Pride is not always expressed in a negative, sinful manner. Writing to the believers in Corinth, the apostle Paul expressed pride in their persevering with him through trials and difficulties (2 Corinthians 7:4). An example of a positive expression of pride is a man taking pride in his work—meaning he is not a slouch; he puts his all into his labor. Another is a mother who takes pleasure in her child’s accomplishments, a positive expression of joy and pride. However, the pride addressed in today’s proverbs is a malady of our sinful nature.
Proverbs 21:4 – “An high look [eye], and a proud heart [mind; thoughts], and the plowing [tillage] of the wicked [ungodly], is sin [sinful].”
Pride moves us to strike out at someone in our actions and words, or ignore them altogether. Someone reading this devotional might say, “You can’t judge me! You don’t know what is in my heart!” That is true; however, this proverb identifies the demeanor of a “high” or haughty look as a manifestation of sinful pride. Rolling the eyes, turning away to avoid speaking and refusing to be cordial are examples of arrogance and pride! In an earlier proverb, Solomon writes: “Only by pride cometh contention…” (Proverbs 13:10).
Proverbs 21:4 focuses upon a second sin that might come as a surprise, “the plowing of the wicked, is sin”. In other words, even the honest labor of a sinful man is sin in the eyes of God. How can this be? The reality is that a lost sinner can do nothing to please God. He labors for himself and either gives no thought to his standing before God or is deluded to think he merits God’s favor. The prophet Isaiah declared the vain attempt of sinners to merit God’s favor in these words: “…all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6).
We have seen pride displayed in haughty look (21:4). Proverbs 21:24 identifies two other displays of pride:
Proverbs 21:24 – “Proud [arrogant; presumptuous; insolent] and haughty scorner [mocker; scoffer] is his name [character; reputation], who dealeth in proud wrath [rage; arrogance; i.e. outburst of anger].
A man dominated by sinful pride may have the reputation for mocking the righteous and/or operating on a short fuse. A little provocation and he explodes with an unbridled tongue that curtails any hope of defusing a conflict.
What is the sum of verses 4 and 24? God hates pride and all its manifestations—haughty looks, arrogant airs and taunting words.
1 Peter 3:8-11 – “Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous: 9 Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing. 10 For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile: 11 Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it.”