At its root, the most humiliating sin is pride.
Whether at work or at parties, I like to be the center of attention or I don’t want to play at all. I like it best when a group is gathered around me laughing at my jokes. I think that’s one of the reasons I loved teaching high school; they were a daily captive audience.
Last month for my birthday, my loving and long-suffering friends sat around a table and let me look up the etymological history of words in our new Oxford English Dictionary and read it aloud to them. And that’s exactly what I wanted for my birthday. I wanted to be the center of attention with space for declaring my wit. I’m an insufferable bore, I know.
Showing off my knowledge of big and obscure words, I suggested “omphaloskepsis.”
It basically means “navel gazing,” or complete self-absorption. This is a problem for all of us, really. We are busy staring at our own belly buttons, or taking selfies, or admiring our interior decor. We are caught up in looking at ourselves.
The deep and profound problem with pride is that it makes us want to be better than everyone else, to look down on everyone, including God. This is the sin that made Lucifer into the devil. He was just a fabulous angel until he allowed his pride to make him think he was better than God (Ezekiel 28:14-17).
But there’s one thing we can never forget: God is God. We are not.
I know what you might be thinking. Obviously, I’m not God. This is not my area of sin. But when I look at my life, sometimes I start to think, You know, I really have put in my time. I think I’m the king of this little hill. I’m actually quite a lovely person! That’s when I’ve focused my admiration on myself instead of Christ.
But look at Christ. Look how He handled the temptation of pride. He “did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:6-7).
Christ’s humility is astonishing because He had every right to assert His equality with God. He is the only one who has ever had the right, and He yielded His rights for our sake. In His love for us, He denied Himself and emptied Himself of pride.
Paul contrasts our pride with Christ’s humility to exhort us to unity. If I can let go of competing with you, and you can let go of competing with me, we can divert our gaze to Christ and live in unity with each other. The only fruit of pride is death, but the fruit of humility is unity.
Let’s apologize to our loved ones for staring at our own navels instead of loving them, confess our pride to Christ, and learn from His dear humility to live in unity with each other.