Summary: One of the worst characteristics, or symptoms, of pride is that it feeds off others in order to fill its host. Pride builds us up only by tearing others down.
Other Scripture used:
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Amen. (Psalm 19:14)
A Baptist was visiting Rome and decided to tour the Vatican while he was there. Standing outside St. Peter’s Basilica, he noticed a long line of people stretching from the courtyard into the church doors. So he asked on of them what the line was for.
A woman in line told him they were waiting to see a priest for the sacrament of reconciliation. The Baptist asked what that was, and the woman explained that they would kneel down in a small darkened booth, confess their sins to a priest who was behind a partition, and the priest would then grant them absolution from God, forgiving their sins.
It sounded interesting, so he got in line. Two-and-a-half hours later, he was finally at the front of the line. He entered the confessional, a short while later he came out smiling and said, “This is great! My sins are all wiped away! I’m as pure as the day I was born! Totally sin-free!”
Another priest nearby heard him and said, “Pride! Get back in line.”
Pride sneaks up on us. It leads to other sins, and tempts us to view it through other filters such as self-esteem or confidence. It’s really an insidious tapeworm of a vice. It works its way into our soul and sucks the goodness out of us.
The devotional, “Our Daily Bread,” describes pride as “… the only disease known to man that makes everyone sick except the one who has it.” (December 1986)
Mac Davis, an actor and songwriter, recorded a top-ten hit song in 1980 poking fun at pride. The lyrics of the chorus are:
Oh Lord it’s hard to be humble
when you’re perfect in every way,
I can’t wait to look in the mirror
’cause I get better looking each day
To know me is to love me
I must be a hell of a man.
Oh Lord it’s hard to be humble,
but I’m doing the best that I can.
We all know someone that song describes, but few of us will admit to seeing ourselves in those lyrics.
We may not externalize it as drastically as Mac Davis did, but there’s a part of us that believes God owes us something for creating us; that we’re entitled to go to Heaven when we die; that he needs to listen to and accept our rationale for the things we’ve done during our lives. Otherwise, he’s a cruel and unfit God, and not worthy of our devotion anyway.
Think about most of the excuses for our behavior:
• God made me this way, so it can’t be a sin
• God gave me these desires, and he wants us to be happy
• God will understand
These statements are typical of the way we try to rationalize doing what we want to do instead of what God wants us to do.
We decide as individuals to behave a certain way, and then demand that God accept that behavior. We decide as churches or denominations to authorize behaving a certain way, and then “prayerfully” demand that God bless that decision.
One of the worst characteristics, or symptoms, of pride is that it feeds off others in order to fill its host. Pride builds us up only by tearing others down.
In his book, Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis writes, “If you want to find out how proud you are the easiest way is to ask yourself, ‘How much do I dislike it when other people snub me, or refuse to take any notice of me, or shove their oar in, or patronize me, or show off?’ The point is that each person’s pride is in competition with everyone else’s pride. It is because I am so annoyed at someone else being the big noise. Two of a trade never agree. Now what you want to get clear is that Pride is essentially competitive — is competitive by its very nature — while the other vices are competitive only, so to speak, by accident. Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man.”
We don’t always think of our pride as requiring others to be worse off than us. How we view others is contingent on how we view ourselves. If we’re full of ourselves, there’s no room for anyone else, including God.
If we’re truly humble, seeing others do well gives us joy. Few of us have reached that point in our journey with the ultimate servant leader, Jesus Christ. We may convince ourselves that we’re already at that point, but most of us, including me, still need to empty ourselves a lot more to make room for God to transform us into true servants.