Many years ago, when I was ten years old, I first read C.S. Lewis’ book, “Mere Christianity.” In that book there is a chapter called, “The Great Sin.” It’s about the greatest sin there is: pride. (You can read the chapter, here.)
Pride is the Devil’s sin. Satan’s sin. From pride, every other sin grows.
I have read “Mere Christianity” five times, but I always felt there was something missing from that chapter. Some insight that had not been provided.
I have thought about this and prayed about it many times, never coming up with an adequate or satisfactory or full understanding.
Until this morning.
I awoke with some insights, based on practical experiences and on emotional pain, and by insight given to me by the Holy Spirit, and refined by thinking about them.
Also, there is a video on the subject of “Meritocracy” by Alain de Botton, an Atheist, that also helped me gain insights into this subject, ironically. You can watch this short 5-minute video here.
“What, do you think you are better than other people?” This is a question that people ask.
Is anyone better than anyone else?
This is a question that demands an involved answer and we need to go to the roots of it, and to some very foundational thinking to find the answer to it.
“Better than”? What do you mean by “better than”?
Smarter? Richer? Morally better than? More beautiful? Kinder?
Certainly some are better off than others in each of these areas.
We admire, or envy, those who are in a better condition, or who have been given more, or who have worked for more than we have.
This is simply reality.
But there are surrounding understandings that need to come with these things.
When I think “I am better” than someone else, there are three words that are the problem: “I,” “am,” and, “better.”
C.S. Lewis, in that chapter on pride, said that, when we see pride in others, we give it no mercy whatsoever.
Why? Because it is offensive.
Because it is a lie.
Because it is not based on reality.
What do I mean by this?
Well, I am talking about the foundational essence of man.
What is man, according to Christian doctrine?
Man is a being, “made in the image of God.”
And to understand man and his pride, we must go down to the essence and origin of man.
As Lewis says, “a gentleman works on the trunk” of an issue, not on the leaves of the tree. He goes to the essence, the ground, the root, the source, to understand something.
In the case of pride, if you think you are better than someone else, or someone else thinking they are better than you, we must go all the way down, underneath all of the layers.
Concerning pride, in America, many of the things that are deadly sins in God’s eyes are actually virtues in American society.
Pride and coveting are two of these.
So, what is pride, first of all, and secondly, why is it bad, and thirdly, what is the cure or solution for this problem of pride?
First, what is pride? Pride is an evil in two senses: one, pride against God; and two pride against other people.
Pride against God is “the devil’s sin,” says the Bible.
The devil, Satan, in eternity, decided to make a run for it, and put himself above God. Of course, this is delusion and insanity for a created creature such as Lucifer, but this is how Lucifer, the “Light Bearer,” became “Satan,” the Accuser.
His sin was to try to put himself above God.
In so doing, he also disconnected himself from God, thus creating evil, and necessitating a place for himself, called Hell.
With man, the situation is a little different. Man tried to be like God in knowledge, by disobeying God, thus disconnecting himself from God and, thus becoming a sinner.
So, man disconnects himself from communion with God. He, in doing this, took his future offspring with him (including you and me and every human), and he also created conflict with other men.
Now, humans are created in the image of God, the “Imago Dei.”
So, in essence, we are made in the image of God.
This leads non-Christians to say that we are all “children of God.” But this not true, because we have all been separated from God’s parentage through the disobedience of Adam in the Garden of Eden. So, now, all newborn babies, innocent as they are, are born as the children of Satan. (This doesn’t seem obvious at first, but ask any parent when their kids reach age two, and again when they are teenagers.)
So, pride is bad because it is, in the devil’s case, an attempt to overthrow God. In our case, it is an attempt to make knowledge superior to God, and to become independent from God based upon knowledge, as we see in Atheist people’s attitude against God and toward science and knowledge in general. But they are like a man sawing off the branch of the tree that he is sitting on. God is the very thing that allows man to exist or have knowledge at all. If he forgets this, then he goes into darkness.
So, the solution for humans, for us, is to become reunited with God through the forgiveness of sins in Christ. That solves our problem with God.
But what of our problems with other people and with ourselves? People are always seeking self-esteem and significance. It is no accident that these problems are perennial in human experience.
Without connection with God, without His Spirit, His Word, His meaning, His forgiveness, His Grace, man is stuck in a vacuum of meaninglessness and mired by the delusions of sin.
So, is one man better than another? In some senses, yes, but these are no cause for pride, because whatever man has, he has ultimately been given by God.
If he or she has good looks, brains, wealth, or whatever, these are good things that are given by God.
But when a person is sinfully prideful, he is saying that he is, ~in his essence~, better than other men.
But this is a delusion on three levels.
One, all people are made by God, in His image, so no one can be of a better nature by origin.
Two, by birth we are all sinners, so no one is better there.
And, three, if we have something, it was given by God.
If we, “get an identity” by what we have, or by what we do, that we are better than other people, then other people will rebel against this attitude of ours on the deepest level of truth, and will show us no mercy in this matter.
Some people have done more moral acts, or have avoided more sins, but does that male them “better”? Not if they have done these things on the basis of sinful pride in themselves, cut off from God.
If we connect with God through faith in Christ, then we not only have the forgiveness of all our sins, but we also have the indwelling Spitit of God from whom our good works flow.
We are not saved by doing good things, and we do not stay saved by doing good things.
God gives grace to the humble, and it is only by God’s grace that we can be humble in the first place.
If we are humble, it is because on some level, we know the truth of these things.
If you treat God as your vast superior and you treat all men as your essential exact equals, you will be living in reality, and you will have peace with yourself and with others.