What’s the problem with pride? Some of us will recognize pride as the cause of Satan’s demise, but what, exactly, is so terribly wrong with it? Sure, it feels bad to associate with someone who’s always letting you know how much better than you they feel they are, but is there more? Are there some very tangible reasons to carefully examine not only our behavior, but also motives, for any taint of this insidious enemy of our souls?
“Haughty eyes and a proud heart— the unplowed field of the wicked—produce sin.” (Proverbs 21:4 NIV)
All sin deceives, but pride is particularly tricky. You see, it seems to be one extreme of a spectrum, the other end of which is insecurity. Pride, in its essence, is thinking too highly of yourself and your abilities. This is why we’re warned, “…Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.” (Romans 12:3 NIV)
Yet we need confidence in our abilities: we’d not get out of bed in the morning if we didn’t trust in our competence to stand and walk and function in whatever capacity we do. Furthermore, we’d probably never have the courage to undertake any new endeavors if we didn’t at least have some hope that we could successfully complete the venture. No, human beings essentially function through confidence in our our ability to successfully undertake various projects and bring them to completion!
So where does pride come in? At what point does confidence in my ability to accomplish something become prideful?
Confidence turns to pride when I start thinking I am inherently more special than someone else because of an ability, or because of the opportunities or finances I’ve been given. Knowing I can do stuff isn’t prideful; thinking I’m better than another because I can is. Pride is becoming puffed up in my heart with who I am (or think I am). It is becoming full of myself, instead full of Christ; it is, at its heart, idolatry.
Once I replace “Christ in me” with simply “me,” I have become prideful. Because–if you think of it–everything I am is because of the grace and goodness and mercy of God. It is He who positions us and gives us the chance to have and do whatever it is we have and have done–without Him having acted first, we would not be able to accomplish absolutely anything! He causes us to be born into the family we’ve been born into; He gives us physical strength and ideas; He provides the finances; He gives the right circumstances for them to take off and thrive–it is all of Him, ultimately, not me. I am just the vehicle He accomplishes anything good through!
You see, one of the worst of mankind’s sins is always wanting to see itself better than another. It’s been this way since the beginning–Cain killed his brother Abel because Abel did better in God’s eyes than he did. This is not to say there aren’t variations between human beings, or that some human beings don’t respond differently to the similar life circumstances, or accomplish more or better, than others; it is to judge others for it, to evaluate ourselves in light of another human being or their accomplishments (or lack of them) as better than them. You see–pride is, in essence, the absence of love.
Because, at its core, what is love? Is it not reaching out to those around us who are struggling, to those who may not be doing as well as we are, and coming alongside of them and helping them do better too–not just bolting on ahead ourselves and leave them behind. This may ultimately be an impossible task; it may be difficult and some may not even want our help, but it is how we should, nonetheless, live our lives.
And failing to live this way is what many of us will be condemned for on the day we stand before God and give an account for our lives. It is, after all, what the rich man in Jesus’ parable was judged for–not because Lazarus at the gate to his estate was poor and he wasn’t, but because he did nothing to help Lazarus out of his plight; because he didn’t care.
So what’s the problem with pride? Why is it so insidiously dangerous? Pride is harmful because it entices us into abandoning our concern for those around us who are struggling, who aren’t doing as well as we are; it excuses our neglect. It deceives us into believing we are doing better than another because we deserve to be and they don’t, which then releases us in our own minds from helping them do better too. Pride is ultimately wrong because it deceives us into justifying not showing love to our fellow man.
This is exactly what John wrote in his first letter:
“Dear children, do not let anyone lead you the wrong way. Christ is righteous. So to be like Christ a person must do what is right. The devil has been sinning since the beginning, so anyone who continues to sin belongs to the devil. The Son of God came for this purpose: to destroy the devil’s work. Those who are God’s children do not continue sinning, because the new life from God remains in them. They are not able to go on sinning, because they have become children of God. So we can see who God’s children are and who the devil’s children are: Those who do not do what is right are not God’s children, and those who do not love their brothers and sisters are not God’s children.
This is the teaching you have heard from the beginning: We must love each other. Do not be like Cain who belonged to the Evil One and killed his brother. And why did he kill him? Because the things Cain did were evil, and the things his brother did were good.
Brothers and sisters, do not be surprised when the people of the world hate you. We know we have left death and have come into life because we love each other. Whoever does not love is still dead. Everyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderers have eternal life in them. This is how we know what real love is: Jesus gave his life for us. So we should give our lives for our brothers and sisters. Suppose someone has enough to live and sees a brother or sister in need, but does not help. Then God’s love is not living in that person. My children, we should love people not only with words and talk, but by our actions and true caring.” (1 John 3:7-18 NCV)
Pride is my self-justification for not reaching down to help another; it is my judgment of another as less worthy of God’s love and grace through me; it is, in essence, my excuse to not love–and it is a terrible mistake because those who follow Christ Jesus give their lives for others as He gave His for us!
Dear Lord Jesus,
Help me evidence I have left death and come into life by living my life for others as You gave Yours for me! Amen.