The Pride of Life

Friday, April 5, 2024

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Dear Pastors

The Pride of Life

For everything in the world--the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life--comes not from the Father but from the world”. 1 John 2:16 (NIV)

We don’t talk about this ‘sin’ very much these days. We hear a lot more about the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes or to put it in modern language – sexual impropriety and financial irregularities.

When I started in pastoral ministry back in 80’s we were told – warned – about the 3G’s. They were Gold, Girls and Glory. These days we would add ‘Girls OR Guys’. Gold and Girls were fairly obvious but Glory not quite so much.

I want to suggest that the use of the word ‘Glory’ in this context is exactly the same idea as what John refers to as the ‘pride of life’.

The NLT translates this verse as follows:- “For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world”.

So what exactly are we talking about:-

The pride of life can be defined as anything that is ‘of the world’, meaning anything that leads to arrogance, ostentation, pride in self, presumption, and boasting. John makes it clear that anything that produces the pride of life comes from a love of the world and “if anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” 1 John 2:15

The first example of the temptation of the pride of life occurs in the Garden of Eden, where Eve was tempted by the serpent to disobey God and eat the forbidden fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Eve perceived that the fruit was ‘good for food’, ‘pleasing to the eye,’ and ‘desirable for gaining wisdom’ Genesis 3:6

This is a huge challenge to most all of us, I think. We all want (and need) to feel that are our lives matter, that we have made meaningful contributions in life, that are lives are significant and that our work is important. That in large part is what it means to be human and to live a worthwhile life.

But there is a very thin line between a healthy sense of ‘significance’ and the pride of life as described above. In fact an over emphasis on significance (a good thing) can very quickly lead to pretension, over-stating the truth and a boasting that is worldly and carnal.

As I track many of the stories of Christian Leaders who have experienced a spectacular ‘fall from grace’ over the last 5 years this problem of the pride of life is very often present as one of the presenting problems. Sadly and tragically the love of fame, big stages, bright lights, business class seats, and endless accolades got the better of these folks most of whom started with a much more humble and modest attitude to life and ministry.

But in truth the problem is present for all of us, me included. How easy it is to talk about yourself too much, to exaggerate the truth, to always insist on using the term ‘Pastor’ in front of your name and to give off an air of importance that is far removed from the selfless and servant Jesus whom we serve? Yes, it is so easy to slip into this way of thinking and behaving.

So, today pastors and leaders, let’s do a heart check. Are you keeping a close eye on your ego? Are you super careful about how you respond and feel about people’s commendations? Are you careful about resisting the temptation to create outward impressions that are not true to who you are?

Finally, let’s ponder on this some more. In the values of the Kingdom of God it is the “meek that will inherit the earth”.


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