Ed, my old neighbour in Saskatchewan, has been having a great year as the skip of his curling team. “We are almost ready to compete at the Olympics,” Ed recently told me. I warned him that pride comes before a fall. I also suggested that maybe they have had easy competition this year, which didn’t sit well with Ed either.
I asked Ed if he had heard the story of the Civil War General, John Sedgwick, who was warned not to stand openly above a wall facing the enemy. His famous last words were, “Nonsense, they couldn’t hit an elephant at this distance.” A moment later Sedgwick fell to the ground fatally wounded.
The Bible makes it clear that God opposes the proud. God sees the boasting of people concerning what they have or what they do as sinful. It seems natural to see how others are proud, arrogant, and conceited. The pride in ourselves is too often a blind-spot for us, and we miss the arrogance in ourselves. We talk like Archie Bunker who once said, "I'm not prejudiced. I love all those inferior people.”
Pride has a superior attitude towards others. It is about seeing others as inferior for all sorts of various reasons. Jesus told a parable because some folks in his day were confident in their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else.
This was his parable; “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God I thank you that I am not like other men – robbers, evildoers, adulterers – or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’”
“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me a sinner.’”
“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
The way of our world is one of competition and comparison. We consider ourselves superior to others in our minds, words, and actions. As Christians, we are called to the humble truth that we are all sinners and fall short of God's glory. We are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Jesus Christ. We are to be humble before God and our neighbours by fighting against pride that so easily infects us.
It has been said that pride is the dandelion of the soul. Its root goes deep, only a little left behind sprouts again. Its seeds lodge in the tiniest encouraging cracks. And it flourishes in good soil: the danger of pride is that it feeds on goodness.
Those closest to Jesus, his disciples, were guilty of pride as they followed Jesus. More than once Jesus tried to teach them that the one who was least among them all, was the greatest. The disciples were infected with pride as are all of us. James warns that: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.