Everyone proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord; Though they join forces, none will go unpunished. (Proverbs 16:5)
I recall having a pair of peacocks on the farm, and even as a child, there were moments when I looked at the impressive fanned tail and the silly fellow strutting around and registered that this was his entire purpose: He was purely decorative. He also wasn’t particularly bright – certainly not as bright as his tail – and with his aloof and vague strutting around didn’t even make much of a pet. He looked good when he spread his tail, but that was the limit of his usefulness or practical value. ‘Proud as a peacock’ was one expression I never had any trouble understanding.
Interestingly enough, from a ‘survival’ point of view, it was likely the sheer size of his tail and the gazillions of eyes it presented that no doubt saved his bacon and ensured his safety from the dogs, who did eye him with suspicion from day one. This talent for creating the illusion that he was so much more than he was in reality is exactly the same principle that motivates and protects pride in each of us. And it’s the reason why it’s an ‘abomination’ to God.
Abomination may be loosely defined as something that stirs up the most extreme possible response. It is something we cannot accept or tolerate at any cost or for any reason. It is something we react to with the most powerful emotional abhorrence. We cannot look at it, will not think of it, and cannot bring ourselves to endure it, even from a distance. This is always the emotional context when we find the word abomination mentioned in the Bible. Think extreme, consuming, total, and non-negotiable.
As an aside, I challenge each of us to do a concordance search on abomination. We will be astonished at just what it is applied to. Our tendency is to apply it to those things we perceive as being the most ‘heinous’ sins, while glossing over a multitude of others because it suits us and its comfortable to do so. We easily forget that there are no degrees of sin with God. Sin is sin is sin. Practically speaking, there is no difference between the devout old lady who loses her temper in the supermarket and the axe-wielding serial killer who rampages through the suburban streets.
It’s important that we look at why pride is an abomination to God.
So why, then, if sin is sin, are some tagged with abominations? If you do the search, I think you’ll agree with me that ‘abomination’ apply more readily to types of sin rather than actual sin. All of these types or related groupings ultimately make up the full list of possible sins. Logically, sin itself is an abomination, because it is something that denies the holiness and sovereignty of God. Anything that puts something other than God in the driver’s seat, even for a single instant, is an abomination to Him. Our particular attitude to that particular thing is irrelevant. If it sets itself up against the righteousness and holiness of God, is an abomination to Him.
Wow. It’s a sobering thought, isn’t it? And it does go some way to explaining God’s extreme solution – the blood and the death of His Son. There really is no other way. Within this context, pride is particularly relevant. It is, in many ways, the root of abomination. Examine any sin you can think of, and you’ll find pride somewhere at the root of it. While on one level it’s entirely true to say that pride is essentially, like our peacock, the illusion that we seem bigger than we are. In retrospect, perhaps this is the very reason why God placed that particularly dumb but showy bird on earth – to remind us of us particular truth and warn us of its consequences.
To understand the deeper implications of pride and the subtle but powerful role it plays in every single conceivable sin, let’s look at two examples. The first, of course, is Lucifer, who manifested the first instance of pride in the full expanse of eternity. His motive was to ‘be like the Most High.’ His sin may ultimately have manifested as rebellion, covetousness, sowing discord, and manipulating others, but it was, first and foremost, pride. He made himself, in his own mind, bigger than he really was, and this prompted him to act in order to fulfill that illusion, to make it reality. The first sin was pride, and the rest flowed out of it.
The second example is his temptation of Eve. Yes, there was deception. Yes, Adam an Eve’s sin was ultimately one of disobedience. But it was pride that started the ball rolling. What was the one thing that had Eve questioning God’s commands and integrity? Pride – ‘you will be like Him.’ This is the subtle but fundamental premise behind each and every single sin we could ever think of. Pride is our incorrect perception of our proper place.This has nothing to do with manmade hierarchies or social and political ranks. It’s about the order that God has instituted in creation, and His absolute sovereignty over all.
The obvious opposite to pride is, of course, humility – which is, in essence, a recognition and acceptance of our proper place. This is the very basic ‘battleground’ in the Christian conflict. It is recognising and rejoicing in who and what we really are rather than seeking the illusion of what we think we are or deserve. It is pride that drives the world to the new age teachings of divinity of self, positive thinking, and my destiny is within my consciousness. All these things are simply saying that we have the capacity, the intelligence, the sensitivity, and the ability to be like God.
Pride manifests in the human tendency to abuse the concept for free will – which is, ironically, a gift of grace from God Himself. I have the right to make my own choices, to do what I like, have what I want, behave any way I see fit, and decide what is important to me. This is, of course, absolutely true. We do have all that. God gave it to us. But here’s a sobering thought: Satan had that too. His punishment is not for exercising his God-given free will but for making choices that elevated him beyond his proper place. The minute my ‘right’ to free will becomes more important than God and His will, plans, purposes, and divine order, I’ve essentially put myself exactly where Satan did.
Humility is not a popular concept. Everything we experience and learn in life is geared towards upending this godly requirement. Consider the plethora of self-help books, for which there is a rapidly growing market, and the increase of psychology-based programmes which focus on developing self-esteem, confidence, and self-recognition. At this point, it’s important to understand that these are not generically wrong. I studied psychology as a sub-major at university, and it has provided an excellent understanding of the flesh and the things that drive us. Everything has real value, but it’s our application of it that creates the problem. While all of these teachings are sound and helpful, the vast majority of them exclude God and His righteous requirements completely.
We are taught, shaped, and pressured to place self first. My rights, my potential, my destiny, my self-worth, my rewards. This is pride. Self, or the flesh, is the place where pride lives in me. This truth goes a long way towards explaining the reality that we are born in sin. We are born as flesh into the world, and our inheritance is that of ‘our father the devil.’ We are, essentially, born proud. It’s a kind of spiritual legacy, a spiritual gene, as it were. But, and this is important, we were never intended to be proud, and that is the entire point of salvation.
Pride is an abomination, because it is the point of confrontation between the things of God and the things of the flesh. It instigates and empowers every possible conceivable sin. It feeds the flesh and makes for feel-good, and it’s the one place in all of us where the devil retains a measure of control. If he can push the pride button, he can manipulate the response, and he can encourage us to sin and keep on sinning. While we have the wonderful grace of God through which we are forgiven, saved, and made righteous in Christ, the ‘genetic weakness’ remains. We need to be aware of it and watchful for it so that we can deal with the temptations and promptings of Satan.
Fundamentally, the ultimate responsibility lies with us. We cannot dispute that the devil will attack. The Bible tells us that. But the Bible also tells us how to deal with it, and the very first thing is to acknowledge our own accountability. James 4:7 says, Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. What’s the first thing? Submit to God. What does this mean? It means recognising and accepting our proper place in Him and in His divine order. It means acknowleding His sovereignty and holiness, and that we are sinners by our fleshly nature, and can do nothing without Him. It means confessing that Christ is Lord, and that He is our only hope of glory. It means taking accountability for who, what, and where we are spiritually.
Submission – humility – means that we acknowledge that we are entirely honest. While the devil may harrass, oppress, and attack, we open the gates to our Trojan horse which is pride. True humility is the yielding of self to the sovereignty of God. And true submission is the only effective antidote against the devil. It’s effective because it works first in us. If we can deal with pride the minute it raises it’s ugly head – though it may masquerade as any number of other things – we’ve already defeated Satan. We remove his ‘secret weapon,’ the one thing we least suspect but the one thing that is always present in our rebellions.
We do have free choice, and God requires us to exercise it wisely and righteously. We can either feed the illusion, or we can embrace the reality. The question we should all ask is perhaps, “Does this raise me up above my proper place which is submission to the righteousness and holiness of God?” If it does, it’s sin, and not simply sin of this or that. Its root is pride, and we should yank it out by the roots there and then, lest we find ourselves in rebellion against heaven and the Most High God. Abomination is a harsh word, and one not to take lightly.
Lord, forgive us for not seeing that pride is at the root of all our sins and rebellions. Grant us the grace to submit ourselves to You in all things. Guard our hearts, and teach us to exercise the gift of free will in a manner that will bring You glory and manifest Your righteousness in a world that denies Your power and majesty.