The Worst Sin
Adolph Hitler was responsible for the deaths of 6 million or more people before and during World War II. Joseph Stalin was responsible for more deaths than Hitler before and during World War II. King David committed adultery with Bathsheba and then had her husband killed so he could marry her. King Manasseh caused his own children to be burned alive as a sacrifice to his idol. We heard recently on the news about a woman in Texas who murdered all of her children.
These are all terrible sins. But as terrible as they are, they are not the worst sin. I have had the belief for years that rejecting Christ must be the worst sin. I have been reconsidering that idea. There is another sin that causes people to reject Christ and that causes people to commit every other sin known to man. That sin is pride.
I have come to the conclusion that pride is the worst sin. While pride causes us to commit many other sins, the worst thing it will do to you is keep you out of heaven and lock you up in hell. Pride will convince you that you don*t need Jesus. Pride will convince you that you don*t need the forgiveness of sins that He offers.
Proverbs 6:16: These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him:
Notice the first thing on the list:
Proverbs 6:17-19: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.
Pride involves our relationships with God, others and self. Pride gives a wrong attitude toward authority, and a wrong response to correction. We may not be willing to acknowledge pride as the worst sin because we all have it. Most of us haven*t committed the sins that appear most grievous to us, but we are all guilty of pride.
C. S. Lewis wrote some very wise truths about pride in his book, Mere Christianity. You may have read some of them in a previous Bible Study. They are worth repeating:
We loathe this sin in others even though we are unaware of our own pride.
Lewis never heard any unbeliever confess his pride.
Unbelievers do not show mercy to the pride of others.
There is no fault that makes a man more unpopular.
The more pride we have, the more we dislike it in others.
It was through pride that the Devil became the Devil.
Pride is the complete anti-God state of mind.
You can prove to yourself how much pride you have by asking yourself how much you dislike it when others snub you, don*t pay attention to you or patronize you.
Pride is competitive.
Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next guy.
Pride enjoys power.
Pride enjoys controlling others.
Pride has been the chief cause of misery in every nation and every family since the world began. Other vices may sometimes bring people together: you may find good fellowship with jokes and friendliness among drunken people or unchaste people. But pride always means enmity -- it is enmity. And not just between man and man, but enmity to God.
In God you come against something which is in every respect immeasurably superior to yourself. Unless you know God as that -- and, therefore, know yourself as nothing in comparison -- 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.
That raises a terrible question. How is it that people who are quite obviously eaten up with Pride can say they believe in God and appear to themselves very religious? I am afraid it means they are worshipping an imaginary God. They theoretically admit themselves to be nothing in the presence of this phantom God, but are really all the time imagining how He approves of them and thinks them far better than ordinary people: that is, they pay a pennyworth of imaginary humility to Him and get out of it a pound*s worth of Pride towards their fellow-men.
We have another test. Whenever we find that our religious life is making us feel that we are good -- above all, that we are better than someone else -- I think we may be sure that we are being acted on, not by God, but by the devil. The real test of being in the presence of God is, that you either forget about yourself altogether or see yourself as a small, dirty object. It is better to forget about yourself altogether.
It is a terrible thing that the worst of all the vices can smuggle itself into the very centre of our religious life. But you can see why. The other, and less bad, vices come from the devil working on us through our animal nature. But this does not come through our animal nature at all. It comes direct from Hell. It is purely spiritual: consequently it is far more subtle and deadly. For the same reason, Pride can often be used to beat down the simpler vices. Teachers, in fact, often appeal to a boy*s Pride, or, as they call it, his self-respect, to make him behave decently: many a man has overcome cowardice, or lust, or ill-temper, by learning to think that they are beneath his dignity -- that is, by Pride. The devil laughs. He is perfectly content to see you becoming chaste and brave and self-controlled provided, all the time, he is setting up in you the Dictatorship of Pride -- just as he would be quite content to see your pimples cured if he was allowed, in return, to give you cancer. For Pride is spiritual cancer: it eats up the very possibility of love, or contentment, or even common sense.
Do not imagine that if you meet a really humble man he will be what most people call humble nowadays: he will not be a sort of greasy, smarmy person, who is always telling you that, of course, he is nobody. Probably all you will think of him is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap who took a real interest in what you said to him. If you do dislike him it will be because you feel a little envious of anyone who seems to enjoy life so easily. He will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all.
If anyone would like to acquire humility, I can, I think, tell him the first step. The first step is to realize that one is proud. And a biggish step, too. At least, nothing whatever can be done before it. If you think you are not conceited, it means you are very conceited indeed.