Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before stumbling.Proverbs 16:18(NASB)
Like much of the book of Proverbs, chapter 16 has many self-contained verses guiding us to the way of righteousness which pleases the Lord, but warns against the evils of wickedness which causes Him much displeasure. Giving delight to the Lord, holding fast to the truth, and shunning evil ways, is a theme that threads it way throughout this chapter.
Similarly, the blessings and benefits of godly wisdom and the destructive danger of a proud heart is a subject which not only reverberates throughout the book of Proverbs, but we find it echoing through this central chapter.
The author informs us in verse 5 that, "everyone with a proud heart is detestable to the Lord and will not go unpunished," while in verse 19 we read, "it is better to be lowly of spirit with the humble than to divide plunder with the proud."
One verse that is frequently quoted (and often misquoted) by both believers and the secular community alike is verse 16, where we read, "pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling," or "pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall."
A proud heart and haughty spirit was the root of Lucifer's terrible destructive fall from heaven, when he determined to be like God, to ascend to the highest heavens and set up his throne above the stars of God. His proud heart caused him to fall from the privileged position he had as God's covering cherub when he proudly stated, "I will ascend above the highest clouds. I will make myself like the Most High."
Pride was the motivating factor in Adam's terrible fall, for he was tempted to become like God knowing good from evil - and so he disobeyed the Lord's command and found himself cursed and excluded from the privileges and position with which God had blessed him.
Proud, self-sufficient arrogance, was the reason that many scribes and Pharisees refused to believe in their Messiah and trust in His redeeming blood for salvation. It was pride that brought terrible destruction on their eternal soul, for they considered they could be justified in God's eyes by their own good works, rather than by faith in Christ.
Pride was also the reason that the Galatian Christians were in danger of 'falling from grace', because they sought to be sanctified by works of the law rather than by faith in Christ. Having been justified by grace through faith in Christ, forgiven of their sin, and given eternal life... they tried to keep themselves in God's good books by works of the flesh. Having been saved by the Spirit they tried to live in their own strength - no wonder Paul exclaimed, "you foolish Galatians." After having begun their Christian life by the power of the Spirit when they were born again, they were seeking to be made complete by their limited fleshly works!
Paul explained this to the spiritually immature Corinthian Christians in a different way. He told them that good works carried out in spirit and truth will be tried by fire and rewarded. However, works carried out in the flesh will be tried in the fire and destroyed. Only works carried out in humility of heart, through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, will receive the promised reward. Works that are produced by the spirit of pride, which relies on self, will be destroyed - however commendable they may appear.
The noxious nature of pride, self-will, self-importance, or arrogance, must never be minimised - because pride is destructive and a haughty spirit will cause us to fall.
May we take to heart the many words of wisdom in Proverbs that guide us into the way of righteousness, which is pleasing to the Lord, and take heed of the evils of wickedness and the destructive nature of a haughty spirit.
Heavenly Father, thank You for the clear warnings about pride and arrogance and the terrible consequences that come when nurturing a haughty spirit. Keep me I pray, from the sin of pride or from trusting in my own importance... or from thinking that I can add to my salvation or contribute towards my sanctification through my own works. Help me to grow in grace and to walk in spirit and truth. In Jesus' name I pray, AMEN.