“Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” - Proverbs 16:18
Throughout the history of the church, when someone has discussed the seven deadly sins, they’ve recognized that one particular sin lays at the foundation of all other sins. That sin is pride. The great 20th century apologist, C. S. Lewis, said this about pride: “the essential vice, the utmost evil, is Pride. Unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere fleabites in comparison: it was through Pride that the devil became the devil: Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind.”1
Aspiring To Be God
If you are honest with yourself, you can’t deny what C. S. Lewis says about pride. If we were to trace all sins, including the ones we commit, we would recognize how pride lies at the heart of each and every sin. The question is why? Why is pride so fundamental to all of our sins? The answer can be found in how C. J. Mahaney defines pride. “Pride is when sinful human beings aspire to the status and position of God and refuse to acknowledge their dependence upon Him.”2 We are prideful because we not only want to be like God; we actually want to be God. Pride goes back to the very beginning in the Garden. When Satan enters the picture in Genesis 3:1, he deceivingly asks, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” Eve then questions in her heart whether God was telling the truth. The fruit of the tree looked good to eat, and so, maybe God wasn’t as good as he made himself out to be. At the end of the day, Adam and Eve mistrusted God and chose to disobey. Because they doubted God, they aspired to be God.
The Fruit of Pride
Most of us know pride when we see it. We can’t spot pride because we can see into people’s hearts and hear their inner thoughts. We know pride when we see it because of pride’s fruit. In Hit List, Brian Hedges lists out the three fruits of pride: self-promotion, self-pity, and self righteousness. 3 We all know the self-promoter. This is the person who is constantly boasting and bragging about themselves. In our day and age, people have countless platforms to brag from. Some might not ever brag about themselves in a face-to-face conversation, but they will use every social media outlet they have to let the world know how great they are. Some of us are guilty of the humblebrag, “where we subtly lett others now about how fantastic our life is while undercutting it with a bit of self-effacing humor or "woe is me" gloss.” 4
While self-promotion is a more obvious fruit of pride, self-pity is still evidence of pride. Hedges asks these questions to test our self-pity: “Do you ever feel uncomfortable around those more educated than you? Do you avoid participation in games or sports out of fear of looking stupid? Do you secretly criticize people who are more physically attractive? Are you excessively shy, even unfriendly? Are you afraid of what people think of you?” 5 While these examples are almost polar opposite to self-promotion, they still point to pride, but pride manifested differently. Finally there is self-righteousness. If you want a picture of self-righteousness check out the pharisees in the gospels, particularly Luke 18:9-14. In this story a pharisee prays, “‘I thank you, God, that I am not a sinner like everyone else.” Self-righteousness comes when we begin to have a distorted image of who we really are. While we should not be self-deprecating, we should have a healthy view of ourselves as broken and sinful people loved by God.
I’m Prideful…What Should I Do?
- Be humbled
Our pride does not disappear in our own ability. The removal of pride comes through humility and humility comes from God. We must know who God is and who we are in light of God. God is great, good, glorious, powerful, majestic, and sovereign. We are sinners who cannot help ourselves. We are loved by God and saved by God. Only God can truly humble us.
- Boast in something better
Sooner or later, if we continue to boast in ourselves, we will be disappointed. God, however, does not disappoint. “The great secret to humility is not to focus on yourself at all, but to fill your mind and heart with the glory of God revealed in the sin-conquering death and resurrection of Jesus.”6
Check out the Introduction to the Seven Deadly Sins blog series:
1C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: HarperCollins, 2000), 121-22.
2C. J. Mahaney, Humility: True Greatness (Sisters, OR: Multnomah, 2005), 31.
3Brian G. Hedges, Hit List: Taking Aim at the Seven Deadly Sins (Minneapolis: Cruciform, 2014), 24.
4”Humblebrag,” Urban Dictionary, http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=humblebrag.
5Hedges, Hit List, 26.