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Thursday, August 25, 2016

Pride: The Deadly Subtle Sin

Pride: The Deadly Subtle Sin

Let us, at the very commencement of our meditations, admit that there is nothing so insidious and hidden from our sight, nothing so difficult and dangerous, as pride. Pride was expressed with great pleasure before the Titanic fell to her doom. "Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall" (Proverbs 16:18). Pride is proud of "self." "Everyone that is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord: though hand join in hand, he shall not be unpunished" (Proverbs 16:5).

Pride is the root of every sin and evil. It was when the now fallen angels began to look upon themselves with self-complacency that they were led to disobedience and were cast down from the light of heaven into outer darkness. The iniquity of Sodom was: "pride," fullness of bread,and abundance of idleness ... neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy" (Ezekiel 16:49). Pride compasseth them (the rich) about as a chain; violence covereth them as a garment. These are the ungodly, who prosper in the world; they increase in riches (Psalm 73:6, 12). It is pride that made redemption needful; it is from our pride we need above everything to be redeemed. Pride is self-exaltation and lacks the fear of God. "The fear of the Lord is to hate evil: pride, and arrogance, and the evil way ... do I have" (Proverbs 8:13).

Many kinds of pride have been distinguished. There is, for example, pride within - in the heart, and pride without - in the clothing, the furniture, the proud look in face or figure. Pride may be in thought, in speech, or in action. On speech it has an extraordinary effect. There are people whose conversation is nearly all about themselves. As often as the conversation strays to other objects, they know how to bring it back.For whatever the subject, it reminds them of something that has happened to themselves, and this immediately becomes the absorbing topic. They think their devices are unnoticed,but everyone perceives them, for pride is constantly flaunting itself. It tries to make self out to be great, and in the very act of so doing, proves it to be little. It is no uncommon thing for a person to be laboring to convince people of his or her superiority, when transparent vanity is, in fact, making that person the fool of the whole company. Boastfulness easily leads to exaggeration and exaggeration to falsehood. It is hard to speak the truth about ourselves. Everything that has happened to us must be wonderful, and everything we have done must be great. And, as we puff ourselves up, people are saying behind our backs, "You cannot believe a word that person says." Proverbs 29:23 says, "A man's pride shall bring him low: but honor shall uphold the humble spirit."

A proud person will usually find it hard to stoop low enough to express gratitude or an appreciation of thanks for the little things that people outside their ranks may do for them. Two words seem to be missing from their vocabulary ... "Thank you". The humble person has received the mercy and grace and forgiveness of God and is filled with thankfulness to HIM and to others for what they do and expresses it.

The proud person easily becomes jealous of others who are acknowledged for the goodness they show in helping others; or the accomplishments they've achieved through hard work, or worthy talents.

Anger is also a form of pride which is a result of selfishness. The temper will get you into trouble but pride will keep you there. Abel offered a lamb slain; while Cain offered the fruit of the land. Abel's offering was accepted by God; while Cain's was refused. Cain's pride in giving what he thought was something great, resulted in anger since it was refused. [For those who do not know, Abel's offering was accepted by God because it was a blood offering to place on the altar for the forgiveness of sin; Cain's offering of fruit of the land had no such cleansing power to forgive sins.]  As a result he slew his brother - the meek and lowly of heart. Anger is usually the result of not getting one's way or not getting what they think they deserve. This is the pride. "The fool rageth,and is confident. He that is soon angry dealeth foolishly" (Proverbs 16:17). Humility listens to Godly advice. 

Among the gifts of nature, intellectual talents are often accompanied by an inflated sense of importance with the craving for recognition and notoriety. The person of moderate gifts considers himself a "nobody"; and she or he who has achieved a little fame considers the applause of their friends the murmur of the world.

Perhaps it is among women that the temptation is strongest to be proud of the gifts of the outward person, as it is chiefly on them that nature has bestowed beauty. It is not wrong to give to the body a certain degree of attention or to be happy in the possession of a fair face, but "charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting," (Proverbs 31:30) if it hides from its possessor the value of the soul or hardens the heart to the claim of others. It is not wrong to dress with care, but pride comes in when the attempt is made to appear to be something you're not. Many Christians attempt to make oneself look younger by coloring their hair, getting a face lift or dressing like the younger worldly crowd. Pride spawns nakedness, gaudy jewelry, sensual dress, body piercing, tattoos, etc.

In these days, when athletes are so popular, it is perhaps, rash to say that the temptation to pride in the body is stronger in the one sex than the other; for, I fancy, there must be an enormous development of vanity in connection with the exhibitions of strength of muscle and fleetness of foot before the crowds that gather to witness athletic contests, and with the reporting of these in the newspapers. On the other hand, the judgments of a crowd are uncompromisingly exact, and we are brought to our senses when we have to measure our strength and skill against competitors. Learning the precise truth about ourselves tends to produce a humble mind and heart.

The gifts of fortune are most dangerous when they are given suddenly and unexpectedly. The Bible is full of warning to those who have been exalted to prosperity, lest they should become proud and forget to whom they owe their wealth. Psalm 73:12 says, "Behold, these are the ungodly, who prosper in the world; they increase in riches."  As Solomon increased in riches, he abandoned the God who made him prosperous, and rejected the Rock his Saviour. It is not only, however, in the Bible that this tendency is noted. In the satiric literature of every age the sauciness and extravagance of those who have risen rapidly to wealth are objects of attack. Few have the steadiness of head and hand to carry a cull cup, especially if it has been suddenly filled. The upstart forgets old friends, wants little to do with poor relatives,and is an abject flatterer of those wealthier to gain even more. Seldom is the sin of p;ride witnessed in more conspicuous forms than in the display of wearing expensive brand names, having to have the very best in technology or going to the most expensive restaurants.

Even spiritual gifts may be a cause of pride. The typical instance of pride in spiritual gifts is the Pharisee, on whom out Lord Himself pours the vials of His sacred scorn. When we speak of sin, it is nearly always of the sins of the publican, the sinners,and the harlot. But Jesus, while casting a cloak of charity over the transgressions of these classes, mercilessly exposed the pride of the Pharisee (hypocrite) and the scribe. To Him pride appeared to be the master sin. The Pharisee must have been, to some extent, consciously a pretender. He refuses to make confession of his own sins while putting blame on others. For example: one caught in the act of adultery or fornication will blame a parent or the mate for lack of love; or blame the one he or she was involved with for their aggressiveness, etc. rather than confessing, "I have sinned against a holy God." But, for the most part, he deceives himself as well as the public. He believes in the reality and trustworthiness of his own righteousness and boldly challenges the verdict not only of others but of God.

Many Christians today, when facing the trials of life, perhaps in sickness or other physical problems do not think of looking to God in their afflictions. The first thought that comes to mind is to go see a doctor, or go seek the counsel of men - a pastor or psychologist when faced with emotional or marital problems or family problems. "God is not in all their thoughts," which brings on depression, defeat and discouragement. And herein lies the fatal danger of spiritual pride: it renders spiritual progress impossible.

The Pharisee, or church-goer does not know that he is a bad man; how, then, can he be made a good one? If he knew, he might repent and take himself to the source of spiritual strength; but God cannot save a person who is not aware of the need for salvation. 1 John 1:8 says, "If we say that we have no sin, the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His Word is not in us."  We deceive ourselves and this is the main reason why pride is so often denounced in the Bible and placed by the wise first in the list of the sins. It is the deadly enemy of salvation. Salvation is the grand work of God, but a humble mind is required to appreciate and seek it. The publican who beats upon his breast, groaning, "God, have mercy on me, a sinner" (Luke 18:13), is an empty vessel, ready to receive the gifts of redeeming love; but the Pharisee, or church-goer, satisfied with himself and with nothing to pray about but his own merits, what can even redeeming love do? Pride frustrates the grace of God; it stays the hand of mercy; for the proud, the Saviour had died in vain.

We are proud because we are thinking of ourselves alone and have forgotten the claims of God and the claims of our fellow creatures. We have forgotten that God has given us all our gifts, whether of nature, fortune, or grace. These belong to Him; we are only stewards of them, and there is a day coming when we shall have to give an account of how they have been employed. 2 Timothy 3:1-7 forewarns of wickedness in the last days in which "perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy ..." All which are characteristics of pride. But look, above all, to Him Who said, "I am gentle and humble in heart" (Matthew 11:29). His entire history is one continuous lesson of humility; for "though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich" (2 Corinthians 8:9).

Who can stand beside His cradle and still be proud? Who can stand beside the Carpenter of Nazareth and still be proud? Who can stand beside the Friend of publicans and sinners and still be proud? Who can stand beside the Cross and still be proud? "This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers" (1 John 3:16).

To every Christian the command comes from the throne of God Himself: humble yourself! The earnest attempt to listen and obey will be rewarded - yes, rewarded with the painful discovery of two things: the one, what depth of pride - that of unwillingness to count oneself and to be counted nothing, to submit absolutely to God in that one never knew. The other: what utter uselessness there is in all our efforts to destroy the hideous monster - pride. Blessed is the man who now learns to put his hope in God and to persevere, notwithstanding all the power of pride within him, in acts of humiliation before God and men. The law of human nature is: acts produce habits, habits breed dispositions from the will, and the rightly-formed will is character. The spirit of Divine love can have no birth in any fallen creature, till it wills and chooses to be dead to all of self, in a patient, humble resignation to the power and mercy of God.


"If I had only one sermon to preach it would be a sermon against pride."

~G. K. Chesterton~

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