Pride: The First Deadly Sin

There was once a lion who was powerfully strong. By the power of his might, he made all the beasts of the land respect him. A bull tried to run him down. the lion grabbed the bull with his mighty claws and took him down. A bird once taunted him, thinking he could fly away to safety, but the lion's great leap brought the bird down as he flew. Even the elephant was no match for the lion. He quickly earned the reapect of all beasts. He then became puffed up with pride. One night, a storm rolled in off the sea. A terrible hurricane which threatened to blow down the entire forest. The animals took refuge in a large cave. All except the lion, that is. He refused to take shelter. In his pride, he determined to face the storm and force it to respect him. In the morning, the animals found the lion's battered carcass tangled in the remains of an acacia tree. Though they respected him in life, no one was sad to see him go, for he really had been a pain in the tookus.

Pride- what exactly is it?

There are two basic definitions of pride. First their is the good kind- the pursuit of excellence. There is nothing wrong with this kind of pride. In fact, one could argue that it is sin not to have this type of pride. It is a shameful thing to be complacent and settle for mediocrity instead of doing our best for God and our neighbors. Mediocrity holds excellence in disdain. Because agape love is defined as "the best for you regardless of the cost to me", mediocrity is at odds with love.

When we refer to pride as one of the seven deadly sins, it's a totally different kind of pride we're talking about. This kind of pride is one that has contempt for God and neighbor. The distinction, to borrow a phrase from Victor Shepherd, is one between excellence and arrogance.

Arrogance is not a trivial matter. There is a reason our forebearers counted it among the deadly sins. Its effects can be devastating, even ruinous.

Pride blinds. It blinds us to our own fragility and weakness, causing us to believe that we are somehow superior to those who fail or stumble. It blinds us to our need for anyone else, especially God. Pride cannot stand to acknowledge anyone greater than self. Remember the words of Zaphod Beeblebrox: "If there's anything more important than me on this ship, I want it tracked down and shot!" Pride is what caused Lucipher to rebel against God. It initiated Heaven's civil war. It blinds us to the gratitude we owe to others. It creates resentment against discipline and criticism. If a friend tells us that we are messing around with something that will ultimately prove to be our downfall, pride prevents us from taking the hint. It makes us resentful. We end up telling the friend to mind our own business. Where their advice was intended to prevent us from disgracing ourselves, we do just that and more.

Pride corrupts. It takes traits which are virtuous and turns them foul. Let's just take a few virtues and see what happens when we mix them with unhealthy pride.

Courage. Courage mixed with pride soon becomes hot-dogging. Showing off. Show-offs invariably become reckless. Recklessness brings ruin to oneself and others.

Affection. if we believe we are better than those with whom we have affection, it becomes patronizing. Instead of exalting others, it demeans them.

Thrift. Thrift is meant to be used to free resources to be put to good use. Thrift mixed with pride becomes stinginess. It withholds vital resources from where they need to go, choking the body of Christ like a blood clot.

Generosity. One who thinks himself better than others assumes he knows best where his resources should go, so giving soon becomes something he needs to control. Before long, he has become manipulative, using his giving to bribe and extort.

Joy. Joy is a wonderful thing, but when one is prideful, one comes to believe he is entitled to more joy than others. He resents when others are happier and seeks to bring their joy down to where he thinks it should be.

Longsuffering. when mixed with pride, longsuffering turns into a sort of masochism. We become proud of how much we can take and soon are taking so much punishment that it starts to destroy us, completely disregarding those who depend upon us and care about us.

Arrogant pride corrupts, and it corrupts everything.

I spoke briefly about how pride blinds us to our needs. Most importantly of all, and sadly, most commonly, it blinds us to the need for God. It creates the illusion that we are not creatures in that there is no creator. One who is under this illusion does not acknowledge that he is a sinner because he is blind to any absolute standard of morality and the presence of any judge.he acknowledges no claim upon him, not even in the bonds of love. He therefore cannot submit himself to Christ.

All too often I have heard someone say that he would never accept Christ because he still had his pride. My response is always "Then that's the first thing that needs to go!"

There is a term for those who live in a world of their own cognitive illusion. "Psychotic". A psychotic individual has lost the ability to judge what is actually real. They are like the people in the movie "The Matrix", wandering about in a dream, unaware that they are slaves, having no idea that they need a savior. This is what makes pride deadly. Those who live under pride's delusion are doomed.

So what is the cure for pride? Obviously, the answer is humility. But where does one get this humility? It starts with the truth. We need to realize that in God's eyes, we are helpless, hopeless and worthless. We are all sinners. We've all earned an eternity apart from God and all the good things that come from Him. We are also completely unable to save ourselves.

We must be willing to serve. To serve and serve sincerely. Some churches have a practice wherein people wash one anothers' feet. This is a good practice because it reminds us of the need to put others first. It is a menial, even degrading task, but it is like a health tonic for the soul.

The third thing we must do is be willing to be served. We must acknowledge that we have needs and that we are not above accepting help or favors from others.

Lastly, the old standby answer- read your bible and pray. Reading God's word reveals truth. It slowly, gently breaks apart the mask of perfection we put on. It reveals the sort of person we really are underneath. By communing with God, we enable him to take that imperfect bit and change it until it no longer needs a mask.

Of course, if you haven't accepted Jesus, that's the first thing you need to do. It is only by the redeeming power of the creator that we are able to be changed and thus exchange that delusional arrogance for the pursuit of excellence.

Pastor Oren Otter
July 15, 2006