Summary: This first in the series of sermons on "The Seven Deadly Sins" deals with pride as the basic root of all sin.
The Seven Deadly Sins: Pride
Margaret McCormick and Lila Sunderland were good friends of ours at our second appointment Grace United Methodist Church in Alton, Illinois. They visited us at least once while were at our third appointment Sumner and Beulah United Methodist Churches in Lawrence County, Illinois. During that visit they shared with us that for first time their Church had participated in a Round Robin Lenten Series which I believe was ecumenical in nature. I asked them what the preaching theme was for the series, and Lila replied, “The Seven Deadly Sins.”
From that time forward I have wanted to prepare such a preaching series myself, but this is the first opportunity I have had to do so. Therefore, for the remainder of Epiphany and for about half of Lent “The Seven Deadly Sins” will be our preaching series.
The Ancient Greek philosophers did not view sin as a really serious problem. They basically interpreted sin as a fundamental and unavoidable imperfection in human character, a weak point in our personalities. As the Holy Spirit multiplied the growth in the Early Church around the Mediterranean Sea, it became evident that the Church must stress the seriousness of the problem of sin in their teaching. The result was the concept of “The Seven Deadly Sins.” While part of Protestant preaching, this teaching has held a paramount place in the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church since around the fourth or fifth centuries.
What exactly is meant by the terminology “deadly sins?” They are not deadly in the sense that they are beyond God’s grace, love, and forgiveness. They are serious because they are harmful to our Christian character and salvation if we let them go without repentance and confession. We might look at them in terms of our math teaching in elementary school where we were taught to reduce all our fractions to their “lowest, common denominator.” In other words, these seven sins are those we might come to view as primary or basic. They in turn give birth to other sins or form the core of other vices in human nature. They are basic roots of all sin.
The root, primary, or basic sins have always included: pride, covetousness, lust, envy, gluttony, anger, and sloth. We are going to look in turn at each one of these. The sin of pride always heads the list and for very valid reasons.
Just what is the “Deadly Sin” of Pride? Pride conveys a positive as well as a negative imagine and connotation. In a good sense pride refers to a proper and justified self-respect. Pride becomes sin when I exhibit too high an opinion of myself, my own importance, my own talents, my own abilities. Pride is sinful when I believe and behave as if I am superior to other people and that I can live and manage my own life by my own strength and through my own abilities totally independent of God and with no regard for Him to guide and direct my life. Like William Earnest Henley in his poem “Invictus,” my attitude in life is “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.”
Sinful pride is an “unreasonable self-esteem and personal attitude that treats God and others with rudeness and disrespect.” Sinful pride seeks personal glory, praise, and applause from others and becomes distressed and angry when the praise is lacking or withheld. Sinful pride refuses to submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ over one’s life.
I truly believe that we are living in “The Last Days.” By that I mean I am convinced that Jesus Christ’s return is sooner than we might think. The “Last Days” refer to the time when the Messianic Kingdom of Jesus Christ will be established in and rule over our world. In a real a real sense the “Last Days” began with the first Advent of Jesus Christ at the time of His Birth in Bethlehem.
Our text this morning from II Timothy 3 affirms: “But mark this; there will be terrible times in the Last Days. People will be “boastful, proud, abusive.” James 4:6 furthermore declares: “But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’” Paul too asserts in Romans 1:30, “They are . . . insolent, arrogant, and boastful. Scripture often links arrogance, boastfulness, and insolence with sinful pride. In reality boastfulness and arrogance are different expressions of pride. An arrogant person is full of pride and self-importance. One who is arrogant oftentimes shows no respect for other people.
Do you realize that the name of our State Illinois comes from “an Indian term to which a French suffix has been added?” It literally means “Tribe of superior men.” Throughout history many individuals and nations have seen themselves as superior to others. In particular we remember Hitler and Nazi Germany that viewed themselves as the superior race. [SOURCE: Robert C. Shannon, 1,000 Windows, (Cincinnati: Standard Publishing Company, 1997).].