Sermonette Ann Arbor, MI  UCG Eric Snow 10-26-02


Intrinsically to the ancient pagan Greeks, pride often wasn’t a sin.  But the ancient Greeks, most interestingly, knew that one kind of pride was problematic, which they called in their language “hubris.”  This type of pride consisted of being so arrogant that a man took on the prerogatives of the gods and exceeded his human limits.  If someone did this, he would be punished by the gods.  This comeuppance was called “nemesis.”  For example, in one Greek myth, Tantalus, the king of Phrygia, decided to play a trick on the gods.  He killed his son Pelops and then served him as a meal to the gods.  The gods punished him in retaliation when they found out.  In hades he had to stand in water up to his chin that disappeared whenever he tried to drink it, and the fruit and grapes that hung above him on branches, the wind would whirl them out of his reach.  Hence, the word “tantalize.”


But now, let’s turn from pagan Greek thought to Christian doctrine.


What is pride?  Why does Scripture warn Christians against it?  Even pagan Greeks before the time of Christ saw something wrong with one type of pride.  What are the sources of pride?  Is there a kind of pride that’s acceptable to God?  What is the corresponding virtue to the sin of pride?


S.P.S.  We as Christians have to be wary of any source of pride that doesn’t come from God because this feeling exalts the self against God Himself and others.


The central error of pride is the creature’s implied claim of self-sufficiency against his or her Creator.  Men are claiming they did something, or received something, that makes them big and important, when the reality is that God as the Creator and Sustainer made it all possible.


Pride:  Sin also for exalting the self against others.  Then don’t feel concern for them, their feelings or thoughts.


Prov. 29:23


Hubris/Nemesis:  Cite Aeschylus’ “Persians” if have time.


C.S. Lewis:  Competitive by nature, why pride such a problem. 


“Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man.  We say that people are proud of being rich, or clever, or good-looking, but they are not.  They are proud of being richer, or cleverer, or better-looking than others.  If every one else became equally rich, or clever, or good-looking there would be nothing to be proud about.  It is the comparison that makes you proud:  the pleasure of being above the rest.”  (Mere Christianity, pp. 109-110).


Possible sources: 


Intellectual pride and vanity:  The man with a Ph.d. looking down on his fellow human beings as inferior.  Wisdom not equal to knowledge.  Simple Premises can overthrow knowledge of a library’s worth of books.


Another version:  Old hand vs. new guy on job.


Experience on the job or in family life:

Married look down on singles.  Singles and married look down on divorced.  Those with children on those without.  Those whose children’s family or financial lives have worked out better than those who haven’t.  Hillary Clinton’s “real woman” comment.


Self-righteousness:  Holier-than-thou, I’m closer to God than you, like the Pharisees, etc.  What city, state, country, nation, race, etc. you are from, and how it’s better than others, etc., which makes you better than others by extension.  “Empirical self.”



Dan. 4:17, 28-37


King Nebuchadnezzar was humbled for his arrogance, then exalted to his old position when he admitted that God had all power.


Pride can cause ignorance out of self-conceit:  Can’t learn from that other person due to youth or age (out of date), lower or higher educational level (“impractical theorist”), wealth (doesn’t know what life is like, insulated, silver spoon in mouth) or poverty (never had a good job, etc.), experience or lack thereof.  “Arrogance of Power” issue and U.S. blundering into Vietnam.


II Cor. 1:12-14


This pride was acceptable, because the source of being raised up was from God, not an implied claim of self-sufficiency and independence.


The opposite virtue to pride is, naturally enough, humility, or being lowly of mind.  Such a person God can work with, unlike the independent, self-sufficient man.  Other people can work with him much better also since he avoids coming across as a “know-it-all” or conceited.


In conclusion, pride is the sin of a man or woman thinking he or she is self-sufficient and independent of God.  Pride destroys or wounds relationships, both with other people and with God, so we should strive to root it out.  Self-exaltation that’s independent of God can lead to being abased by Him.  But if we embrace the opposite virtue of being humble, then God will exalt us in due time, in the next life if not this one.

Lucifer became Satan largely because of pride; may we not repeat the same error in our own spiritual lives.  We have to root out this spiritual cancer from our lives.   For as C.S. Lewis observed:  “In God you have come up against something which is in every respect immeasurably superior to yourself.  Unless you know God as that—you do not know God at all.  As long as you are proud you cannot know God.  A proud man is always looking down on things and people:  and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you.”