The early Church father Augustine, who was the bishop of Hippo in Africa and one of the most important theologians of that early period, considered the sin of pride to be the fundamental sin, the root from which all other sins proceeded. He pointed to the sin of pride that motivated Satan to seek to desire God’s place, as well as the sin of pride that consumed Adam and Eve in the Garden to believe that they knew better than God.
Because of its fundamental nature, it is a sin that all of us are susceptible to. The particular challenge of this sin is that it is largely imperceptible to the person who is struggling with it. We simply do not see it in ourselves and can become quite indignant if someone suggests that we have it. It doesn’t help that we sometimes use the term “pride” to describe the self of satisfaction that we might rightly feel in a job well done or a project into which we have placed a lot of effort. Enjoying such satisfaction is not a sin so long as our satisfaction is found in utilizing the gifts God has given us to produce something that is glorifying of Him (consider 1 Cor. 10:31, Col 3:17, Col. 3:23, and Matt. 5:16). Such satisfaction (and joy) in utilizing your gifts and skills can be glorifying of God, but we must take care not to allow it to turn into the kind of pride that begins to think that we accomplished whatever task we had before us by our own power and ability.
In His great graciousness, God uses many different methods by which He disabuses us of our pride. Martin Luther once noted that God used the gift of family to humble us. When we are married, we live in such close proximity to our spouse that he or she knows all of our faults and foibles. Then, if God so chooses, we bring little ones into our family circle…and where our spouses might have had enough tact to bite their tongues about some of our imperfections, our children have none! Make no mistake: those little comments from our children that point out aspects about ourselves we would rather not dwell upon are really gifts from God, humorous though they may be. They remind us not to take ourselves so seriously and to remember that for whatever good qualities or abilities we might possess, there remain areas we would rather not see reflected in a mirror. Family, then, is a gift from God in more ways than we often realize.
What’s more, God has given us the Church to keep us humble, as well. This is just one of the reasons why our active involvement in the Body of Christ is crucial for our spiritual development and growth. Consider some of the ways this occurs. As we hear the Word of God preached, the Holy Spirit uses it to convict us so that we would repent. As we sing together, we’re reminded of how great our God is, how forgiving of us He is, and how we ought to be ready to forgive others in the same way. As we fellowship with one another (whether during a service, at small groups, or just as we live life together), we learn more and more about each other – including our weak spots – so that we might hold one another accountable.
The English Puritan William Gurnall once wrote, “Pride loves to climb up, not as Zacchaeus to see Christ, but to be seen.” How true! Yet God, in His great mercy and love for us, let’s that pride rise up so that it is seen by others (since we cannot seem to see it ourselves). Then, He uses the people He has placed in our lives – especially our families, natural and Church – to lovingly correct us and call us to humility. Just something to think about…