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The Seven Deadly Sins - Pride
Pride causes us to think higher of ourselves than we are. This kind of thinking has been around ever since sin entered the world, and many say that sin begins with pride. One of those many, Saint Augustine, a Medieval Church Father, speaking of the original sin of Adam and Eve, writes, “What is more, the root of their bad will was nothing else than pride. For, ‘pride is the beginning of all sin.” Given what we know about pride, it makes sense that it’s considered one of the Seven Deadly Sins.
Our pride is deadly because it deceives us into believing it’s not. And sometimes, the source of our greatest gifts from God are the places where pride is most easily found. Back in college, I remember being awakened to this reality in my life. I’ve always known that God has gifted me as a loyal and committed person, and all of a sudden, I realized that I was getting sinfully (and pridefully) upset with others who would cancel plans with me. As these things happened, I’d think things like, “I’d never do that to that person!”
One day, as that thought came to mind, I felt the rebuke of the Holy Spirit calling out my pride. I saw I wasn’t considering other people’s experiences and caring for the real things they might be going through. I realized that in thinking about these things, the loyalty and commitment I praised myself for weren’t present in dealing with these friends. But that’s the thing about pride. It’s so easy to be blind to it.
Jesus makes this reality clear in Luke 18:9–14 as he tells the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector. Both men pray in this parable, but their attitudes are completely different. The Pharisee thanks God that he is ‘not like other men.’ This alone should sound the alarm bells of pride, but this Pharisee continues. After saying this, he goes on to list men for their sins, which includes judging the tax collector who is with him. On top of this, he talks about the outward things he does for God in a way that seeks to set himself apart from these other sinners. His pride is blatantly obvious, but he is completely blind to it.
On the other hand, the tax collector and his prayer are very different from the Pharisee. This tax collector asks for His mercy on him because he knows his sin is great. The same is true for all people, including the Pharisee in this parable. Our sin is great, and when we see our sin, it should lead us to declare like this tax collector, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” Of the two men in this parable, Jesus applauds the tax collector because he didn’t let pride get in the way of the true reality of his sin. His sin was great, and only God could provide him with mercy.
Ultimately, this mercy comes through Jesus, who came to this world to help us see our pride and the reality of our sins. Yet, Jesus didn’t simply point out sin, but provided the very means of God’s mercy to us. He suffered on the cross for our sin and made it possible to come humbly [and not pridefully] before God like the tax collector did, recognizing our sin for what it is — deadly! When we remove pride from our lives and acknowledge our sins to God, believing in the work Jesus did on the cross and the hope He provides in His resurrection, we know that we are forgiven and restored to a relationship with God. This is the hope our pride blinds us from.
So, what happens if we choose pride like the Pharisee in this passage and continue living in it throughout our lives? Well, Jesus tells us exactly what happens in verse 14. Referring to the tax collector, he says, “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” Ultimately, the man who stood righteous before God was the tax collector, not the Pharisee, who was the religious leader between them.
In other words, the man we would expect to have a relationship with God didn’t have a relationship with Him because his pride allowed him to believe that he was a good person on his own. Essentially, it led him to believe that He didn’t truly need God — and that’s precisely what pride does! That’s a scary thought, isn’t it? Jesus is clear here: those who walk through life and remain in their sinful pride and do not humble themselves before God will be humbled. One day, they will see that despite what they thought, they weren’t all that great because their hearts sought something other than God.
As we see, pride is a deadly sin. When God reveals pride that exists in our lives, we shouldn’t scoff at it or shrug it off, merely claiming it to be a part of who we are. Instead, we should seek to root this pride out of our lives because it leads to a greater relationship with God, the only thing that will ever satisfy us. This relationship, which is available through Jesus, is open to all who would reject their pride and humbly acknowledge their sin to God — even the Pharisees of this world who are willing to humble themselves to the reality of their sin. When we exalt ourselves as people greater than we are, death is the only place it leads, which is a humbling reality. But when we humble ourselves before God, recognizing the reality of our sin, He is faithful to forgive and give us life through Jesus that we could never deserve on our own!