Of the deadly sins, I think pride is by far my greatest struggle. In fact, in studying the deadly sins and their history as a part of theology and culture, pride is usually seen as the basis for all the other sins. It is the original of the sins, and by most it is considered the Original Sin. When we talk about pride we often times talk about it as “a feeling that you are more important or better than other people” (Miriam-Webster Online). But when we look at how Scripture defines pride, we really see something different. The sin of Adam and Eve is not thinking that they are better, it is a desire to be better. The don’t want to be human in the way God created them, they want to be like God.
What is scary about this definition of pride is that it strikes at the very basis of modern western civilization. The rallying cry of modernism, man as the measure of all things, shows the true heart of humanity–a desire to be greater. The idea that the brotherhood of man can overcome all things is itself a denial of God. I have often used the colloquialism “I have lost my faith in humanity.” Is humanity worthy of faith? What we tend to do is promote some people over other, treating them as though they are demi-gods. One place we can see this most clearly in history is with the Roman Catholic Church during the dark and middle ages. We see the rise of sainthood, the papacy, and the clergy to a place of more than human. Oddly enough, they were also instrumental in codifying the seven deadly sins.
But we don’t just see it there, we also see it in our beloved early church. What else is Paul speaking of when he says:
“What I am saying is this: Each of you says, “I’m with Paul,” or “I’m with Apollos,” or “I’m with Cephas,” or “I’m with Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was it Paul who was crucified for you? Or were you baptized in Paul’s name? 14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one can say you were baptized in my name. I did, in fact, baptize the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t know if I baptized anyone else. For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to evangelize—not with clever words, so that the cross of Christ will not be emptied of its effect” (1 Cor. 1:12-17)?
Paul, someone who we often are willing to promote as greater is communicating to us that he is not. No one is great, or more important, or better. Christ is all that matters. And I really don’t like that. Because I am prideful. I want to be important and significant. I want the things that God has gifted me at to be about making a lot of me. I want all my accomplishments to be MY accomplishments. I don’t want it to be about God. But that is the flesh in me trying to tell me that I can be more than human–more that someone who has nothing and is nothing without God. This is why our culture cannot abide true Christianity, because it demands that we bow and worship. In fact, it’s Paul again who lays this out for us clearly on Mars Hill when he says:
“Then Paul stood in the middle of the Areopagus and said: ‘Men of Athens! I see that you are extremely religious in every respect. For as I was passing through and observing the objects of your worship, I even found an altar on which was inscribed:
TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.
Therefore, what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it—He is Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in shrines made by hands. Neither is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives everyone life and breath and all things. From one man He has made every nationality to live over the whole earth and has determined their appointed times and the boundaries of where they live. He did this so they might seek God, and perhaps they might reach out and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us. For in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’ Being God’s offspring then, we shouldn’t think that the divine nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image fashioned by human art and imagination.
‘Therefore, having overlooked the times of ignorance, God now commands all people everywhere to repent, because He has set a day when He is going to judge the world in righteousness by the Man He has appointed. He has provided proof of this to everyone by raising Him from the dead.’”