“The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men — extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess’ ” (Luke 18:11,12).
JUST AS AGITATION GETS IN THE WAY OF CAREFULNESS, PRIDE GETS IN THE WAY OF WORSHIP. Nothing in the spiritual life is more important than awe and utter respect before God, and so if pride hinders us from being reverent, it’s a deadly danger to our souls.
What is pride, really? It can be thought of in two directions: toward God and toward other people. Toward God, pride is a sense of independence, and toward other people, it’s a sense of superiority. In both cases, pride is a sinful sense of self-satisfaction. Pride sees itself as doing a pretty good job of standing on its own two feet before God; it believes it has the inside track as far as God is concerned, so that God will make special allowance for any mistakes that might be made. And in regard to other people, pride pats itself on the back (secretly, of course, and always with admirable “humility”) that it sees things from a more mature vantage point than some others, especially its rivals and its enemies.
If this is what pride is, then, it should be obvious that it’s a great hindrance to worship. Indeed, one way of looking at pride is to see it as the opposite of worship. The spirit of worship is the spirit of selfless wonder at the majesty of God — the smallness of self in God’s presence. And for sinful beings like us, it’s also the spirit of brokenness and repentance. Our hearts may be proud or they may be worshipful, but they can’t be both. And if they’re not worshipful, we’re lost. It doesn’t matter how many hardships we think we’ve overcome. Without real reverence, we’re lost.
There is no living person who does not need to be constantly vigilant concerning pride. It’s the source of all other sin, and it can creep into our hearts in so many disguises that, too often, it gets in the door and seizes the throne room of our hearts before we know what’s happened. More often than not, it gets past our defenses wearing a cloak of humility. “And the devil did grin, for his darling sin is pride that apes humility” (Samuel Taylor Coleridge).
“Beware of a proud and haughty spirit. This sin puts a great barrier between an individual and God. You will have a hard time being aware of God as long as you are filled with pride. If it gets angels cast out of heaven, it will certainly keep your heart out of heaven” (Richard Baxter).