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1 Peter 5:5-7 (ESV):

5 Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

James 4:6-10 (ESV):

6 But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

  • First of all, what do Peter and James mean by being proud and humble? What are the Biblical definitions of pride and humility?

  • Why does God oppose the proud but give grace to the humble? What is the logic behind this principle/law?

  • Is there something inherently wrong about being proud? Why is pride a bad thing?

  • Is there something inherently good about being humble? Why is humility a good thing?

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“Pride” | זָדוֹן Zadon is a selfish act of vanity - falsely reflecting on accomplishments, as if [you alone] created something good. [Arrogance] is a behavior blinding humans, [unable to recognize the source of all our achievements was YHVH your God] the Source which made all things possible.

[Deuteronomy 8:17-18] and you will say to yourself, "My strength and the might of my hand that has accumulated this wealth for me." (וְאָֽמַרְתָּ֖ בִּלְבָבֶ֑ךָ כֹּחִי֙ וְעֹ֣צֶם יָדִ֔י עָ֥שָׂה לִ֖י אֶת־הַחַ֥יִל הַזֶּֽה) - “But you must remember YHVH your Eloheikha, [for it is He] that gives you strength to make wealth” (וְזָֽכַרְתָּ אֶת־יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֶ֔יךָ כִּי ה֗וּא הַנֹּתֵן לְךָ כּחַ לַֽעֲשׂוֹת חָיִל)

[Jeremiah 50:32] “And [the arrogant] shall stumble and fall, and he shall have no one to raise him up” (וְכָשַׁל זָדוֹן וְנָפַ֔ל וְאֵין לֹו מֵקִים)

“Modesty” | צֶנַע Tsena is the defense used to stop the evil illusion of Pride revealed in [Proverbs 11:2] - “When Pride comes then comes disgrace, but with the Modest is wisdom.” (בָּֽא־ ז֖דוֹן וַיָּבֹ֣א קָלוֹן וְֽאֶת־צְנוּעִים חָכְמָֽה)

Modesty צֶנַע is a weapon to defend humanity from sinful actions (coveting) in [Micah 6:8] - “O man, what is good, and what YHVH demands of you; but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.” (אָדָם מַה־טּוֹב וּמָה־יְהֹוָה דּוֹרֵשׁ מִמְּךָ֗ כִּי אִם־עשׂוֹת מִשְׁפָּט וְאַהֲבַת חֶ֔סֶד וְהַצְנֵעַ לֶכֶת עִם־אֱלֹהֶֽיךָ)

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The meaning of the words "proud" and "humble" in James 4:6 and 2 Peter 5:5 according to BDAG:

"Proud"

ὑπερήφανος (huperephanos) = literally, "overshine"

arrogant, haughty, proud, eg, Luke 1:51, Rom 1:30, 2 Tim 3:2, James 4:6, 1 Peter 5:5. [In all these cases, this characteristic is negative.]

"Humble"

ταπεινός (tapeinos) = lowliness

  1. Pertaining to being unpretentious, humble, eg, Matt 11:29, James 4:6, 1 Peter 5:5

Note that since this charateristic is displayed by Jesus (Matt 11:29) we are told as Christian followers to imitate Him.

Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

The big problem with pride is its psychological positioning of the mind to be arrogant and incapable of learning. (Ask any teacher! See 1 Tim 3:2, 2 Tim 2:24, James 3:13) Paul recognized this and wrote:

Rom 12:3 - For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but think of yourself with sober judgment, according to the measure of faith God has given you.

The other reason for this is stated in 1 John 4:8, 16 - "God is Love". Jesus also stated in John 13:34, 35 -

A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you also must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.” See also John 15:13, Eph 5:2.

Thus Christians are instructed to be loving - the verb here is based around other-centeredness which is the opposite of being proud. Thus, God wants to give grace but cannot bestow grace because the proud person does not want to receive it.

We also have Paul's teaching in Phil 2:

3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or empty pride, but in humility consider others more important than yourselves. 4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus: 6 Who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in human likeness.

Again, note the instruction to imitate Christ and his humility. There is noting more inimical to the Christian life that the spirit of pride as Isa 14:12-15 shows.

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  • +1 Couldn't agree more!
    – Rajesh
    Jan 11 at 0:59
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God resists proud from human perspective, but from divine perspective He resists nobody, wishing to give grace to all. However, when we do not accept His grace out of pride, for instance, I refuse to repent from my sexual habits and procrastinate my going to Church, then I block coming of grace in my heart, and one can say, "God resists him", but in fact, it is me who resists God's grace coming to my heart. To use a Buddhist simile without Buddhist religion (which does not exist in fact, Buddhism having no God), a good man's soul repels sins as a glossy lotus flower leaf repels a drop of water, not being soaked by it a bit. Similarly, a proud and recalcitrant man repels drops of divine grace in Christian religion, but a humble man's contrite heart becomes drenched in the grace of God.

St Augustine’s favorite Biblical quote by the way: “God resists the proud, but to the humble He gives grace”.

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