The Substance of Faith

The Substance of Faith

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Seven Deadly Sins – Pride

Pride is the fount from which all sin springs.  Stephen King calls it the mother of sin, giving birth to all others.  It is the sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, as they live out Bertrand Russell’s observation: Every man (sic) would like to be God if it were possible; some few find it difficult to admit the impossibility” (Power, A New Social Analysis, p. 11).  Today, I am not sure anyone considers it impossible.

In my seminary days, the premier work on sin and pride was Reinhold Niebuhr’s The Nature and Destiny of Man: Volume One – Human Nature.  On page 199, he observes:

Since the self judged itself by its own standards it finds itself good.  It judges others by by its own standards and finds them evil, when their standards fail to conform to their own.  This is the secret of the relationship between self-righteousness and cruelty.

Screen Shot 2015-07-03 at 7.27.09 AMNiebuhr’s comment is important.  Pride leads us to view ourselves as exceptional and blinds us to our toxic sin.  Who believes that speed limits  apply to them?  Who believes that, if in a hurry, we should wait our turn in line?  Who really believes that rules of tardiness and absence apply to our children? Who does not justify their own lies, but condemns unmercifully anyone caught lying to them?

We all believe we are exceptional. We judge ourselves by the indulgent understanding of our best desires, whether we live up to them or not. We judge others at face value, never considering any other factor. Our prideful exceptionalism separates us from God’s grace (why change? We are special!) and from each other because our self-righteousness is so critical of the faults in the people around us.  This is the way pride works.

An often overlooked Christian classic is William Law’s A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life.  William Law makes several insightful comments on pride:

Many people live in pride and yet never suspect themselves to be governed by pride because they know how much they dislike proud people. They know how mightily the are pleased with humility and modesty wherever they find them. The fuller of pride anyone is himself, the more impatient will he be at the smallest instances of it in other people. (p. 108)

He who thinks he has humility enough shows that he is not so much a beginner in the practice of true humility. (p. 109)  

If you think you are not in serious danger for your sin of pride, then you certainly are.  If you are even a little proud of your humility, you are terrible proud indeed. (p. 99)

This is an exceptional age.  Perhaps pride expressed this way is one of parenting’s greatest challenges.  Parents fight with these subconscious thoughts: My child should not have to follow your rules.  If my child breaks the law, my greatest concern is not that he/she face the consequences, but whether or not I can remove the consequences for them.

Those preaching and teaching on pride will have no trouble finding illustrations if they continue to think through all the ways members our society believe that rules don’t apply to them, but remain judgmental of others.

 

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I know that we’re way down to about ANGER or something this Sunday, but unfortunately I’m still stuck on PRIDE. I hope we’re not supposed to get all these right as we go along. I just keep going back to my struggle with pride. I know I’m not supposed to be that way, but I just am. The words of both Niebuhr and Law are very convicting and challenging. The sermon last week on greed was very thought-provoking too. I think fear is the root of much of our problems with greed as well as some of the other issues. Anyway, I was challenged both by the sermon on pride and your blog. Thanks,
Merrill

MERRILL J DAVIES

July 4, 2015