In Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis arguesthat pride is the “essential vice,” leading to enmity with God. Pride is inherently dangerous, declaring independence from and superiority over others, including God. It is the thinking that led Adam and Eve to disobey God and Satan to rebel against his Creator. No wonder Solomon writes, “Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the Lord “(Prov 16:5), and James quotes, “God opposes the proud” (Jam 4:6). Pride is the anti-God attitude.
While every human being is at risk of becoming prideful, I believe pastors face an even greater risk than most. Consider the amount of time we spend in the spotlight. Each week, dozens, hundreds, even thousands are listening to our every word. There is the counseling part of our ministry when people come to us for helpful, biblical counsel. We are also called to lead. The congregation looks to us for direction, relying on us to lead the church to grow. God’s calling and gifting in our lives makes us the perfect candidates for falling to pride.
With this reality in mind, we turn to King Nebuchadnezzar, a cautionary tale for pastors. Few others in Scripture experienced the heights of greatness and depths of humiliation. But it is because of his drastic rise and fall that pastors need to pay attention to his story. If we are willing to admit that maybe, just maybe, we are not immune to pride, Nebuchadnezzar’s story in Daniel 4 might save our ministry and much more. The king’s story in Daniel 4 centers on a dream in which God warns him of coming judgment if he is unwilling to turn from his wickedness and pride.
Want to talk about greatness? When King Nebuchadnezzar delivered an edict, its reach was “all peoples, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth” (Dan 4:1 ESV). When Nebuchadnezzar was bothered by a dream, he simply summoned the wise men of Babylon, magicians, enchanters, the Chaldeans, and astrologers (4:6–7). King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream reveals that his greatness and kingdom grew to reach the heavens and impacted the ends of the earth (4:10–11). His rule provided refuge and provision to all who needed it (4:12). In his interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, Daniel says, “[It] is you, O king, who have grown and become strong. Your greatness has grown and reaches to heaven, and your dominion to the ends of the earth” (4:22). This focus on his greatness seems like a good thing, until we realize that as Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom and greatness grew, so did his pride. Because of pride, the king was now in danger of the judgment of God; judgment that would take away his kingdom and cause him to live among the beasts in the field and act like them too for seven periods of time (4:24–25).
Daniel’s warning to Nebuchadnezzar to break off his sins did not work (4:27). A year after his dream, the king stood on the roof of his palace and declared, “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty” (4:30)? God immediately judged his pride. King Nebuchadnezzar lost it all. He lost every single blessing of God. His kingdom, his glory, his riches, all gone because of his prideful heart. The story does have a happy ending as Nebuchadnezzar was eventually restored, but only after his pride turned to humility and he lifted his eyes to heaven and praised the One who had blessed him in the first place (4:34).
As Lewis reminds us, the core problem with pride is that “[in] God you come up against something which is in every respect immeasurably superior to yourself…. As long as you are proud you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on things and people: and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you.” King Nebuchadnezzar could not see past his own ego to recognize that every ounce of glory and every square inch of his kingdom was a blessing from the hand of God. Rather than living in gratitude for God’s blessings, Nebuchadnezzar’s pride led him to overlook God’s blessings for his own greatness.
Pastors, may it never be said of us that pride caused us to forget the source of our gifting and calling. Let us never be found boasting of our own glory and greatness. Pride is always knocking at our door, needing only a crack to get in and bring ruin and destruction into our ministry and lives.
How can we prevent God’s blessings from leading us into pride? Prayer is always a good start.
- Begin Your Prayer with Acclamation
I have always found it hard to remain prideful while praising God for His wondrous works, His faithfulness in my life and ministry, and His gracious gifts to me. If we are constantly reminded of God’s greatness as we pray, our accomplishments don’t seem so great anymore.
- Continue with Confession
All pastors are tempted to flirt with pride, and often times, we give in. An essential part of keeping pride at bay is a willingness to confess our sins when we seek to steal God’s glory. Pastor, spend time each day searching your heart and confessing in prideful thoughts, attitudes, or actions.
- Don’t Forget to Be Thankful
Recounting all that we have to be thankful for helps us remember that God is the fountain of all our blessings and gifts. If throughout the day I am thanking God for all He has done, it will be harder for me to begin pridefully thinking about my achievements. Ultimately, we can be thankful to God that our identity is in Christ and not in our call to be a pastor.
- End Your Prayer with Supplication
As we humbly admit our own susceptibility to pride, our only hope is to plead with the Father, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matt 6:13). You need help, and I need help in our battle against pride. Let us not neglect asking our heavenly Father to help us live for His glory and not our own.
Pastor, pride is dangerous. You are gifted and blessed by God for His glory, not yours. Beware of pride.
 C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: HarperCollins Publishing, 2001), 123–24.
 Lewis, Mere Christianity, 124.