What The Bible Says About Wisdom, Humility, Arrogance And Boasting

In the Letter of James in the New Testament, the Bible says:

James chapter 3 (NRSV)

13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth. 15 Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. 16 For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind.

17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.

In the Book of Proverbs, the Bible says:

Proverbs chapter 2 (TEV)

1 My child, learn what I teach you and never forget what I tell you to do.
2 Listen to what is wise and try to understand it.
3 Yes, beg for knowledge; plead for insight.
4 Look for it as hard as you would for silver or some hidden treasure.
5 If you do, you will know what it means to fear the Lord and you will succeed in learning about God.
6 It is the Lord who gives wisdom; from him come knowledge and understanding.
7 He provides help and protection for those who are righteous and honest.
8 He protects those who treat others fairly, and guards those who are devoted to him.
9 If you listen to me, you will know what is right, just, and fair. You will know what you should do.

10 You will become wise, and your knowledge will give you pleasure. 11 Your insight and understanding will protect you 12 and prevent you from doing the wrong thing. They will keep you away from people who stir up trouble by what they say- 13 those who have abandoned a righteous life to live in the darkness of sin, 14 those who find pleasure in doing wrong and who enjoy senseless evil, 15 unreliable people who cannot be trusted. 16 You will be able to resist any immoral woman who tries to seduce you with her smooth talk, 17 who is faithless to her own husband and forgets her sacred vows.

In the apostle Paul's First Letter to the Christians at Corinth, he wrote:

1 Corinthians chapter 14 (GWT)

20 Brothers and sisters, don't think like children. When it comes to evil, be like babies, but think like mature people.

In Mark's Gospel in the New Testament, the Bible says:

Mark chapter 10 (NIV)

13 People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. 14 When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it."
16 And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.

The Apostle Paul wrote to the Christians in Ephesus:

Ephesians Chapter 3 (NLT)

14 When I think of the wisdom and scope of God's plan, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, 15 the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. 16 I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will give you mighty inner strength through his Holy Spirit. 17 And I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in your hearts as you trust in him. May your roots go down deep into the soil of God's marvelous love. 18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God's people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love really is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great you will never fully understand it. Then you will be filled with the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

In Paul's letter to the Philippian Christians, the Bible says:

Philippians chapter 2 (NRSV)

1 If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, 2 make my joy complete:
be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. 5 Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, 7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, 8 he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death- even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

12 Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

The Apostle Peter wrote to his fellow church leaders:

1 Peter chapter 5 (CEV)

1 Church leaders, I am writing to encourage you. I too am a leader, as well as a witness to Christ's suffering, and I will share in his glory when it is shown to us. 2 Just as shepherds watch over their sheep, you must watch over everyone God has placed in your care. Do it willingly in order to please God, and not simply because you think you must. Let it be something you want to do, instead of something you do merely to make money. 3 Don't be bossy to those people who are in your care, but set an example for them. 4 Then when Christ the Chief Shepherd returns, you will be given a crown that will never lose its glory. 5 All of you young people should obey your elders. In fact, everyone should be humble toward everyone else. The Scriptures say, "God opposes proud people,
but he helps everyone
who is humble."
6 Be humble in the presence of God's mighty power, and he will honor you when the time comes. 7 God cares for you, so turn all your worries over to him.

In the Book of Proverbs, the Bible says:

Proverbs chapter 14 (TEV)

3 Proud fools talk too much; the words of the wise protect them.

Proverbs chapter 12 (NLT)

23 Wise people don't make a show of their knowledge, but fools broadcast their folly.

Proverbs chapter 10 (TEV)

17 People who listen when they are corrected will live, but those who will not admit that they are wrong are in danger.

Proverbs chapter 29 (TEV)

23 Arrogance will bring your downfall, but if you are humble, you will be respected.

Proverbs chapter 19 (TEV)

25 Arrogance should be punished, so that people who don't know any better can learn a lesson. If you are wise, you will learn when you are corrected.

Proverbs chapter 25 (TEV)

27 Too much honey is bad for you, and so is trying to win too much praise.

Proverbs chapter 14 (TEV)

15 A fool will believe anything; smart people watch their step.

Paul wrote in various letters which were written to Christians:

1 Timothy chapter 6 (NLT)

20 Avoid godless, foolish discussions with those who oppose you with their so-called knowledge. 21 Some people have wandered from the faith by following such foolishness.

Colossians chapter 2 (TEV)

8 See to it, then, that no one enslaves you by means of the worthless deceit of human wisdom, which comes from the teachings handed down by human beings and from the ruling spirits of the universe, and not from Christ. 9 For the full content of divine nature lives in Christ, in his humanity, 10 and you have been given full life in union with him. He is supreme over every spiritual ruler and authority.

Colossians chapter 2 (GWT)

4 I say this so that no one will mislead you with arguments that merely sound good.

1 Corinthians chapter 1 (TEV)

17 Christ ... sent me to tell the Good News, and to tell it without using the language of human wisdom, in order to make sure that Christ's death on the cross is not robbed of its power. 18 For the message about Christ's death on the cross is nonsense to those who are being lost; but for us who are being saved it is God's power. 19 The scripture says, "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and set aside the understanding of the scholars." 20 So then, where does that leave the wise? or the scholars? or the skillful debaters of this world? God has shown that this world's wisdom is foolishness! 21 For God in his wisdom made it impossible for people to know him by means of their own wisdom. Instead, by means of the so-called "foolish" message we preach, God decided to save those who believe. 22 Jews want miracles for proof, and Greeks look for wisdom. 23 As for us, we proclaim the crucified Christ, a message that is offensive to the Jews and nonsense to the Gentiles; 24 but for those whom God has called, both Jews and Gentiles, this message is Christ, who is the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For what seems to be God's foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and what seems to be God's weakness is stronger than human strength.

26 Now remember what you were, my friends, when God called you. From the human point of view few of you were wise or powerful or of high social standing. 27 God purposely chose what the world considers nonsense in order to shame the wise, and he chose what the world considers weak in order to shame the powerful. 28 He chose what the world looks down on and despises and thinks is nothing, in order to destroy what the world thinks is important. 29 This means that no one can boast in God's presence. 30 But God has brought you into union with Christ Jesus, and God has made Christ to be our wisdom. By him we are put right with God; we become God's holy people and are set free.

31 So then, as the scripture says, "Whoever wants to boast must boast of what the Lord has done."

1 Corinthians chapter 2 (TEV)

1 When I came to you, my friends, to preach God's secret truth, I did not use big words and great learning. 2 For while I was with you, I made up my mind to forget everything except Jesus Christ and especially his death on the cross. 3 So when I came to you, I was weak and trembled all over with fear, 4 and my teaching and message were not delivered with skillful words of human wisdom, but with convincing proof of the power of God's Spirit. 5 Your faith, then, does not rest on human wisdom but on God's power.

6 Yet I do proclaim a message of wisdom to those who are spiritually mature. But it is not the wisdom that belongs to this world or to the powers that rule this world-powers that are losing their power.

In Psalm 111 in the Book of Psalms in the Old Testament, the Bible says:

Psalm 111 (NLT)

10 Reverence for the LORD is the foundation of true wisdom.
The rewards of wisdom come to all who obey him.
Praise his name forever!

In the Book of Proverbs, the Bible says:

Proverbs chapter 8 (CEV)

1 With great understanding,
Wisdom is calling out
2 as she stands at the crossroads
and on every hill.
3 She stands by the city gate
where everyone enters the city,
and she shouts:

4 "I am calling out
to each one of you!
5 Good sense and sound judgment
can be yours.
6 Listen, because what I say
is worthwhile and right.
7 I always speak the truth
and refuse to tell a lie.
8 Every word I speak is honest,
not one is misleading
or deceptive.

9 "If you have understanding,
you will see that my words
are just what you need.
10 Let instruction and knowledge
mean more to you
than silver
or the finest gold.
11 Wisdom is worth much more
than precious jewels
or anything else you desire."

12 I am Wisdom
--Common Sense is my closest friend;
I possess knowledge
and sound judgment.
13 If you respect the LORD,
you will hate evil.
I hate pride and conceit
and deceitful lies.
14 I am strong,
and I offer
sensible advice
and sound judgment.
15 By my power kings govern,
and rulers make laws
that are fair.
16 Every honest leader rules
with help from me.
17 I love everyone who loves me,
and I will be found by all
who honestly search.
18 I can make you rich and famous,
important and successful.
19 What you receive from me
is more valuable
than even the finest gold
or the purest silver.
20 I always do what is right,
21 and I give great riches
to everyone who loves me.
22 From the beginning,
I was with the LORD.
I was there before he began
23 to create the earth.
At the very first,
the LORD gave life to me.

32 Pay attention, my children!
Follow my advice,
and you will be happy.
33 Listen carefully
to my instructions,
and you will be wise.
34 Come to my home each day
and listen to me.
You will find happiness.
35 By finding me, you find life,
and the LORD will be pleased
with you.
36 But if you don't find me,
you hurt only yourself,
and if you hate me,
you are in love with death.

Proverbs chapter 9 (TEV)

10 To be wise you must first have reverence for the Lord.
If you know the Holy One, you have understanding.

11 Wisdom will add years to your life. 12 You are the one who will profit if you have wisdom, and if you reject it, you are the one who will suffer.

13 Stupidity is like a loud, ignorant, shameless woman. 14 She sits at the door of her house or on a seat in the highest part of town, 15 and calls out to people passing by, who are minding their own business: 16 "Come in, ignorant people!" To the foolish she says, 17 "Stolen water is sweeter. Stolen bread tastes better." 18 Her victims do not know that the people die who go to her house, that those who have already entered are now deep in the world of the dead.

Proverbs chapter 3 (TEV)

13 Happy is anyone who becomes wise-who comes to have understanding. 14 There is more profit in it than there is in silver; it is worth more to you than gold. 15 Wisdom is more valuable than jewels; nothing you could want can compare with it. 16 Wisdom offers you long life, as well as wealth and honor. 17 Wisdom can make your life pleasant and lead you safely through it. 18 Those who become wise are happy; wisdom will give them life. 19 The Lord created the earth by his wisdom; by his knowledge he set the sky in place. 20 His wisdom caused the rivers to flow and the clouds to give rain to the earth.

21 My child, hold on to your wisdom and insight. Never let them get away from you. 22 They will provide you with life-a pleasant and happy life.

Paul wrote to the Roman Christians:

Romans chapter 12 (TEV)

16 Have the same concern for everyone. Do not be proud, but accept humble duties. Do not think of yourselves as wise.

In a letter which is in the New Testament, the apostle Paul wrote to his fellow Christian worker Timothy:

1 Timothy chapter 3 (TEV)

2 A church leader must be without fault;
6 He must be mature in the faith, so that he will not swell up with pride and be condemned, as the Devil was.

In the Book of Proverbs, the Bible says:

Proverbs chapter 26 (TEV)

12 The most stupid fool is better off than those who think they are wise when they are not.

Proverbs chapter 11 (TEV)

2 People who are proud will soon be disgraced. It is wiser to be modest.

Proverbs chapter 18 (TEV)

3 Sin and shame go together. Lose your honor, and you will get scorn in its place.

Proverbs chapter 17 (TEV)

19 To like sin is to like making trouble. If you brag all the time, you are asking for trouble.

Proverbs chapter 27 (TEV)

1 Never boast about tomorrow. You don't know what will happen between now and then.

2 Let other people praise you - even strangers; never do it yourself.

Proverbs chapter 29 (TEV)

25 It is dangerous to be concerned with what others think of you, but if you trust the Lord, you are safe.

In the New Testament, the Bible says:

James chapter 4 (NIV)

13 Now listen, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money." 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that." 16 As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil.

In the Book of Proverbs, the Bible says:

Proverbs chapter 3 (TEV)

5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Never rely on what you think you know. 6 Remember the Lord in everything you do, and he will show you the right way.

7 Never let yourself think that you are wiser than you are; simply obey the Lord and refuse to do wrong.

The main Bible pages on this site:

Bible Bible Part 1: Bible Quotations, The Holy Spirit, People And Their Stories
Bible Part 2: The Lives and Suffering of the Ancient Israelites
Bible Part 3: The Bible, Articles About Alleged Inaccuracies in it, And Stories of People who Became Christians.
Or go directly to the next in the series:
What the Bible Says About the Supernatural Conception of Jesus, Some of the Miracles He Did, and Some of the Things He Said.

The selections of Bible quotations have been put together by Diana Holbourn.

Throughout this series, wherever the initials TEV appear, they stand for Today's English Version (The Good News Bible).

Other initials:

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