- Proud of Being Proud
- 1 John 1:8-10; Proverbs 11:2; 16:18 & 29:23
- Lyndol Loyd March 3, 2019
Sin is no doubt a controversial subject. Some people don’t believe there even is such a thing, while others understand it to be a legitimate problem. Maybe you do, maybe you don’t, but one thing is for certain, there is a lot of confusion in our world about sin.
Truth be told we are broken people who live in a broken world. Sin and brokenness are a real part of the human condition whether we like it or not. When people who are not whole try to make a life together, they sometimes fail. That’s the concept of sin.
But the great news is while we are in the sin business, God is in the far greater enterprise of forgiveness and grace.
Sin is the sort of word that we usually like to reserve for the misdeeds of others, rather than reflect upon what it means for us personally. Sin becomes what others do – murderers, thieves and the like.
It is easier if we can think of ourselves as being “slightly flawed.” We have a way of justifying ourselves with good intentions and thoughts of not being as bad as others happen to be.
It is my conviction that sin is such a significant matter that without the help of God we aren’t able to deal with it. We make it into a game of sorts. We try to make it either something we can deny or master – one or the other.
What we fail to realize is that sin is chronic. Sin influences much of what we refer to as the human condition. If sin is part of the human condition, then it is part of my condition. It means that such ugliness and evil resides in me as well. I can’t exempt myself.
When it comes to our inability to acknowledge our own condition it has been suggested that one of the reasons we have such difficulty is because the sins we commit are the sins we love.
We love these sins because even though they are finally self-destructive, they provide some immediate emotional or physical payoff that we find irresistible. While sins like this ought to be an insult to everything we stand for, they offer us ill-gotten, short-lived benefits that make them sins we love.
John had great insight into sin and how it impacts us. In 1 John 1:8-10 it says, “8 If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. 9 But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts.”
God is willing to forgive, restore and remove the guilt of sin, so long as we are willing to name it for what it is, claim responsibility for our actions and seek cleansing.
This predisposition on God’s part is called grace. Grace emanates from a loving God who goes to great extremes to hang on to us and nurture our lives.
As we examine our sin condition, I want to assure you that it will be from the vantage point of God’s grace. Scripture makes it clear to us that God didn’t send His Son, Jesus, to point an accusing finger at us, but rather to make things right again. As we look at the sins we love our aim will be to see our lives made right again, not to be made to feel bad about ourselves.
In the sixth century of the Christian era, there was a very influential bishop of the church, and his name was Gregory, or Gregory the Great. He was an incredible leader with a bright mind.
It was Gregory’s contention that there are clusters of virtues and vices that we all deal with in life. So he went about identifying these vices into what would later become known as the Seven Deadly Sins. His thinking was that by cataloging these sins, a person could more easily contemplate self-examination on a journey toward wholeness.
Gregory’s list included the sins of Pride, Envy, Anger, Sloth, Greed, Gluttony and Lust.
In the days and weeks to come, I want to invite you to join me on a journey as we examine together these sins that we love and more importantly the virtues which can replace them in our lives taking us from our brokenness and giving us the hope of wholeness. Today, we start at the top of the list – Pride.
When I was a college student at Texas Tech, we used to play Rice University regularly in sports because both schools were members of the same conference. Rice was the one game you count on winning each year, no matter what the sport. While Rice wasn’t exactly known for being an athletic powerhouse, they were certainly known for having the team with the highest GPA. Many of their players were Academic All-Americans.
Thus, when they began to lose, which was often the case, the cheer would come from the stands, “That’s all right. That’s okay. You’re going to work for us someday!” or “We will, we will hire you! We will, we will fire you.”
It is a clever way to deal with losing, yet the student sections response to their opponents carries an edge of arrogance that is at the very heart of pride.
In Latin, the word for pride is “superbia,” which means “above” or “better.” One dictionary defines pride as “An immoderate degree of self-esteem or an overvaluation set upon persons by themselves, which undervalues and oppresses others.”
Pride is the sin of too much love for self. It is a twisted, polluted form of love. We use pride as a way of elevating ourselves. It is the idea that we are cut out of a better cloth than others.
In the Old Testament book of Proverbs, pride is an often addressed subject. Proverbs 11:2, “Pride leads to disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.” Proverbs 16:18, “Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall.” Proverbs 29:23, “Pride ends in humiliation, while humility brings honor.”
It is so subtle how pride works. Sometimes pride exalts our strengths. Sometimes it covers our insecurities and weaknesses.
Maybe you’ve seen the bumper sticker that reads, “I’m fat. You’re ugly. At least I can diet.” Cuttingly funny, yes. An attempt to cover a struggle with superiority issues, yes.
Not all varieties of pride are bad. In fact, I’m convinced that some forms are good. I’m also convinced that we frequently misuse the word in English. We use the word pride to stand for dignity or integrity quite often.
Have you ever heard anyone say, “Don’t you have any pride in yourself?” That isn’t a statement about thinking you are better than others. It is the idea that your life matters, so express a little dignity. We need to have a healthy sense of self-esteem about us to make it in life. We just have to be careful not to cross the line.
Think of pride in medical terms. You have a bad shoulder. It’s not so bad that you have to do anything about it. You figure, “Boy I must be sleeping on it wrong.” You work around it and ignore it until the pain is too great. Finally, you go to your physician, who tells you that you have a problem with your rotator cuff muscles. Now, your unidentified and increasingly intense ache has a name. That’s awareness. This is a great first step.
But the first step of recognition is not enough. A proper response is required. Diagnosing something is of no value if you don’t treat the problem as fully as possible.
Pride is a good place to start the practice of diagnosing and taking action when it comes to sin. Pride is universal; we all find our little ways to play God. Yes, I said to play God. The exercise of pride is to play God. Pride says, “I am better and of higher authority than any other force.”
Many people have distorted the concept of God. Some view God as some Cosmic Cupcake who watches creation ambivalently and benignly. Others view God as this Angry Maniac who is anxious to wreak havoc and judgment upon anyone who doesn’t live up to His demanding standards. A more Orthodox view of God is that of the Creator and Sustainer of life. He is all loving, all knowing, all powerful and always present. This is the God who is for us and remains at the center of our lives.
Pride on the other hand places “Me” in the center of life, when the Lord and Giver of life, God, should be at the center. Why in the world would I want to oust God who is personal, loving, powerful, and my constant companion?
I think we would do well to look at God’s role in the universe and make a mental note to ourselves that says, “Job taken. No need to apply.”
For many of us, the reality is that we don’t like the competition. So, we buy into a spiritual error that says, “I’ll decide what God is and what God has to say.” At that point, we assert ourselves as the masters of our own ships. Ultimately we end up attempting to displace God from his rightful place in our lives.
This kind of behavior has been around since the beginning of time. One of the saddest moments in the Bible takes place in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve have sinned against God and now have hunkered down in a secure place in the garden. God comes looking for them. He knows right where they are. They are helplessly trying to avoid God who doesn’t miss a thing. When confronted, they display their inability to make a good argument by saying they cannot come to God because they are naked. When finally confronted the two humans try to blame each other for their sin.
Adam and Eve teach us a lot about sin, especially the sin of pride.
- God doesn’t miss a thing.
- God is passionate to be in a relationship with human beings.
- Humans pretend to hide from God.
- Disobedience usually doesn’t bother us until we get caught.
- Humans have very little self-awareness.
- We don’t like to take responsibility for our choices.
Pride is unleashed in all the actions we take to replace or block out God. If there are several major aspects to the ascent of pride, the summit becomes the inability to be wrong.
Some psychologists suggest that the root of all evil is the need to be right. Self-justification kills. Pride blocks us from the wisdom and authority God should have in overseeing our lives.
We become our own judge and jury. We allow our pride to do just about anything it wants with us. In other words, pride becomes a runaway train. Our sense of superiority and completeness runs loose. Pride gives birth to pride, and suddenly we have fully invested ourselves into thinking we are what the world is all about. It is all about me.
Pride presses heavily into our interactions with others. Once we have removed God from the mix, we presume to lord it over other people as well. This becomes the intersection where callous rejection of God and a condescending attitude toward others emerge as full-blown pride. It has been said that those who continually look down never look up to see God. It is also true that they end up looking down on others, rather than being able to see them eye to eye.
In an attempt to be somebody, we very easily usher pride into the arena of life’s relationships. We clearly mark where we are “better” and carefully place boundaries around ourselves so as not to hear where we are worse. Then we dig in creating a personal myth of superiority that we somehow feel will give us a reason to live. Teenagers are known for mastering this skill, but nothing is uglier than an adult who has never outgrown this attitude.
There are some tests that we can use when it comes to checking our pride. Fundamentally these tests have to do with how we interact with other people. Relationships are very telling about who we really are.
Test #1 – “How do you treat the people you don’t have to be nice to?”
If the answer is positive, I’m probably someone with a tolerable level of pride in my life. If the answer is not very well, then this should be a big red flag because there is a problem.
Test #2 – “When you are in a social setting do you help others become bigger and stronger, or do you drain the life out of others to make yourself bigger and stronger?”
Pride is a lot like the Banyan Tree found in India. Nothing grows in its shade, and its leaves poison the ground. Everything within the Banyan Tree dies and gives way to the Banyan.
If we are failing the tests, what can we do to deal with the situation? If pride really is at the root of most sin then how can we overcome it? A helpful practice for keeping pride in check is what we might refer to as “Moral Flossing.” Just as we floss our teeth daily to prevent tooth decay, so we must do some moral flossing as well.
Think of moral flossing as a discipline – a behavior that promotes health and well-being. The discipline for managing pride is called humility. Humility is a word derived from the Latin word “humus,” which means “of the earth.” Humility keeps pride in check. To be of the earth means to be nothing more and nothing less than who and what we really are.
Humility means owning up to our gifts and using them. Humility is accurate self-assessment and self-assertion. Humility prevents us from understating or overstating who we are.
We gain a proper sense of humility from proximity to God. The closer we keep ourselves in God’s shadow, the easier it is to maintain this perspective.
There is a famous poster that has the title – “Fundamental Truths of Human Enlightenment: 1. There is a God. 2. You are not God.”
In Galatians 5 there is a wonderful passage of scripture that speaks to this issue of humility in our lives. Let me paraphrase what it says, “Let each person examine his or her own life and work. Don’t be fascinated with yourself and don’t compare yourself to others. Instead do the very best you can with what you have, knowing that God is your audience.”
Doesn’t that bit of biblical wisdom ring of truth to you? I must spend my time looking at me, making a proper assessment of my gifts, my vocation, my weaknesses, and my failures.
It simply doesn’t do any good to compare myself to any other person – God only. We aren’t in this world to impress other people with our own greatness. We are only here to please God. Understanding that truth releases the grip of pride in our lives.