Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself,
without comparing himself to somebody else, for each one should carry their own load.
Before we jump into the verse its fitting to do a little background work first. The basic approach to teaching pride is that it is evil – in every form and manner.
But what is evil?
In some philosophies evil is the opposite of good; its balance or competitor. If you study the biblical philosophy of evil you will get a very different answer. Evil is not below good or outside of it, rather evil is perverted good. When God created everything was good. Every object and every being. Satan or Lucifer was good and when he fell it was a perversion of his goodness, not the success of an other-evil in him. Likewise, when creation fell it was because they had taken a good thing and perverted it – knowledge to the point of becoming their own gods.
Therefore when we talk about pride being evil we are actually talking about a good thing being perverted.
Now what is the good in pride?
Worship. We were created to worship, God foremost, but also the works of God. We, as humans, are a work of God. So when we praise what we are, our abilities and successes, we are to some degree fulfilling a mandate of God. The problem with pride is that we do not do so with a view of God in mind. Meaning we praise our success purely as our doing and that is where the perversion sets in. Any and all praise of the works of God is meant to direct praise to the person of God. Pride suffocates that praise and keeps it inward focused.
What this Verse is Doing
There are two things happening in this verse. First the purpose of taking pride in one’s self is so that you will not be tempted to compare yourself with others. You are uniquely made, specifically gifted, and individually challenged by God. Comparing yourself in any area of life to another person will only set you up for either false pleasure or unwarranted disappointment. Taking pride in oneself means that you must know yourself – your strengths, your weaknesses, and as you grow in faith you will be able to rejoice in your individual progress – not how you compare to another saint. Being good is its own reward. (see Prov 14:14)
Second, the context plays a large role in why Paul is wording it this way. He ends chapter 5 by writing about living by the Spirit. Paul urges us to walk by the Spirit and presents two lists: the parts of us that will die (vv.19-21) and the parts of us which will grow (vv.22-24). Then as we move back into chapter 6, the reason we can take pride in ourselves is because we are literally rejoicing in the Spirit’s work in us.
Pride, as praise for the works of God, can be good so long as it serves the purpose of exalting the person of God.
*Here are some good notes for further study on this passage.