve realized this verse articulates a much more significant spiritual truth. The reality is that sin is a result of humankind’s hubris. We thought we knew best so we ate that apple from the tree. Abraham and Sarah thought they could control their infertility issues so they added Hagar to the mix. On and on the examples go...of people who turned to their own abilities rather than trusted God and His instructions.
Essentially, this simple verse summarizes the sin-cycle that we all battle. Pride blinds us to our need for God and then failure, disconnection, and destruction becomes the product of our lives. For us to know God and enjoy his blessings, we need a humble heart. James 4:10 describes the posture we should take as believers. It says, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”
Humble is defined as “not proud or haughty” which is exactly the opposite of what Proverbs 16:18 warns will bring us bad results.
The Context around ‘Pride Goes before a Fall’
Pride is not a new problem. Even before the story of our humanity’s sin nature and consequent Fall from the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3), the Bible records the account of prideful fallen angels. These angels felt they were better, more powerful than God, and rebelled from His ranks.
Jude 1:6 says, “And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day.”
Life apart from God for celestial and human beings is a gloomy one. The stories of people who had a “haughty spirit” and then experienced a fall are numerous. In the book of Esther, we read about Haman. He was honored by the King and hatched a plan to convince the King to kill the Jewish people. His pride and evil scheme led to His eventual death as God’s plan was bigger than Haman’s. His “high spirit” (Esther 5:9) blinded Him to seeing God’s hand at work on behalf of the Jewish people. When we live with a “high spirit,” our focus is distracted and we are not able to see stumbling blocks in the way.
In Revelation 18, an angel announces the judgment of Babylon and describes what provokes God’s wrath on the world. Revelation 18:7 says: Babylon glorified herself and lived in luxury, so match it now with torment and sorrow. She boasted in her heart, ‘I am queen on my throne. I am no helpless widow, and I have no reason to mourn.’
Here we see pride is what Revelation describes as the antichrist. Pride says that we can trust in wealth and independence and have no need for God in our lives. As Believers, we are called to rely on the Lord for all that we need. Matthew Poole’s commentary summarizes the situation this way, “Pride goeth before destruction; it is commonly a forerunner and cause of men’s ruin, because it highly provokes both God and men.” There is a tension between the will of man and the will of God. For things to go well for us we must be willing to surrender our lives over to God. We are called to trust God with our hearts and believe God when He promises that He will take care of us (Proverbs 3:5-6).
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Who is the Author of Proverbs 16:18?
BibleStudy.org explains that this section of the Proverbs was written by King Solomon during his reign from 970 to 930 B.C. Solomon was the third King to rule over Israel. God was pleased with Solomon. He appeared to Solomon in a dream and He told Solomon to ask for whatever he wanted God to give him. Solomon humbly requested that God give him wisdom so he could be a good leader. God was pleased with Solomon’s request and granted Solomon great wisdom, a long life, and wealth (1 Kings 3:1-15).
Solomon went on to write these Proverbs to share with others the amazing wisdom God had given him. Solomon wrote the Proverbs in an effort to offer instruction, wisdom, and understanding to others (Proverbs 1:2). Solomon goes on to say that the words of this book were recorded to help others judge rightly, gain prudence, and help to pass knowledge to the young (Proverbs 1:3-4). He also wants to inspire the wise to gain even more wisdom, he is writing to give some practical advice, and expanding on sayings or riddles of the wise (Proverbs 1:5-6).
God’s amazing gift to Solomon is something that we all can benefit from when we spend time reading the book of Proverbs. God inspired the book’s words of true wisdom, instruction, and right living. Studying this section of scripture is one way we are also able to grow in the wisdom of the Lord just as Solomon did.
Scriptures Related to Pride and Humility
When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom. (Proverbs 11:2)
Before a downfall the heart is haughty, but humility comes before honor. (Proverbs 18:12)
Pride ends in humiliation, while humility brings honor. (Proverbs 29:23)
Human pride will be brought down, and human arrogance will be humbled. Only the LORD will be exalted on that day of judgment. For the LORD of Heaven’s Armies has a day of reckoning. He will punish the proud and mighty and bring down everything that is exalted. (Isaiah 2:11-12)
Proverbs 16:18 in Different Translations
Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. (Proverbs 16:18, NIV)
First pride, then the crash - the bigger the ego, the harder the fall. (Proverbs 16:18, The Message)
Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. (Proverbs 16:18, KJV)
Pride leads to destruction, and arrogance to downfall. (Proverbs 16:18, GNT)
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How Can We Apply this Scripture about Pride Today?
This ancient and simple verse still is extraordinarily applicable to our lives today. We are living in a culture that does not accept God and His role in our lives. Our abilities to “make our own way” or “work hard enough to find success” are just a few obvious ways that our world has bought into the lie that we have the ability to control our destiny apart from a reliance on God.
More subtly, our pride is what causes fights in our marriage, gets in the way of us loving our neighbor well, and creates divides in our communities. When we live with the idea that “our way is best,” then there is no room for God or the people around us to influence our lives. Philippians 2:3 captures the posture we should take in our relationships. Philippians 2:3 says “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.” Yet, how hard is this to actually live by?
It is a daily challenge to not let our desire to “make it happen” blind us from the path God has for our lives. It takes faith over fear. It takes pausing to pray before acting. It takes the power of the Holy Spirit at work in our lives, reminding us time and time again that God is in control.
The great news is that even when we experience those dreaded failures, God does not abandon us! Proverbs 28:13 says, “Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.” When we recognize that our pride has brought us to a dead end, all we have to do is ask for God’s forgiveness. He mercifully promises to be with us and guide us to more solid ground.
Prayer for the Ability to Humbly Follow Jesus
Humble yourself before the Lord and he will lift you up (James 4:10).
May God give you grace to see when your pride is blinding you from following Him. May God’s Spirit give you the ability to live with humility so that he may lift you up. Amen!
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Amanda Idleman is a writer whose passion is to encourage others to live joyfully. She writes devotions for My Daily Bible Verse Devotional and Podcast, Crosswalk Couples Devotional, the Daily Devotional App, she has work published with Her View from Home, on the MOPS Blog, and is a regular contributor for Crosswalk.com. You can find out more about Amanda on her Facebook Page or follow her on Instagram.