The Subtlest of Sins

I realize that this post could seem a little controversial. First off, “sin” is not a popular word in our culture as it once was. It is a word reserved for the most heinous crimes and even some of our churches shy away from suggesting that people could be sinners.

Would it surprise you to know that “sin” is the entire reason Jesus came to earth to die a criminal’s death and rise again? One of my husband’s favorite verses is Romans 5:8, which reads in part, “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

But today, most of us don’t like that word. I know it doesn’t carry a happy tone, does it? We live in an age of tolerance, which is supposed to accept all people no matter who they are or what they do – unless they are out to hurt others. We are still moral enough as a society to recognize evil and violent predators.

I think we are forgetting something though when we relegate sin to only certain behaviors. The Bible teaches us that “all” have sinned. There is “none” righteous, not even one. And you know what the biggest sin seems to be?

Pride – the many faceted, subtle sin.

As I study the people of Scripture and the words of the apostles and especially of Jesus, pride is the sin that is at the heart of all the rest.

It’s easy to recognize in narcissistic leaders or famous people, isn’t it? But it’s not quite so easy to see in ourselves. Just when I think I’ve figured it out and try to put on a mantle of humility, pride sticks its nose in the air and tells me I’m better than that. I know more than someone else. I’ve even been known to suggest God do things a certain way. Ever done that?

The Bible tells us that God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.

And I think pride is the biggest stumbling block to faith that has ever been devised. Satan is recorded to have possessed it when he desired to replace God. It was all about him and he was going to raise himself above the One who created him.

I wonder if he ever thought for a moment that he wasn’t as powerful as he thought he was and that getting kicked out of heaven wasn’t the great thing he had expected in his proud aspirations.

And whether you think the story of Adam and Eve is literal or metaphorical, the truth is, sin has infected the world and pride is at its source.

Pride is behind prejudice of every stripe. Pride says, “I’m better than you.” Pride believes it is always right. Pride looks down on others. Pride thinks it doesn’t need God or wants to deny His existence. Pride’s subtlety comes in when we think more highly of ourselves than we ought to. It tends to pop up right when we think we’re being so magnanimous or over-confident in our own strength.

I Corinthians 8:2-3 says, “And if anyone thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, this one is known by Him.”

Love humbles itself in the sight of God. A person controlled by the love of God allows for the possibility that they don’t know everything and that perhaps they still have a lot to learn – despite our age or ability.

That’s not to say there is never a reason to feel good about our accomplishments. Is it wrong to take pride in our work? Not if we keep in mind that God gave us the ability to do the work in the first place. God is behind every good and perfect gift. And when He grants us the ability to gain wealth or recognition or praise, the humble heart thanks Him for it. The humble heart learns to be grateful.

Gratitude and humility are hallmarks of love.

I Corinthians 13:2 says, “And though I…understand all mysteries and all knowledge, but have not love, I am nothing.”

Perhaps the best way to guard against the subtlety of pride and arrogance is to focus first on love—and the One who gives it.

~Selah

#livegrace #thesubtlestsin #behumble #begrateful

© 2017 Jill Eileen Smith