Spiritual Pride – the Biggest Sin?

Bull said:

If I asked you “what is the biggest and most frequent Sin in churches around the world today?” what would be your answer?

Some might say “greed” or “adultery” (husband/wife) or even “spiritual adultery” (God/other things).

I think the problems in churches are caused by many things including what I have listed. However the root “sin” that produces all these things is “spiritual pride”

Here is an example … “I tithe my gross income!” (look what a good boy I am.)
“I don’t tithe … I give cheerfully” (sola scriptura, look what a good boy I am!)

Both positions have led to pride and self-righteousness. There is no humility at all. Passion for Jesus really comes from a realisation of what he has done and how we have been given a second chance. The trouble is, the longer we are believers the more this passion fades away. Bible knowledge can restore the passion, but it can also lead to pride and self-righteousness.

Whether or not spiritual pride is the biggest sin, it’s definitely a problem. As Bull pointed out, there is no group that is immune to it. All of us will suffer from it or be tempted to succumb to it in some way or other, at some time. Spiritual pride probably causes more division in the body of Christ at large than anything else, and prevents us from hearing one another, when we want to be right more than we want truth. It causes some to side with the powerful, to be right by association, while others are rejected because they don’t fit. There is pride in right theology, pride in the most amazing experiences, pride in the music, pride in the good looking crowd, pride in the building. Yet none of these things on their own are necessarily bad until the pride seeps in. Even ODM’s (thanks for the acronym, Teddy!) can fall victims to pride. It undoes us all.

How do we abide in Christ when we are proud? Does this kind of thing kill people’s genuine passion? If all the externals were taken away, and there was no-one to compare anything with, and just Christ left, would the passion remain?

Dwelling on the person of Christ seems to be the answer to me. Not necessarily perfect worship, theology or anything else, or even doing anything of note. Though all those things have value. Just experiencing the Person He is, revealed through scripture. The stark contrast between Jesus and the rest of the world. When we look at things like pride and its effects, and then look back at Him. Light in the darkness. He is wonderful, and that brings me both joy and passion.

21 thoughts on “Spiritual Pride – the Biggest Sin?

  1. The comment is fair enough but I gotta say!!! –
    Why is Sola Scriptura (the teaching that the Bible is the only inspired and authoritative word of God) akin to being anti-tithing? I know of reformed Christian Scholars who would consider it necessary to die in a trench in defending Sola Scriptura (as I certainly do) who also promote the practice of tithing – Rev Dr Alan Cairns -former Pastor of Faith Free Presbyterian (yes I said Presbyterian), A.W. Pink – known for his staunchly Calvinist (yes I said Calvinist) teachings and author of “the Sovereignty of God” (very good book by the way) just as 2 examples from walks of life where one might not expect…

    If you asked me “what is the biggest and most frequent Sin in churches around the world today?” I would have to say that this comment from John Piper sums the issue up in THEORY:

    “The terrible condition of man’s heart will never be recognized by people who assess it only in relation to other men. Romans 14:23 makes plain that depravity is our condition in relation to God primarily, and only secondarily in relation to man. Unless we start here we will never grasp the totality of our natural depravity.”

    And this comment of GK Chesterton sums it up in PRACTICE:

    (When The Times invited several eminent authors to write essays on the theme “What’s Wrong with the World?”) Chesterton’s contribution took the form of a letter:

    Dear Sirs, I AM. Sincerely yours, G. K. Chesterton

    Spiritual Pride? – I am guilty as charged – but thank God that Christ is a FAR BETTER saviour than I am a sinner….

  2. Mosco, I am not Calvinist, but I could listen to Piper all day.
    That quote is so true, so damning, and so …not said much these days. He is one of my favorite guys. And as you no doubt know, one of the reasons he took time off was because he found pride in his heart. Though I suspect it was probably a speck. So there you go – he’s a man who is probably taking out the speck. Maybe when he comes back he’ll be taking out some beams. (Sorry, that should be planks)

  3. That was great Teddy! Loved this:

    “I am a soldier of the Cross if I join Campus Crusade, Boys’ Brigade, the Salvation Army, or the Wheaton Crusaders; of if I put on the helmet of Dispensationalism, the breastplate of Pietism, the shield of Tribulationism, and the sword of Zionism, having my feet shod with the gospel of Arminianism.”

  4. I have great difficulty separating pride from lying, adultery, idolatry and unbelief. I remember posting up this article on Fergusson’s poem about the church to Hillsong:


    With the rise of the Pentecostal or the Charismatic movement, the church turned itself into an idol. It’s evident through the teachings and end-times doctrines we are hearing these days. The ‘church’ doesn’t believe in the power of God anymore but in the power of man. It’s in this blindness we are actually not believing in God but our own strength to get things done.

    Lies, distortion and deception were already working behind the big pentecostal smile and positivism doctrines. And with spiritual adultery, we worship vision statements, leaders, money, successful stories and Christian consumer markets. I think I’m seeing this from more of an Hebraic world view and have trouble singling one to be the greatest sin. Jesus said unbelief is the greatest sin.

    I think unbelief is the root underneath all sin. Lust, lies, adultery, idolatry and pride are just unbelief’s many flowers.

  5. HA hahhahah!!! brilliant Teddy

    Q: What are the seven deadly sins?
    A: The seven deadly sins are smoking, drinking, dancing, card-playing, movie-going, baptizing babies, and having any creed but Christ.

    Luke 18:11 “The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank you, that I am not as other men are, extortionists, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican – a smokin, drinkin, movie-goin, baby-baptizin heathen”

    Well done Teddy, now would you all bow your heads and pray this with me “MY FAITH IS BUILT ON NOTHING LESS THAN SCHOFIELD’S NOTES AND MOODY PRESS”

  6. “With the rise of the Pentecostal or the Charismatic movement, the church turned itself into an idol. It’s evident through the teachings and end-times doctrines we are hearing these days. The ‘church’ doesn’t believe in the power of God anymore but in the power of man. It’s in this blindness we are actually not believing in God but our own strength to get things done.” S&P

    I don’t think the Pentecostal/charismatic movement can be blamed in isolation for turning church into an idol.

    Hasn’t it always been the way? There have been numerous movements over the centuries where the church organisation becomes more the focus than Christ.

    It’s a constant temptation for men to build their own kingdom, whatever the form, and to then focus on building it themselves, rather than trusting in Christ to do so.

    Even with the best intentions, the line can be hard to pinpoint too, between spreading the good news, but standing back and letting the Holy Spirit do the work, or spreading the good news and trying to pressure or manipulate people into accepting it.

    For example, look at the old paintings of hell and its torments. These were displayed in churches to frighten people into trying to serve God. Those people may have been illiterate, but the images spoke loudly in place of words. Were people convicted to follow God via the Holy Spirit, or did they only know fear, and never really know Him? But the churches would have looked full.

    The road Christ spoke of really is narrow. There is a reason he cautioned his disciples about not ruling over one another.

    The Pentecostal movement has fallen into the same old trap of trying to build its own kingdom – which is what S&P said – “we are actually not believing in God but our own strength to get things done”. I agree that this is a form of unbelief manifested in pride.

    I don’t think its right to speak of Pentecostalism or the Charismatic movement as though nothing good ever came of it though. Personally, I think that just like many other movements, God has used it to restore some things into the church at large.

    Its just that it has also fallen into the same mistakes as others. In this global, technological age, maybe its happening on a faster and grander scale, relative to other movements.

    The same thing will happen to any movement that becomes too proud to listen to the rest of the body, or that focuses more on its own growth than on knowing and encouraging others to know the person of Christ Himself.

  7. “The same thing will happen to any movement that BECOMES too proud to listen to the rest of the body, or that focuses more on its own growth than on knowing and encouraging others to know the person of Christ Himself.”

    I say Amen but (speaking as an ex-pentecostal myself) 1901 Topeka, Kansas Petecostal/Charasmatic tounges obsessed movement has had MUCH less time to reflect on its pride than “the rest of the body”….

  8. Been reading about John Henry Newman as he’s about to be made into a sub-saint (one ascribed miracle as some geezer prayer to him for healing and got it … the future of Pentecostalism is to eventually join in with roman Catholicism … if we are here that long)

    He was involved in the beginnings of the Oxford Movement.

    It was basically the idea that the Catholic church had three branches (Anglicanism, Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodox) which had a formal apostolic succession and therefore had Apostolic Authority as per the original 12 Apostles, including Peter.

    Newman eventually rejected this idea and joined the Roman Church and in the fullness of time became a Cardinal.

    The Church is an idol for the Roman Catholics. Authority is bestowed upon it and it must be obeyed … or you are not a good catholic.

    Regarding Sola Scriptura, it is bound up with the concept of Salvation (By Grace alone through Faith alone in Christ Alone.)

    Tithing doctrine is thus subsequently relegated to a legalistic mindset and a secular mindset. The Lutheran church was supported by a tax levied by the state in those princely states that went protestant during the reformation. However, I believe that the states merely switched which church the levy was given to.

    In any event, churches that impose a legalistic tithe are effectively taxing their members.

    I do believe that Tithing Doctrine and (By Grace alone through Faith alone in Christ Alone) are mutually exclusive.


  9. Really good posts here. And it made me remember stuff. Pride really is an amazing thing.

    Talk about pure Pentecostals. I know from first hand experience that it’s possible to get proud over the fact that you are REALLY depending only on God and REALLY living purely and solely on the Word of God and the moving of the Holy Spirit. That’s where it starts. The idea that churches have all gotten it wrong, but the church you go to is the most faithful and pure. And that in that church, there are the select few.

    The heart of man is desperately wicked. It’s possible to hate the prosperity doctrine and be as greedy as hell. And there are no doubt people trying to be famous by critiquing Pastors who want to be famous.

    So yeah, I agree that pride is the worst. Others are a lot easier to identify. Most people know when they have lust. But some of us only realize our pride when we look back.

    The antidote to pride. “When I survey the wondrous cross ….. and pour contempt on all my pride”.

  10. RP: “I don’t think the Pentecostal/charismatic movement can be blamed in isolation for turning church into an idol.”

    Not in isolation, but in general, these movements quite noticeably let idolatry walk in pretty quickly.

  11. I’ve said before, it’s getting harder to separate some of the doctrines, practices and objects from the pente/charismatic from the actual catholic church. I’ve heard Pringle and other pentecostal and Charismatic leaders say they ‘meet the pope’. Whether it is true or not, their idolatry in leadership would make the papacy attractive.

    Jeff Crabtree and other artistic ministers of similar mega-churches also praise the art in the Vatican and teach about excellence in the arts to build God’s house/kingdom. The stage is being set for the Papacy to extend it’s hand towards the protestant evangelical community and they would be more than willing to hold his hand.

    We’ve even had Benny Hinn recently lie to look as though he had some right standing with some type of papal authority in regards to Vatican art restoration.

    (Either he wanted to look good that way or used that as an excuse to deny his affair.)

  12. Pride….the sin that was the downfall of Lucifer, was the downfall of Adam and Eve (you shall be as God)….pride. Pride goes before destruction, and has been the downfall of many a man, woman, church/ministry.

    So what exactly is pride? And what exactly is humility? If you were to ask this question in a Catholic church or in a modern pentecostal/charismatic church, you would most likely be told that pride is assuming that you know what’s what and humility is submitting to the authority of the church/priest/pastor and doing what you’re told. In fact, I should not limit this to churches – there are para-church organisations that operate in this manner, but I’m not naming any names.
    According to the Catholic Church, the Reformationists were overcome by pride because they challenged the authority of the church – were they, truly?? Individually, it is quite possible that one or several displayed pride in their demeanour – but the Reformation was not due to the sin of pride, was it? Surely the pride is on the side of those who refused to submit to the authority of the Scriptures, even when pointed out.

    Pride and humility are primarily linked to how we relate to God, first of all, and then to others.
    Pride is – my way or the highway. Humility – God’s way. Period. No alternative, no threats, no bullying.

    I’m no calvinist either, but I completely agree with the John Piper quote above – when we recognise that there is NOTHING GOOD in ourselves and that all we are and all we have is because of Christ the Lord, the Redeemer, it becomes easier to be humble. We got nothing to be proud of!!

    @Churchman – really like the quote from the hymn! One of my all-time favourites!!

  13. Some great comments here. So much to respond to, and so worth reflecting upon.

    Specks – we’ve commented on the similarity of the structure of the Catholic church to that of megachurches (the ones we know, anyway) before, haven’t we. Yet, I am told that Christine Pringle has commented a number of times disparaging Catholicism. This has made ex-Catholics in the congregation quite uncomfortable.

    It would seem very strange then if they then wanted to get closer to the Pope, or try to reinforce their legitimacy in some areas by associating themselves with Catholic things. Speculating on the art aspect is fun.

    Here is a link to a former post on a piece of art in St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. It does have some bearing on the topic of pride, too:


    I wonder if we’ll see the like our modern day megachurches? I don’t think they’d go that far.

    Here is another lovely artwork from the Vatican.

    Vatican artwork

    Watch out women’s conferences! Here’s our new role model!

  14. RP: “Watch out women’s conferences! Here’s our new role model!”

    Oh RP!!! HA! What a HUGE insult! Can’t stop laughing!

    That’s Artemis, the Greek Mother Goddess of fertility!
    She is the many-breasted God and wears male testicles around her neck!
    Thanks RP for that!

    I’ve been researching the arts in the Vatican. A lot of them are demonic in origin. I’m starting to understand why Calvin had such an issue with idols in the church and why the reformers were calling the Pope and the Vatican such disgusting names.

  15. In response to RP’s quesiton to the original topic:
    “How do we abide in Christ when we are proud?”

    I would say even the proud are in Christ. Jesus won’t reject the proud, he will simply humble them. But we need to make sure that our identity is not built on our own works, which can give us great status.

    I am thankful that my identity is based on Christ’s work and not my own. We should be humbled by the cross in what God has done for us and not what we are ‘destined’ to do for God.

    Does this kind of thing kill people’s genuine passion?

    Pride doesn’t kill our passion, it replaces our passion with luke-warmness. I have no problem being a ‘king’s kid’. I do have a problem if I’m king of my own castle. To simply build a man-made church and live in it is not what we are called to do.

    To simply sit in what we have made is to lose passion and to proud of what we’ve accomplished. It’s hard to progress if we’re infected with pride.

    “If all the externals were taken away, and there was no-one to compare anything with, and just Christ left, would the passion remain?”

    Yes! I think anyone who is honoured to meet a king face to face, would pledge service to them. I can’t imagine anyone here saying, “Sorry Jesus! I know you are here in me and I’m meeting to you, but I haven’t got any passion to continue”.

    If the King of Truth and Love is in us, how can we not do anything for him?

  16. Without reading the whole thread, I would say from understanding of Scripture the biggest sin if you could call it that is turning your back on God. A life in hell awaits. I don’t like where this thread is going, sorry, “spiritual pride, ” come on people, those who started it I would wonder where their spiritual pride is! 😉

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