My Musings on Mere Christianity (Part 2): C.S. Lewis on The Great Sin of Pride
Last Friday, I blogged about C.S. Lewis on sexual morality (See it here). Today, I’ll be blogging about what Lewis calls the great sin.
Lewis starts describing the great sin (or vice) with the following:
There is one vice of which no man in the world is free; which every one in the world loathes when he sees it in someone else; and of which hardly any people, except Christians, ever imagine that they are guilty themselves. I have hear people admit that they are bad-tempered, or that they cannot keep their heads about girls and drink, or even that they are cowards. I do not think I have ever heard anyone, who was not a Christian, who showed the slightest mercy to it in others. There is no fault which makes a man more unpopular, and no fault which we are more unconscious of in ourselves. And the more we have it in ourselves, the more we dislike it in others.1
So what is this great sin that “no man in the world is free,” which “every one in the world loathes when he see it in others?” It is pride or self-conceit. (Before I continue, let me say that I do not believe that every Christian accuse himself of pride and shows mercy to others when he finds it in them. Sadly, there are Christians who are puffed-up, and refuse to show mercy to proud people. They are blinded by their own pride. And I confess I am one of them).
Pride is the essential vice, the utmost evil. Other vices (unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness, etc.) are fleabites in comparison. It was because of pride that the devil became the devil. Pride leads to every other vice. No wonder Lewis calls pride “the complete anti-God state of mind.”2
Lewis says that pride is essentially competitive. Meaning, it is competitive in nature:
Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. We say that people are proud of being rich, or clever, or good-looking, but they are no. They are proud of being richer, or cleverer, or better-looking than others. If every one else became equally rich, or clever, or good-looking there would be nothing to be proud about. It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element of competition has gone, pride has gone. That is why I say that Pride is essentially competitive in a way the other vices are not.2
If this is the case, then the competitive nature of pride will lead to rivalry and conceit (Philippians 2:3). It was because of pride that the apostle Paul calls the Philippians to humility.
After talking about the competitive nature of pride, Lewis goes further by calling it enmity:
Other vices may sometimes bring people together: you may find good fellowship and jokes and friendliness among drunken people or unchaste people. But Pride always means enmity—it is enmity. And not only enmity between man and man, but enmity to God.3
So why is pride also (and I believe first and foremost) enmity to God? Lewis writes:
In God you come up against something which is in every respect immeasurable superior to yourself. Unless you know God as that—and, therefore, know yourself as nothing in comparison—you do not know God at all. As long as you are proud you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on things and people: and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you.4
Lewis is right! As long as someone is proud, he cannot know God. No wonder the people who, in their pride, do not admit their sinfulness and also their need of a Savior do not get saved. Proud people cannot be saved. They cannot know God.
So how come people who are eaten up with pride say they believe God and appear very religious? Lewis says that they are just worshiping an imaginary God. Ouch!
More on C.S. Lewis next week. Keep in touch.
1C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York, NY: Walker and Company, 1987), 186-187.
2C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, 188.
3C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, 190.
4C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, 191.