It has been said that pride is at the root of every sin. Not only does pride underly every sin, but pride, in and of itself is sinful. The book of Proverbs is filled with statements that highlight the wickedness of pride.
"Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate." Proverbs 8:13b
"The Lord detests all the proud of heart. Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished." Proverbs 16:5
"Haughty eyes and a proud heart, the lamp of the wicked, are sin." Proverbs 21:4
What does it mean to be prideful? Is it wrong to be "proud" of certain things or people, like our accomplishments or our children? It's important to make a distinction between the sinful self-centered pride and the "pride" that we feel from a job well done or from a child behaving well. These types of pride are better described as delight and they are often directed outside of ourselves. It is right to take delight in seeing our children make good choices. We were created to feel pleased in accomplishing well the tasks God has laid before us. However, if my pleasure begins and ends with me, this is where sin begins. I must acknowledge in my heart and mind that God is the One to be ultimately praised for any good I see in my accomplishments or in my children. If I fail to give Him the glory and instead keep it for myself, that is where my pride becomes sinful.
Oftentimes, when we think of a sinfully prideful person, we don't tend to think of ourselves. We are most apt to imagine those over the top, blatantly boastful folks. We all have someone that comes to mind, right? We may think of that narcissistic boss or coworker, a spouse, a parent, or a hollywood actor, but rarely, if ever, do we make it on the list of prideful people. C. S. Lewis described the insidious nature of pride in his book, Mere Christianity when he said,
"There is one vice of which no man in the world is free; which every one in the world loathes when he sees it in someone else; and of which hardly any people, except Christians, ever imagine that they are guilty themselves. […] There is no fault which makes a man more unpopular, and no fault which we are more unconscious of in ourselves.[…]The vice I am talking of is Pride or Self-Conceit: and the virtue opposite to it, in Christian morals, is called Humility.”
If we can be so blind to it within ourselves, it's certainly made up of more than outright and blatant arrogance and narcissism. Simply put, pride is any way that we refuse to acknowledge, seek, honor, and glorify God in our thoughts, words, and actions. Pride says, "I don't need God, I got this." In pride, we break the very first commandment that states, "you shall have no other gods before me" (Exodus 20:3). By refusing to submit our lives to the One true God, we proclaim ourselves god over our own lives. We then live our lives according to our own set of rules, seeking to satisfy our own desires, and refusing to answer to the One who created us.
"In his pride the wicked man does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God." Psalm 10:4
Sadly, the consequences of pride are severe and it behooves us not to underestimate them.
"Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him." Proverbs 26:12
"For the Lord of hosts has a day against all that is proud and lofty, against all that is lifted up--and it shall be brought low;" Isaiah 2:12
"Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall." Proverbs 16:18
On the other hand, scripture is replete with all of the good things that accompany humility. One thing that's important to remember, is that God's economy is not of this world. Matter of fact, it's pretty upside down when held up against the wisdom of the world. The world says that the only way we go up is to fight and climb and push ourselves to the top. While God's word tells us that the opposite is true. It's when we willfully "go low" that we will be lifted high by the Almighty Himself.
"Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you." James 4:10
"For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." Luke 14:11
"When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom." Proverbs 11:2
"The reward for humility and fear of the Lord is riches and honor and life." Proverbs 22:4
For the Lord takes delight in His people; He crowns the humble with victory." Psalm 149:4
"He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them His way." Psalm 25:9
That list of benefits for the humble person isn't too shabby! Victory, riches, honor, wisdom, life, exaltation, and guidance from the Lord Himself are some of the many blessings bestowed upon a person that walks in humility. When you take the time to compare the cost of pride versus the treasures associated with humility, it should be a no-brainer for us.
Unfortunately, due to our sinful nature, we fall prey to the sin of pride quite easily. How can we achieve humility? Someone once said that the moment you think you're humble, well, that's pride! It all comes down to remembering who you are in relationship to God. Pride prevents a person from crying out to God because they don't believe they need a Savior. Conversely, humility acknowledges our utter depravity and need for saving. It's been said that we need to preach the gospel to ourselves everyday. If you're interested in humility, it's worth reminding yourself on a daily basis, from where you've come and from what you've been saved. Apart from the grace of God, you have nothing and are owed nothing. Charles Spurgeon wrote,
"O believer, learn to reject pride, seeing that you have no ground for it. Whatever you are, you have nothing to make you proud. The more you have, the more you are in debt to God; and you should not be proud of that which renders you a debtor."
There's that irony and "backwards" economy of God's kingdom. The more we have, the more humble we should be, as we recognize that the many gifts we possess represent a greater debt to the Gift Giver.
Another way to nurture a humble heart is to stay close to the Lord through His word and prayer. As we read His word, we are reminded of who He is and who we are in relation to Him. It helps to put us in our rightful place. While prayer, by its very nature, is an exercise in humility. Each time we sincerely pray, we are admitting that we do not have all the answers. We are confessing that we need help, that we are weak and that there is One who is stronger. What holds you back from these exercises in humility? Let me take a guess...could it be pride?