To swagger is to walk, strut, or behave in an overly confident and usually aggressive manner. To have swagger is to have an air of arrogance or selfish pride. The Bible often speaks of arrogance, haughtiness, and pride and presents them as negative characteristics. Mark 7:20–23 lists pride right alongside adultery and murder. An arrogant attitude has no concern for the will of God because all actions and thoughts are self-focused (2 Timothy 3:2).
Proverbs 6:16–19 lists seven things that the Lord hates. The first one is “haughty eyes” or “a proud look” (KJV). Having a proud look is what we might call swaggering, and it is “detestable” to the Lord. Haughty eyes (or swagger) are said to be sin in Proverbs 21:4, along with a proud heart. To swagger is to scorn or “look down on” others, and God forbids it.
God’s Word promises that the arrogant will be punished (Proverbs 16:5; Isaiah 13:11). Indeed, one can imagine Lucifer swaggering before God in heaven, claiming his own greatness before his fall. Lucifer’s pride led to eternal punishment: the fall from his exalted heavenly position (Isaiah 14:12–15) and his consignment to the lake of fire (Revelation 20:10). The behavior of the evil one is not to be imitated by a believer in Christ (John 8:39–47).
Instead of displaying an arrogant swagger, believers should look to Jesus Christ’s humility as an example for their own lives (Hebrews 4:15). If anyone in history could rightfully have claimed personal importance, it was Jesus, yet Philippians 2:6–8 tells us that Jesus Christ, though “being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” We are to “have the same mindset” (verse 5).
A follower of Christ does not swagger with prideful arrogance in his step or boast in self-worth based on his own accomplishments, heritage, or skills. Speaking of Gentiles being “grafted” into the church, Romans 11:18 says, “Do not consider yourself to be superior to those other branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you.”
Rather than selfishly swaggering, Christians may boast in the One who grants us salvation (1 Corinthians ; 2 Corinthians 10:17; cf. Psalm 34:2; Jeremiah 9:24). It is the Lord who gives grace (James 4:6), the ability to accomplish God’s will (Philippians 4:13), placement in a spiritual family (John 1:12–13), and all good gifts (James 1:17). Christians may have pride and confidence that is rooted in God’s Word, His power, and His character—in the One who created us, saved us, and guides us daily.
The Christian life should not be characterized by acting superior to others or having an arrogant swagger. Instead, a Christian should be known for emulating Jesus Christ with a humble, compassionate, and merciful spirit. Believers are new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17), and after salvation (Acts 16:30–31) comes the process of sanctification (John 17), which involves the slow death of self (1 Corinthians 1:30). With the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9), we can choose humility over arrogance, selflessness over selfishness, and meekness over swagger.