Pride is said to be the mother of all other sins. It’s true, that pretty much every kind of sin can be traced back to an issue of pride. In the book of Luke, Christ presents a parable to illustrate the seriousness of a prideful mindset.
Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.
The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.
I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.
This Pharisee is as prideful as any person can get. One would note that he is not a thief or an adulterer. In fact, apparently he fasts twice a week and even gives tithes of most of his possessions, which are most likely numerous. This man certainly follows the letter of the law, but he completely misses the spirit of the law. Meaning, on the outside all seems to be good. He obeys all the major commandments and makes sure his life is in accordance to the more temporal of God’s laws. However, the underlying reasons behind these commandments he has either ignored or simply missed. God’s commandments bring us closer to Christ. Obviously, this prideful Pharisee is anywhere but close to Christ. In fact, note the wording “prayed thus with himself.” He’s not even praying to God, but instead, he’s offering a narcissistic prayer to feed his ego.
And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.
I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted. (Luke 18:10-14)
Publicans were the tax collectors. Just like today… they were despised. So much, in fact, that they were thrown into the same category as the overall sinners, the thieves and harlots and such. “Publicans and sinners” is a common phrase in the New Testament. Now, tax collecting doesn’t make one a sinner, ’cause we’re all sinners. This humble observation is something the Pharisee missed, but the publican remembered quite well.
He acknowledged the fact that he was a sinner and asked for God’s mercy to be upon him. Although the Pharisee most likely kept the law better than him, this man’s humility and his admittance of sin justified him.
What do we learn from this parable? We are all sinners, and we all rely on God to support us. With Him we are truly nothing, capable of achieving nothing. If we boast of our own strength, we will be left to our own strength (which is nothing). But if we are humble and acknowledge our dependence upon Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, they will lift us up.