Pride is a double-edged sword. Pride helps us be confident. It helps us stay after a task and do a proper job of things. But pride can also cause us to be arrogant, oblivious, and self-righteous. It can cause us to be blind to our flaws as we feel the need to criticize the flaws of others. Most of the references to pride in Scripture have to do with the harmful aspects of pride.
John the Baptist didn’t think too highly of himself. Flocks of people were showing up to hear his message to repent and responded accordingly. He wasn’t going to them. They were coming to him. If anyone could fall victim to the harmful aspects of pride, John could have. However, he had perspective. He understood his place before God:
Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. They asked him, “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” John answered them, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing. – John 1:24-28, ESV
When we compare ourselves to others, we can easily find some aspect where we are better. We can focus on that and ignore where we are worse. However, if we compare ourselves to the true standard, Jesus Christ, we end up where John did. We aren’t worthy enough to tie Jesus’ shoes. Stop and picture that in your mind’s eye.
We don’t need to be anything more than what we are: sinners forgiven by a perfect and holy God. There’s nothing to get puffed up in that. We didn’t deserve such forgiveness. We didn’t earn it, either. Yet God forgave. It cost Him a death, death on the Cross, so such forgiveness did not come cheaply or easily. Yet God did it.
We can take pride in our God. We can use that pride to do our best for Him, to serve Him and love Him, to obey Him. That’s what John was doing. Regardless of what others might have said or thought, it didn’t matter to John. He kept doing what He was commanded to do by the Holy Spirit. We can do the same.