“Hi. I’m Jim, and I have a pride problem”.
Yep, I said it out loud. I struggle with pride. I like to be in control. I like things done my way. I can get cranky and moody (to say the least) when people don’t bend to my pre-determined plans and desires. I don’t like to be wrong and am embarrassed when I have to clean up my own messes. When I do, I am hard on myself, and many times, hard on others. In an attempt to avoid the things I don’t want to do, I can ignore wise council, dismiss other’s ideas, and begin to “think of himself more highly than he should think” (Rom. 12:3a). Maybe an illustration is helpful here.
It was early in our marriage and my wife was very pregnant with our first child. I was in the throes of the youth ministry world and all of the time that demands. One night I was out in our garage building a Plinko game for a youth night we had coming up (because Plinko is a key to building the Kingdom!). I am not a craftsman by any means and was getting frustrated at my efforts and the time crunch to get the game built. At the height of my frustration, my wife walked out into the garage and said that she thought she smelled gas leaking in the house. Writing it off as some sensory side-effect of her pregnancy, I said that it was probably nothing and that she should just ignore it.
Several minutes later she reappeared, belly-first, to reiterate her point that something was amiss in the house. Again, I dismissed her concern. When she returned for the third time, I’d had enough and exploded in a rebuke for worrying too much and disrupting my efforts to build a game that would help me reach students for Jesus. With an exasperated look, she said, “Well, I am going to call the gas company and get someone out here to check this out”. Dismissing her plan out of hand, I simply said, “Fine”.
Sometime later, a white truck pulled up in our driveway. Being the “man of the house”, I met the gas company representative and showed him to the furnace and hot water heater. He said to give him a few minutes to run some tests and he would get back with us. I went back to Plinko. A few minutes later he called my wife and me back together. The words that followed literally shocked me and rocked my world. He said that there was a gas leak, and that if we had not called and stayed in the house that night, that none of us would have woken up.
Needless to say, my heart sank in my chest. To her credit and spiritual maturity, my wife didn’t do the “I told you so” look, but simply asked what we should do. The man recommended we get a hotel room for the night while he fixed the leak and the house aired out. Completely destroyed at the prospect of harming my wife and unborn child, I immediately complied. We packed some things for the night and drove to a local hotel to spend the night. After we settled into the hotel, the conviction of the Holy Spirit was thick. I knelt down beside my very pregnant wife and begged her for forgiveness for my pride and arrogance, for not putting her and our child first, and for putting their lives and mine at risk. Because she is who she is, she forgave me, and we slept safe that night.
Now before you think that I am covered in green hair and live atop a mountain with a dog named Max, God has done a great work since then to mend that hole in my sanctification (though, admittedly, I still need work). But what I learned that evening was life changing. Pride is a killer (almost literally)! In fact, C.S. Lewis in his classic work Mere Christianity says, “According to Christian teachers, the essential vice, the utmost evil, is Pride…it is Pride which has been the chief cause of misery in every nation and every family since the world began…For Pride is spiritual cancer: it eats up the very possibility of love, or contentment, or even common sense”.1
If this is the case, which I believe it is, then followers of Jesus must combat this “utmost evil” at every turn. Lewis says that the opposite of pride is humility.2 I agree but would amend this by saying that humility isn’t just the opposite of pride, it is the cure for pride. Pastor Tim Keller summarizes Lewis’ idea of humility by saying, “If we were to meet a truly humble person, Lewis says, we would never come away from meeting them thinking they were humble. They would not be always telling us they were a nobody (because a person who keeps saying they are a nobody is actually a self-obsessed person). The thing we would remember from meeting a truly gospel-humble person is how much they seemed to be totally interested in us. Because the essence of gospel-humility is not thinking more of myself or thinking less of myself, it is thinking of myself less”.3
Scripture speaks to the death of pride and the pursuit of humility. The Apostle James provides us with an overview of this war and a battle plan for victory over pride. First, he identifies the enemy by saying, “What is the source of wars and fights among you? Don’t they come from your passions that wage war within you? You desire and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and wage war. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and don’t receive because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures” (Jas.4:1-3). In other words, the source of “wars and fights”, or the quarrels in our lives, stem from our “passions”, from the Greek word hédoné from which we get our English word “hedonism”, which are fueled by our unhealthy, evil desires to possess what we don’t have.
Second, James reveals that such desires are a form of adultery before God. He says, “You adulterous people! Don’t you know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? So whoever wants to be the friend of the world becomes the enemy of God. Or do you think it’s without reason that the Scripture says: The spirit he made to dwell in us envies intensely?” (Jas. 4:4-5). In other words, we are created for a different purpose than just to live out our own selfish, prideful desires. We were created for relationship and fellowship with God through His Spirit, who pursues us and is jealous for us. As such, something must change if we are not to live in adultery toward God but be in right relationship with Him.
James then gives us the answer. He says, “But he gives greater grace. Therefore he says: God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. Therefore, submit to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you” (Jas. 4:6-10). Let me summarize. Even in our deepest moments of pride, grace is available. Remember that if you persist in pride, God will oppose you, but if you humble yourself before Him, you will receive grace. Therefore, surrender your pride and your whole self to God, push back against the devil’s temptation toward self-satisfaction and he will flee from you. In humility, confidently come into the presence of your loving, Heavenly Father (Heb. 4:16). Repent of your prideful thoughts, words, and actions, and God will lift you up to be the person He has created and called you to be, which is far better than whatever you were trying to become on your own. When you do, you will see the death of pride and the birth of real life by the grace of God.
I have a pride problem, and if you are being honest with yourself, I bet you do as well (at least to some degree). So, how do we begin to eradicate pride from our lives and live as genuine followers of Jesus in humility and grace? Lewis gives us some advice that if taken will help us along the journey. He says, “If anyone would like to acquire humility, I can, I think, tell him the first step. The first step is to realize that one is proud. And a biggish step, too. At least, nothing whatever can be done before it. If you think you are not conceited, it means you are very conceited indeed”.4
This post originally appeared at: The Death of Pride — The Bonhoeffer Project
 C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (C.S. Lewis Signature Classics). HarperOne. Kindle Edition, 121;123-124;125.
 ibid., 121.
 Timothy Keller, The Freedom of Self-forgetfulness, 26.
 Lewis, 128.