Gregory the Great described it as the “Queen of the vices.” Aquinas called it “the first sin, the source of all other sins, and the worst sin.” Augustine of Hippo wrote that it is “the commencement of sin because it was this that overthrew the devil, from whom arose the origin of sin.” St. John Cassian said that so great is this evil that “it rightly has no angel, nor other virtues opposed to it, but God Himself as its adversary.” Evagrius says it is the “cause of the most grievous fall of the soul.”
The early church fathers agreed that of the seven soul-destroying sins, the most deadly was the sin of pride.
It’s really easy to spot pride. . .in someone else. We hate it when it manifests itself in the forms of haughtiness, arrogance, conceit, superiority, self-importance, grandiosity, narcissism, vanity, glory-seeking, egotism and overconfidence. We can even detect a false humility and an air of pride in the timid, who are overly concerned about what others think of them. But this deadly sin, which is so easy to spot in the character of others, has a stealthy ability in our own lives. We fail to remember that the soul-eroding destruction of the seven sins doesn’t lie in the overt manifestations they reveal in the life of the believer, but rather the fact that they disguise themselves in an undetected cloak of virtue. We rationalize, justify and even spiritualize pride without even knowing it.
Pride is the trust in one’s own abilities rather than a dependence on God. It is a form of rebellion against God. A proud person believes that she can know an unknowable God. She doesn’t live in the tension that her finite mind cannot wrap around an infinite God. Pride is a failure to put God in a proper place and fall prostrate in fear before Him. It creates a spiritual blindness, in which we fail to see that we truly cannot see all who God is. It also creates an attitude of “spiritual rightness” that is nothing less than arrogance.
Pride puts believers in an improper place of not recognizing that we are frail, helpless, limited, wicked beings who need God. While we may know this, we fail to live it. All our lives we have been taught we can accomplish anything that we put our minds to, to believe in ourselves and to glory or define ourselves by our successful accomplishments. We fail to see who we really are. This deadly sin is the very sin that caused Lucifer to fall.
Of all God’s creation, Lucifer was the most spectacular. Ezekiel writes that he was clothed with every precious stone and he walked on the holy mountain of God. Lucifer was described as “the model of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty” (Ezekiel 28:12 NIV). God put Lucifer in a strategic position for His glory.
But Lucifer compromised his position, realized his own wisdom and beauty, and pride crept in. Ezekiel 28:17 records God’s assessment of Lucifer’s sin. He says, “Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor. So I threw you to the earth; I made a spectacle of you before kings.” The prophet Isaiah adds to this account by informing us that pride in the heart of Lucifer made him overestimate who he was. Pride destroyed him when he said that he would be like the Most High God (Isaiah 14:14). He never said that he would be God; just that he would be like God.