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What does the Bible say about looking down on others?

looking down on others

To look down on others is to adopt a posture of superiority toward them. Those who display this behavior consider themselves to be more valuable than the people around them. Looking down on others is a manifestation of selfish pride, which the Bible is against. Several passages speak against pride, such as Proverbs 16:18, which says, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” James goes even further, stating that “God opposes the proud, but shows favor to the humble” (James 4:6; cf. Proverbs 3:34 and 1 Peter 5:5).

If God opposes the proud, then He certainly opposes those who look down on others. Sometimes, people look down on others because of their own insecurity and an attempt to find worth in the wrong places. Feelings of inadequacy can drive a person to cover up by saying, “At least I am better than so-and-so.”

Christians can also look down on others in their pursuit of godliness. It is easy to observe someone struggling in an area we have overcome—say, alcohol abuse—and feel a boost of self-righteousness to compensate for our own failures. We might think, “I may not have overcome my anger issues, but at least I’m not like ________ who goes home drunk.” The parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector is a cautionary tale for the self-righteous Christian (Luke 18:9–14).

An excessive level of confidence can also lead someone to look down on others. Confidence itself is not a bad thing. As Christians, we should be confident in God because of what Christ has done for us (2 Corinthians 3:4–5; Ephesians 3:12; Hebrews 4:16; 10:35; 11:1). We should also excel in our craft and have competence in our area of expertise. However, if we aren’t careful, confidence can cross the line into selfish pride.

Modern culture, with its emphasis on self, provides fertile ground for selfishness, which proves further that worldly values contradict biblical ones. John advises us not to love the world because “everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world” (1 John 2:16). Books, movies, and music consistently push the message of “me first” and self-love, even within Christian circles. In her book You’re Not Enough (And That’s Okay), Allie Beth Stuckey refers to this phenomenon as “The Cult of Self Affirmation” and writes,

The Cult of Self-Affirmation is composed of a ubiquitous network of self-help gurus, self-development experts, and even Christian teachers who pervade social media, line the top charts of Amazon and the shelves of Barnes & Noble, and populate many of our pulpits and even the halls of Congress, all working to affirm the supremacy of the self. . . . In the cult, the god is self, “doing you” is the standard of righteousness, and “following your heart” is the way to salvation.
(Penguin Random House, 2020, p. 36)

The Bible takes a different approach, restraining us from looking down on others. First, we are recipients of God’s grace, not deserving winners of salvation. We have nothing really to boast about (Ephesians 2:8–9). Our Christian walk and growth depend on God, and we live for His glory. Second, we are called to have an other-centered view, valuing other people above ourselves (Philippians 2:3). The Christian life is one of love, service, and humility toward others (Matthew 20:26–28; Romans 12:10). This message may not be popular today, but it leads to a healthy and flourishing Christian walk.

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This page last updated: August 31, 2023