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Pride Is the 'Devil's Most Effective and Destructive Tool'

I have traveled through Vancouver, Canada, occasionally over the years and always enjoyed my time in this beautiful city. However, what people are calling a “freak accident” occurred there recently; as you’ll see, what happened in Vancouver could happen where you and I live as well.

A man was driving through a McDonald’s restaurant takeout lane when he opened his door to get something he dropped from his window while paying. As he leaned out, the car rolled forward. The door hit part of the restaurant, pinning him between the door and the frame. A police official said, “Efforts were made by first responders to revive the man, but tragically, he died on scene.”

Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker cites compelling research to show that by almost every metric of human wellbeing, the world is getting better—from war, violence, and poverty (all declining) to health, wealth, happiness, and equality (all improving). But it doesn’t take long for the news to remind us of our mortality as well.

Some more examples: CNN reported yesterday that “1 in every 500 US residents have died of Covid-19.” An American intelligence official estimated Tuesday that al Qaeda could begin to threaten the US within one to two years. I noted earlier this week that the next terrorist assault on our country is likely to be a cyberattack. I also noted that a solar storm could cause an “internet apocalypse,” affecting much of society for weeks or months at a time.

Now we’re seeing the gravity of such threats in real time: Apple issued emergency software updates this week after finding a flaw that allows highly invasive spyware to infect anyone’s iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, or Mac computer without so much as a click.

"The devil's most destructive tool"

We are focusing this week on ways to experience transforming intimacy with Jesus. Yesterday we discussed the temptation of so-called private sin and its danger to our spiritual health. Today, let’s focus on a second enemy of spiritual intimacy.

I often state that God redeems all he allows. One way I believe he would redeem the demonstrations of human finitude and fallenness we encounter each day is to show us our constant need for resources only he can supply.

Here’s the reason we need such reminders: as C. S. Lewis noted, “It is pride which has been the chief cause of misery in every nation and every family since the world began.” Thomas A. Tarrants of the C. S. Lewis Institute adds: “Lewis is not simply giving us his private opinion but summarizing the thinking of great saints through the ages. Augustine and Aquinas both taught that pride was the root of sin. Likewise, Calvin, Luther, and many others.

“Make no mistake about it: pride is the great sin. It is the devil’s most effective and destructive tool.”

Consider three ways pride manifests itself in our lives today.

1. Time

In Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life, Tish Harrison Warren quotes Dorothy Bass, who warns us of “a false theology: we come to believe that we, not God, are the masters of time. We come to believe that our worth must be proved by the way we spend our hours and that our ultimate safety depends on our own good management.”

Warren confesses that Bass described her “with stinging accuracy.” I must make the same confession today. That’s why we should proclaim, “This is the day the LORD has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24, my emphasis).

2. Prosperity

In 2013, Margaret Loughrey won $37 million in Ireland’s EuroMillions lottery. However, she said in 2019, “Money has brought me nothing but grief. It has destroyed my life. I have had six years of this. I don’t believe in religion, but if there is a hell, I have been in it. It has been that bad.” She was recently found dead in her home.

The philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche claimed that the “will to power” is the basic drive in human nature. He was especially right with regard to prosperity. The more we have, the more we want. If money is a means to power, we can never have enough. That’s why “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils” (1 Timothy 6:10).

3. Adversity

Conversely, adversity can promote pride. We think we can solve our problems, so we double down on ourselves by trying harder to do better.

Artist Winslow Homer spoke for many in our self-reliant culture when he stated, “There’s no such thing as talent. What they call talent is nothing but the capacity for doing continuous work in the right way.” Psychologist Carl Rogers added: “What I am is good enough if I would only be it openly.”

To the contrary, when Paul faced a “thorn in the flesh” he could not remove in his strength, he heard God say, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (1 Corinthians 12:9).

"I have calmed and quieted my soul"

Tomorrow I plan to close our week with practical ways to defeat pride and to experience transforming intimacy with Jesus each day. For today, let’s make David’s prayer ours:

“O LORD, my heart is not lifted up;

my eyes are not raised too high;

I do not occupy myself with things

too great and too marvelous for me.

But I have calmed and quieted my soul,

like a weaned child with its mother;

like a weaned child is my soul within me.

O Israel, hope in the LORD

From this time forth and forevermore” (Psalm 131).

Is your heart “lifted up” in self-reliant pride, or would God say you are as dependent on him as a child on its mother?

There is not a third option.

Publication date: September 16, 2021

Photo courtesy: ©GettyImages/Khosrork

For more from the Denison Forum, please visit www.denisonforum.org.

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