Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. -Proverbs 16:18
It has been months now since the story came out, but the collateral damage continues. An influential Christian leader gets caught up in the drama of his own success, then because of pride – the usual suspect – the whole thing crashes down. The storyline is ancient: A very blessed individual wants to be a star, then the star falls.
Perhaps what makes pride so insidious is the difficulty in recognizing it. Check that, actually it is easy to spot pride in someone else’s life but hard to see it in your own. The more it grows, the more normal it looks. Like a colorful, flowering weed, it appears harmless as it slowly chokes out the fruit of the Spirit that would otherwise grow in its place.
And like a weed, pride always comes back no matter how many times you pull it. There is no magic spray to eradicate it once and for all. Shoot it with some righteous Round-up today and it will be back tomorrow. Why is it so resilient? Because pride is stubbornly rooted way down deep in the human condition. It is the mother of all sin. The only thing more relentless than pride is the love of God.
In his piece, The Great Sin, C. S. Lewis indicts pride as the Boss of all sin: “The essential vice, the utmost evil, is Pride. Unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere fleabites in comparison: it was through Pride that the devil became the devil; Pride leads to every other vice; it is the complete anti-God state of mind.”
But sinful pride is not to be confused with Christ-centered confidence. Assurance that Jesus is with us and for us every single day is what helps us keep our chin up and shoulders back in this intimidating world. The problem is when we lose sight of the grace of God and begin to believe the lie that we are self-made.
As one writer explains it, “At the most basic level, the Bible defines humility as God-centeredness and pride as self-centeredness.” Paul, for example, was as proud as a peacock until Jesus kindly brought him to his knees one day (Acts 9:1-5). From then on, it was all about grace for Paul:
“By the grace of God, I am what I am…”
Our challenge is to be as diligent and aggressive toward pride as we are with the weeds in our garden, because though it looks like a flower, pride is actually a weed that is toxic as hell. Left to grow, it will ruin relationships and destroy our testimony.
Not until we are in the very presence of Jesus someday will pride no longer be a threat. In the meantime, we must start every day by telling it where to go.
It’s a new day with God. Run with it.