When I was a boy growing up in the Catholic church, the nuns and priests used to teach us the 7 cardinal sins. The word cardinal means fundamental or of primary importance. The 7 cardinal sins were:
They taught us that from these sins came all others. I do not know who made up this list but putting pride at the very top certainly reflects what the Bible teaches about human sinfulness.
1. Pride in the heavens
Jude 6 says that the angels abandoned their position and aspired to rise above God. Pride led to their downfall.
2. Pride in the garden
In Genesis 3:5 we see Satan tempting Eve with an appeal to her pride that she would become greater than her present status, that she would be like God if she ate the fruit. Pride led to the downfall of humanity.
3. Pride in the wilderness (Matthew 4:4-9)
Even Jesus, while He was in the wilderness, was tempted through an appeal to be proud in demonstrating His power, relationship with God or sovereignty over the world. Had He not resisted this temptation to pride, it would have led to the downfall of the effort to rescue man.
And so pride is the ultimate temptation, greater than sex or violence because it appeals to man's desire not for excitement or pleasure, but for a human being's desire to be great, ultimately to be a god.
Pride in our lives
If we look around we can see the damage pride does in the world at large, even our own lives.
- In society, pride is the chief cause of conflict and war. Some race or nation wants to be chief, wants to rule, wants to be first and so goes to war to achieve this end.
- Talk to marriage counselors and they will tell you that what creates trouble in families is not just substance abuse or adultery (these are the symptoms, not the causes). Either too low a value of self or too high a value of self (pride) creates the trouble that leads to the other sins.
- The Apostle Paul continually battled with Christians who were too proud to submit to his authority as an Apostle. The letters to Corinth are almost entirely about the sins originally generated because these people were too proud to obey, too proud to repent, too proud to get along with each other.
As we can see just by examining our own experience, pride is a "cardinal" sin that threatens us more than other forms of evil. How do we guard against it?
Guarding against pride
1. Aim to be like Jesus, not to be first.
The desire to be above others, even above God is the driving force of pride. We all experience this pressure; it is part of our sinful nature. The antidote is to strive, in all things, in every relationship to be like Jesus, rather than strive in every way to win.
It is not for everyone to be leaders, chief, this happens based on time and talent, but the conflict created because of the desire to be first could be eliminated if we chose to desire to be like Jesus, not just to be first.
The question in our minds should not be, "what must I do to rise above the other," it would be, "what must I do to be like Jesus." Ask yourself "what would Jesus do?"
2. Realize that the real rewards go to the humble, not the proud.
The sad thing about pride is that it is the result of Satan's deception. People are seduced into thinking that if they lift themselves up there will be a reward of some kind. The angels thought power would be the reward; Eve thought a special insight was the reward; rulers think honor and adulation; people think feeling good about themselves.
The truth of the matter is that pride always leads to destruction of some kind. God tells us that humility is the quality that bring us rewards, not pride:
Pride goes before destruction.
God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.
- James 4:6
Blessed are the humble, for they shall inherit the earth.
- Matthew 5:5
The rewards of peace, honor from God, praise from men (because people appreciate humble people not proud people), and eventually eternal life will go to those who humble themselves before God and others, and not those who try to lift themselves above others, even God.
- Describe a time in your life when you failed. What lesson did you learn from that experience?
- What is the difference between pride and arrogance? What does pride do? Arrogance?
- How does pride manifest itself in your relationship with your spouse - child - boss?
- In practical terms, what do you think Jesus means when He says that the humble will inherit the earth?
- Aside from Jesus, which person in the Bible or in real life inspires you with their humility? Why?