That dirty word, Pride.
How can such a small, one syllable word pack such a punch? Growing up we are told to ‘take pride in your work’, ‘be proud of who you are’, ‘be proud to be an American’; on and on the list goes. Pride isn’t such a dirty word when you grow up in America. Webster defines the word as “a lofty and often arrogant assumption of superiority in some respect.” But, when we look at pride through the lens of being a Christ follower we see something all together different. The world tells us that freedom is found the more powerful, more self-sufficient we become. Conversely, the Gospel says that our true freedom is found when we become smaller. Those two ideas could not be more conflicting.
Pride is found at the root of ALL sin. Sin, in it’s most primal form is the act of becoming one’s own god. That’s what got us into this whole mess, it was the cause of the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. When you sin you’ve decided that what you want, desire or need in the moment is superior to the life that God has called you to. You have in essence said, ‘I don’t need God, I’ll do what I want’. This can only come from a sense of self-importance and self-reliance – a definition of pride. Pride is found in the very foundation of our sin nature and the results can be devastating for those around us. It will destroy friendships, relationships, a marriage and a ministry; among many others.
The music industry is one of the most vivid displays of pride in the modern world. You would have to admit that it takes a measure of cockiness and self assuredness to think that thousands (or hundreds; or tens) of people want to hear your songs, see you dance across the stage and buy your t-shirt. This is an expected attitude to adopt in the entertainment business, is it not? Being a rock star doesn’t only exist in the actual music industry – our culture has adopted this as a right, as something to strive for in everything we do. We’re force fed the line that we all deserve to be rock stars, whatever our profession or station in life. Isn’t that contrary to Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:3-12, otherwise known as the Beatitudes?
Pride lurks around every corner. It is such a twisted game that we can often become prideful of our own humility! Be wary of anyone who likes to tell you of all their humility and self abandonment. That is irony in its purest form. I think C.S. Lewis summed it up well when he said, “A man is never so proud as when striking an attitude of humility.” But, how do we reconcile something so natural to our fleshly desire with our faith in Christ where the lowest become the greatest and the last first? What does the Bible say about this?
Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. Prov. 16:18 (NIV)
In his pride the wicked does not seek Him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God. PS 10:4 (NIV)
When reading those passages I don’t get the feeling that being proud will lead me to anything but the worst end. It sounds like something we should avoid at all costs, daily. And it is. We will never finish our fight with pride, but we have been given the ammunition.
So, how do we guard against this destructive monster of pride? There is much to be written on the matter but for the sake of brevity I will leave you with the Chris follower’s #1 weapon; the Cross. In the cross we were justified, saved and given the opportunity to have relationship with the Infinite, Almighty God. Despite our sin, selfishness and unworthiness Christ still died for us – even while we were His enemies (Romans 5:10), or as The Message rightly paraphrases – “of no use whatever to him” (Romans 5:7). This took being stripped and crucified on a cross; Jesus took the cup of wrath on our behalf so that we might drink from the cup of everlasting life. “…even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28). When we understand the implications and cost of our salvation at the cross it strips away any room for pride or self-sufficiency. He paid the price and did what we could never do for ourselves, lived a perfect life and loved us even while we were thinking we had it all figured out. If we’re truly honest with ourselves we realize that the life Christ has made possible is not deserved by anything that we can do. So, where is the room for pride in that Truth? There is none.
“We have reasons for almost everything, but we have no reasons for pride. Pride is a thing which should be unnatural to us, for we have nothing to be proud of.” C.H. Spurgeon