What does "pride of life" refer to in 1 John 2: 16?

For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. 1 John 2:16 ESV https://biblehub.com/1_john/2-16.htm


Note the Greek words for "pride of life" are ἡ ἀλαζονεία τοῦ βίου.

ἀλαζονεία, ας f: a state of pride or arrogance, but with the implication of complete lack of basis for such an attitude—‘false arrogance, pretentious pride, boastful haughtiness.’

Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 764). New York: United Bible Societies.

βίος has a small occurrence in the New Testament for the words translated life. The Greek word ζωή is used in the phrase eternal life and often implies such in its use. The Greek φωνή is used for Christ laying down his life, or for the rich farmer talking to himself.

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This is how βίος is translated in the ESV New Testament:

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(Graphs from Bible Word Study in Exegetical Guides in Logos Bible Software)

You can see how its usage fits very well into the context of Luke 8:14. For further reference here are the mean of βίος in the lexicons. Its meaning fits very much into what’s necessary to sustain life.

βιόω; βίοςa, ου m; βίωσις, εως f: to conduct oneself, with focus upon everyday activity—‘to live, daily life, life, existence.’

Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 505). New York: United Bible Societies.

βίος, ου, ὁ (Hom.+; inscr., pap., LXX, Ep. Arist., Philo, Joseph.) life in its appearance and manifestations. …

  1. of earthly life in its functions and its duration…

  2. of manner of life conduct…

  3. (…) means of subsistence…

Arndt, W., Gingrich, F. W., Danker, F. W., & Bauer, W. (1979). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature : a translation and adaption of the fourth revised and augmented edition of Walter Bauer’s Griechisch-deutsches Worterbuch zu den Schrift en des Neuen Testaments und der ubrigen urchristlichen Literatur (p. 141-142). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Thus, one of my Greek professors described "pride of life" in 1 John 2:16 as "the empty arrogance of making a living." MSW's answer is correct. He just doesn't give you the analysis of why it is correct. Jesus gives the opposite of the pride of life in the Lord's prayer, "Give us this day our daily bread."



1 John 2:15-17 KJV (15) Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

The “pride of life” is the boasting about what one does for a living (livelihood) and the abundance of the things one has because of it. The world puts great emphasis on this: what one does for a living. The world judges others based on this and respects those who are rich in this world while the poor are forgotten.

(16) For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. (17) And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.

As Jesus says, a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things that he possesses. Yet, the world always cherishes having an abundance of things and boasts in it and makes it a priority in this life.

Luke 12:15 KJV (15) And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.

The world respects those who are rich and gives them respect while the poor get no respect. The world despises the poor.

But we as followers of Christ are not to love the world and be with the world in this.

James 2:1-6 KJV (1) My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. (2) For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; (3) And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: (4) Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts? (5) Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him? (6) But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats?


When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings (Genesis 3:6-7 NASB). .

For years now, rightly or wrongly, I've linked the above verses to the apostle John's description of

. . . all that is in the world . . ..

The "pride of life" is but one element of "all that is in the world." The other two elements are "the lust of the eyes" and "the lust of the flesh."

But what is "the world"? Biblically, the world (cosmos) is an organized and orderly system--a kingdom, if you will--having its roots in rebellion against God. Jesus said to Pilate,

“My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not [l]of this realm” (John 18:36 NASB, my emphasis).

Notice the contrast Jesus makes in his interaction with Pilate. There are two kingdoms, Jesus asserts. There is a kingdom of this world, and there is a kingdom Jesus calls "my kingdom."

From Genesis to Revelation, those two kingdoms are in conflict: the kingdom of darkness and the kingdom of light; the kingdom which is under the temporary control of God's arch enemy, Satan; and the kingdom of heaven (or Kingdom of God), which is an eternal kingdom under the ultimate authority, God Himself. From G. F. Handel's Messiah come the following words, which are based upon Revelation 11:15:

The kingdom of this world;

Is become

The kingdom of our Lord

And of His Christ

And He shall reign for ever and ever . . ..

Until that time when “the kingdom of this world” becomes “the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ,” the two kingdoms will be in opposition with one another. Satan and his minions, armed with “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life,” will be in perpetual conflict with God and his angels, and with his image bearers on earth, but particularly with the children of God, who comprise a kingdom of priests unto their God (Exodus 19:6; Revelation 1:6 and 5:10).

We gain insight into how Satan opposes God and his kingdom by parsing the interaction between the serpent and Eve in the Garden of Eden, an excerpt of which begins this answer. Notice the writer of these words gives us a template for all that is in the world:

  • the lust of the flesh . . . (corresponds to) . . . "the tree was good for food”

  • the lust of the eyes . . . (corresponds to) . . . “the tree was a delight to the eyes”

  • the pride of life . . . . . . . (corresponds to) . . .“the tree was desirable to make one wise"

God gave to Adam one prohibition and one only, and we assume he relayed God's prohibition to his “helpmeet.”

The LORD God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die (Genesis 2:16-17 NASBU).

Put simply, the "pride of life" is an autonymous life, a life lived in opposition to God and his command, which in Eve's case was partaking of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Not without blame, Adam, who was with Eve at some point in the temptation, also disobeyed God's prohibition and ate of the fruit. Each person was culpable before holy God, though Adam's culpability was worse, since he failed not only to keep God's command, but he also failed in being the head of the woman whom God had graciously given to him (see Romans 5:12-21, where the apostle Paul puts the blame squarely on Adam, not his helpmeet).

In conclusion, at the heart of the pride of life is the illusion that “my way is the right way, so forget God.” The pride of life originates in a lie, a lie that says God's image bearers have the right to live autonymous lives, making their own way through life without reference to God. Proverbs, however, exposes that lie, telling us at least twice:

There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death (14:12; 16:25 KJV).

The truly wise person, instead of pridefully "leaning on his or her own understanding" (Proverbs 3:5) accedes to God's sovereign right to direct their path through life. Refusing to be wise in their own eyes (Proverbs 3:7), they humbly submit to God's will, knowing with great assurance that in the end, God will raise them up (1 Peter 5:6).


What does “pride of life” refer to in 1 John 2:16?

If a phrase in one Bible version is not clear, it is wise to look into how other versions of the Bible have translated the verse, other Bible version read:

1 John 2:16 (NIRV)

16" Here is what people who belong to this world do. They try to satisfy what their sinful desires want to do. They long for what their sinful eyes look at. They take pride in what they have and what they do. All of this comes from the world. None of it comes from the Father."

1 John 2:16 (AMPC)

16 "For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh [craving for sensual gratification] and the lust of the eyes [greedy longings of the mind] and the pride of life [assurance in one’s own resources or in the stability of earthly things]—these do not come from the Father but are from the world [itself]."

1 John 2:16 (ERV)

16 "This is all there is in the world: wanting to please our sinful selves, wanting the sinful things we see, and being too proud of what we have. But none of these comes from the Father. They come from the world."

It is interesting to note that Satan used this temptation to test Jesus.

"They take pride in what they have and what they do."

Luke 4:9-13 (NIRV)

9 "Then the devil led Jesus to Jerusalem. He had Jesus stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. 10 It is written,“ ‘The Lord will command his angels to take good care of you." 11 "They will lift you up in their hands.Then you won’t trip over a stone.’ ”


For Jesus to do such a theatrical act would have been an act of pride, instead He flatly refused , and used the sciptures to reply:

12 Jesus answered, “Scripture says, ‘Do not test the Lord your God.’ ” (Deuteronomy 6:16)

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