Pride has this nasty habit of sneaking up on us and wrenching us away from God. Whether or not you believe in the literal truth of Genesis chapters 1 to 3, it is clear from that account that pride played a crucial role in the fall of man. Those who interpret Isaiah 14 as a metaphor for the fall of Satan will also point out that pride was a major part of why he also fell. But pride is not something to be confined to the murky, ancient past, something that affects only long-dead Biblical figures and not us. Pride is still going strong, and it is still just as deadly as it always has been.
One of the problems with pride is that it often seems to be born out of good things. These lyrics from one of my favourite songs pose an important question: “How come it doesn’t get easier, even when I feel strong? The more I want it the less I know that this is where I belong.” One of the reasons that I love that song (Come On – The Almost) is because the lyrics feel applicable to me, and my answer to the question therein is pride. Pride is the reason that it doesn’t get easier, even when I feel strong. Why is this? Because pride is a sin born out of success and achievement. No one feels proud about something they think they’ve done wrong, or badly. People feel proud when they do something well.
I’m speaking from my own personal experience, but I hope that what I’m saying doesn’t sound shocking or surprising to you, because pride is such a huge issue that affects most of us, especially in the privileged West. But why is it so bad? For one thing, and this follows on from those lyrics in the previous paragraph, pride stops us from approaching God. It warps the way we relate to him. It makes us feel that we don’t need him, that we’re doing well enough on our own, thank you very much. God’s just a crutch, right? I don’t need him.
Jesus said, in Mark 2:17, that “it is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but the sinners.” He’s not saying that there’s a group of healthy, righteous people out there who don’t need him, he’s saying that only those who recognise their need for him will be saved. It is pride that stops us going to him. It is that feeling that we’ll be fine: we’re good people, right? I don’t hurt anyone, I give to charity every now and then, I have morals…that’s good enough, isn’t it? No, it’s not good enough. We’re not healthy people. We all have regrets, junk, failings that we’ve swept under the carpet. It’s pride that says that that stuff’s dealt with, that it’s in the past. God says that this world is broken, but he also says that he’s given us a way to be made whole.
The thing is, pride doesn’t just stop non-Christians from knowing God, it can also be a stumbling block for people who are already Christians, whether they’ve been a Christian for the last month, or the last half-century. It might look different, though. Instead of saying, “you don’t need God – you’re fine on your own,” to us, pride might say something like “You’re a pretty awesome preacher. That talk you gave just converted a hundred teenagers!” or, “You did some chores round the house without your mum asking! She should be really grateful to you.” You see, this pride isn’t always obvious, but it constantly diverts the glory away from God and onto our shoulders. It’s telling us that we’re worthy of praise, that we deserve recognition; even worse, it can convince us that God owes us something for all the good work we’ve done.
This myth needs to be annihilated. The only reason we can please God is because Jesus died for us. Let me tell you, no matter what we do, God owes us nothing, because he’s already given us himself, crucified, so that all of our junk, all of our failures, can be washed away. If you’re not a Christian, then I’m telling you now that if you want to be forgiven of all that stuff that you’ve done wrong, all those secret mistakes that you’ve made that are wearing you down, then you need to let go of your pride and admit that you can’t do this on your own. You know what? In some ways, God may well be a crutch, but he’s a crutch that we all need, because without him, no one can stand. And we Christians, those of us that let pride get in the way of giving God the glory, we need to humble ourselves as well, and acknowledge that we would still be living in the fetid swamp of our sins if it weren’t for God reducing himself to our existence and taking our stinking mess away from us, by putting it on himself. We can’t let pride blind us.
I just want to finish by giving you the next line of the song that I mentioned above:
How come it doesn’t get easier, even when I feel strong? The more I want it the less I know that this is where I belong. And there’s nothing that I can do, except just hold on to You.