So what is the worst sin? Lust? Greed? Materialism? Violence? While those choices cause harm to ourselves and others as well as offending our God, none of those is the worst. Well, then perhaps the worst sinner is the murderer, or the one who abuses a child, or the one who creates chaos in human relationships, or a war-monger? Those are horrific choices, too, but they are rooted in the worst sin of all.
America is in the grip of this of which I write today. In fact, it’s the ‘acceptable’ sin, hard to see in ourselves, hiding behind so many good things, corrupting the best things. It blinds me to my own foibles but gives me the eye of an eagle to see the stains on another’s character. The appeal to Eve in the Garden was built around it. Solomon was deceived by it. It is equally at home in a palace and a pigsty.
This sin, according to Isaiah, was in the heart of the most noble angel and caused his banishment from the Presence of God. “How you are fallen from heaven, O shining star, (Lucifer) son of the morning! You have been thrown down to the earth, you who destroyed the nations of the world. For you said to yourself, ‘I will ascend to heaven and set my throne above God’s stars. I will preside on the mountain of the gods far away in the north. I will climb to the highest heavens and be like the Most High.’ Instead, you will be brought down to the place of the dead, down to its lowest depths. Everyone there will stare at you and ask, ‘Can this be the one who shook the earth and made the kingdoms of the world tremble?” (Isaiah 14:12-16, NLT)
Yes, the worst sin is PRIDE, that choice to make ourselves god rather than serving the Living God. When we become convinced that we can rule our own destiny, that we can control the world, that we can buy or bargain our way into power, that our desires are paramount over those of any other, we have become prideful, capable of doing terrible things to others, for we have no restraint. Jesus shocked the disciples when He said “I assure you that any sin can be forgiven, including blasphemy; but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven. It is an eternal sin.” (Mark 3:28-29, NLT) What did He mean? Does not the sacrifice of the Cross reach to all depths?
Most assuredly, but the person who has given himself over to pride, who is convinced that he needs no one including God, rejects the very Holy Spirit that would draw him to repentance and faith. Persistent pride makes a person deaf and blind to the work of the Spirit, leaving that one in terrible darkness. John speaks of this in slightly different terms referring to the ‘sin that leads to death.’
I believe that more Christians shipwreck on the rocky shores of pride than because of lust, greed, laziness, and apathy combined! Growing up in a “holiness church” I heard many sermons about ‘sin,’ and most focused on human failures but I heard little about the subtle deception of pride. In fact, we held up as models many who were very proud of their good works, who gave themselves to a kind of perfectionism that produced many good works, even noble humanitarian work, all the while careful to conceal their own inconsistencies and struggles. Whether it is the atheist screaming obscenities against God or the church-goer wrapped in his own self-righteousness, pride is deadly!
The wisdom of the Scripture warns that “Before his downfall a man’s heart is proud, but humility comes before honor.” (Proverbs 18:12, NIV) James teaches that the gateway to greater grace is found in humility “So humble yourselves before God. Resist the Devil, and he will flee from you. Draw close to God, and God will draw close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, you hypocrites.” (James 4:7-8, NLT)
Are you convinced that you must do more as a Christian,
not to serve God’s purpose but rather to prove your worth?
Does your heart congratulate you when you do something noble
and then beat you up when you don’t meet the measure of success,
when a project fails to produce the desired objective?
Do you often compare yourself to others,
envying some, treating others with disdain?
Do you try to ‘go it alone’ reluctant to seek counsel
or contribute to others?
If so, pride is stalking you.
There is but one antidote to the poison of pride. We do not find humility in the fountain of greater work, nor is it gained in vain attempts at putting ourselves down. Even the choice to take second place or to do that which is of low esteem can feed pride’s ravenous appetite.
Only true worship: kneeling and waiting before the Lord, allows the Spirit to break the hold of this “acceptable” sin. When the Spirit whispers a warning to our heart about a proud attitude, when need to find a quiet retreat. When we find ourselves looking desperately for affirmation, craving a word of praise, we know that we are but a step from pride and it is time to find a place with the Lord where He renews our joy in serving for His honor.
Our model is Christ Jesus. “Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names.” (Philippians 2:4-9, NLT)
Take this word from the Word and invite the Holy Spirit to preserve you from this most subtle sin. “First pride, then the crash— the bigger the ego, the harder the fall. It’s better to live humbly among the poor than to live it up among the rich and famous.” (Proverbs 16:18-19, The Message)
(Video of this blog at this link)
When I Survey The Wondrous Cross
When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died
My richest gain I count but loss
And pour contempt on all my pride
Forbid it Lord that I should boast
Save in the death of Christ my God
All the vain things that charm me most
I sacrifice them to His blood
See from His head His hands His feet
Sorrow and love flow mingled down
Did ever such love and sorrow meet
Or thorns compose so rich a crown
Were the whole realm of nature mine
That were a present (an offering) far too small
Love so amazing so divine
Demands my soul my life my all
Isaac Watts © Words: Public Domain
Leave a Reply