Pride and Destruction
We were talking in Home Church the other evening about how those of us in Western culture tend to try to hide our feelings. We are all products of our environment. Many are of cultures where one is taught to be expressive of emotions, but most Americans are more reserved. Much of our New World culture comes directly from Great Britain. It has been engrained in the British for several generations to “keep a stiff upper lip” and do not let others see your true emotions. God created us to have emotions, and most of the people in the world openly express their feelings, but not most of “us”. We are more stoic. We are the rugged individuals. John Wayne did not cry. Edmund Muskie did in 1972, and it cost him a chance to become the Democratic nominee for President (he had been leading in the polls up until the day he delivered an emotional defense of his wife, who had been the subject of a hit piece in The Rolling Stone).
I have been one of the most reserved people anyone would know; always very controlling of the image I projected. In fact, I was so bad about showing my feelings that some very loving friends confronted me about it. They helped me to see that my reserved behavior was linked to two critical flaws in my emotional development: relational insecurity, and excessive pride. The first thing I learned from this intervention was just how much friends must love me to nail my hide to the wall like that (see Proverbs 26:6). Am I better for having gone through this revealing confrontation? I think so. Those who know me well will probably say I still have a ways to go, especially concerning my issues with pride.
Some of the greatest theological thinkers of all time lay the root of sin at the base of pride. Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, Luther, Edwards, and others wrote of pride leading to destruction. In his wonderful book, Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis wrote:
According to Christian teachers, 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. It is pride that has been the chief cause of misery in every nation and every family since the world began.
Pride led to Satan being cast out of heaven. Pride led him to the deception of God’s highest creation – man. It was the pride of Adam and Eve that the devil appealed to, that cemented their separation from God. “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling” (Proverbs 16:18).
Pride also affects religious people. Spiritual leaders throughout the history of the church have seen it as a great plague and tool of the devil. In Luke 18:9-14, Jesus tells us the well-known story of the self-righteous Pharisee and the much-despised Tax Collector, both of whom went into the temple to pray. The Pharisee proceeds to commend himself to God because of his careful observance of the law and to look down with scornful contempt on the sinful tax collector. “God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.” Notice in his prayer that his focus is not really on God at all, but on his own self-perceived goodness, and how bad others are. Here we see pride wrapped in the cloak of religion, giving religion a bad name. The tax collector is so painfully aware of his sins and unworthiness before God that he cannot even lift his eyes as he stands in the back of the temple, far from the altar. Pounding his breast in sorrowful contrition over his sins, he can manage only the desperate plea, “God, be merciful to me, the sinner.” His focus is very much on his own sins, not the sins of others, and especially on his need for God’s mercy. Jesus says that God answered the tax collector’s prayer, not the Pharisee’s. Then he concludes with his main point: “everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
What might be hindering your journey across the bridge of spiritual maturity toward becoming Christ-like? For me and for many others throughout the entire history of man, it is pride. So, when you see my pride beginning to show through and impede my way, be a friend.
~ Hudd ~
Kevin Huddleston is an Elder at Fellowship at Cross Creek Church in Branson, MO