The early church fathers compiled a list of what they called “the seven deadly sins.” Number one on that list was the sin of pride. I doubt that you and I would have done it that way. We may recognize that pride is indeed a sin, but most of us would not think of it as the first and worst of the seven deadly sins. Perhaps most of us could think of at least three sins that we consider to be more serious than the sin of pride – murder, adultery and stealing.
And is there not a sense in which pride can be a good thing? I heard of an old Scotsman whose morning prayer was always the same: “Lord, help me this day to hold a high opinion of myself.” That kind of pride is a saving grace; we all need it. Too many of us go out each day holding a low opinion of ourselves, and the result is that we live down to it.
So why all the fuss about pride? Why did the apostles and prophets of old denounce it so sternly? Why has the church historically warned us against it? What’s so bad about it? What’s really wrong with pride?
Well, one of the things that makes the sin of pride so deadly is that it is so subtle that we can be guilty of it without even realizing it. Could it be that in our eyes we are the perfect specimen of spiritual health and vitality? Are we everything that a good person ought to be? Or is a spiritual cancer eating away at our very soul?
Search your soul for a few minutes with this question: Is there any person or group of people anywhere whom you stand above, look down upon, and consider yourself to be better than they are?
It may be a matter or race. Do you ever find yourself thinking that people whose skin is a different shade are not quite so good or as worthy as you are? What attitude constitutes the sin of racial pride that had filled the earth with tension and soaked its soil in blood for thousands of years?
It may be a matter of moral and ethical behavior. How easy it is for those of us who are sober to look with contempt on the drunks, and the alcoholics, and the drug addicts. Surely, we must be better people than they are. How logical it seems to those of us who live within the law to look with contempt upon our prison population. Can there be any doubt that we are a finer breed of people than they are?
So, look at what pride does to our lives. It divides people and builds walls of separation between them. It also separates us from God. One of the constantly recurring themes of the bible reminds us that we cannot be right with God and wrong with people at the same time. I think we will understand that if we keep in mind that God is our Father and all people are his children.
It would seem that the church fathers were right. Pride is a deadly sin. It creeps into our lives and does its venomous work, separating us from one another and from God. We need to see ourselves as we really are, then we need to change our attitudes. With God’s help and with our reflection it can happen. We need to put it into practice today.