“Pride is spiritual cancer: it eats up the very possibility of love, or contentment, or even common sense” C.S. Lewis
Before going any further with this week’s writing, allow me to say it is only with prayerful reticence that I am going forward with an extensive analogy between cancer and pride, for out of discretion to those suffering from cancer I almost chose not to. I lost my father and countless other friends to this scourge we call cancer. I am sure everyone reading this has known someone who has dealt with and fought against this disease. At this very moment I have at least seven close friends battling various forms of cancer. It is precisely because this word “cancer” strikes fear in all of our hearts that after prayerful consideration I still chose to use it here.
Many have fought battles with cancer and won; sadly some of our friends and family members like my dad have succumb to the ravages of this illness and passed away. When that happens, both the person with the disease and those left behind, rest in the comfort of eternal salvation won for all who believe in Jesus Christ. So therefore, we have hope because the cancer cannot take away eternal life.
Pride however, is the cancer of our soul, and when left unchecked inside of us, it then metastasizes itself in our relationships and interactions with others and eventually it can cause spiritual death and loss of eternal life. It is for that reason that I have deemed pride “The world’s deadliest cancer“.
If pride is the deadliest cancer of our soul, just how bad is it? In his book, Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis called pride “the great sin.”He then went on to say this; “According to Christian teachers, the essential vice, the utmost evil, is Pride. Unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere flea bites in comparison: it was through Pride that the devil became the devil: Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind.” He continues on by saying “it is Pride which has been the chief cause of misery in every nation and every family since the world began.” So I guess you could say pride is a cancer at catastrophic pandemic levels.
Great Christian thinkers and writers including Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, Luther and many others all believed pride was the root of all evil. It is often thought of as the devil’s most effective and useful tool. Catholics, Eastern Orthodox and Protestant together in unison agree on the dangers of pride.
We may not yet know the origin of many of the forms of physical cancer, however we know the origin of the spiritual cancer we call pride. Its origin is Satan and pride makes its debut as early as chapter 3 in Genesis. There Satan worked to convince our first parents Adam and Eve to disobey God and to eat the forbidden fruit. Pride after all is ultimately the refusal to submit to God and accept His truth. These cancer cells of pride have been passed down through every generation since the fall in the Garden of Eden
From a spiritual perspective I submit to you that there are two types of pride and they are personal pride and relational pride. We see personal pride at work when it blocks our ability to truly see our self and see our flaws. Pride also works closely with shame when we do see our faults but are too proud to admit these weaknesses to others. I know I spend most of my life keeping my personal struggles to myself because of pride and when we do this we cause ourselves to suffer alone. It is because of pride that we think we can do things beyond our own capability. We see relational pride at work when pride causes us to over exaggerate the flaws of others while simultaneously we diminish the reality of our own flaws.
If we are going to be effective evangelizers in God’s kingdom then we must shed our pride and acknowledge just how dependent we are on God’s mercy for our own salvation; it is then and only then that we can we be effective in reaching and evangelizing others with the good news of God’s desire for their salvation.
When we are infected with soul threatening stage four relational cancer we react with attitudes like this: “I and my chosen religious denomination alone have all of the total truths of God, every person who does not believe exactly what I believe or is not a member of my chosen denomination or who fails to see things from my perspective is wrong or worse yet, condemned to hell”. Statements like this demonstrate an arrogant pride at its zenith and a total lack of Christ-like outreach to others. This approach will never cause someone to see the world from our point of view. There is an old saying people don’t care what you know until they know that you care.
When confronting someone who seems distant or far away from God through the manner of their living, either through greedy actions, adulterous affairs, substance or sexual or porn addictions, abortion doctors, prostitutes, agnostics, atheists, homosexuals or others who live what appears to be an inappropriate way of life will NEVER come to understand Jesus, nor His love for them by us simple hurling bible quotes at them, or quoting the texts form the bible that tell them they are “going to hell”. We must always remember that just because we see these other people’s sins as worse than our own does not mean God sees their sins any differently than ours.
We must first shed our own pride and realize we don’t always stay on God’s path either. We too make our own mistakes in life. Our mistakes and our sins are ours, theirs are theirs. We will do much better when we approach them with love and let them know we care about them and ALLOW THEM TO SEE THAT WE TOO ARE SINNERS DEPENDENT ON GOD, not someone who has all the answers in life but another person who like them seeks the answers and by God’s grace just happens to know and depend on the one God who does have the answers.
In other words we must love others back to God, one person at a time. From my own perspective, as a result of pride, self- righteous indignant Christians have done more to damage the cause of Christianity in the world throughout time than any other cause. Remember, Christ showed love, even to sinners. He “invited” them to see the love He had to offer. He even loved those who persecuted him. C.S. Lewis makes the important point that Christianity mandates that one “love your neighbor as yourself.”
Let’s take a look at a few verses from the Bible:
“Pride goes before disaster and a haughty spirit before a fall.”
“For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he is deluding himself.”
“You see those who are wise in their own eyes? There is more hope for fools than for them.”
Medical science is still pursuing the cure for physical cancer, however God has already given us the cure for the spiritual cancer of pride. Jesus himself has shown us that cure. Paul in Philippians 2:8 says that Jesus “humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.” If we want to gain the cure for this deadly cancer we must also learn to be humble.
We demonstrate humility when we recognize our dependence on God and of our absolute need for submitting ourselves to Him. This is the only remedy for pride. If we are humble people we know not to rely on our own strength. True humility involves our readiness to place ourselves at the disposal of others.
Once we truly humble ourselves we can present ourselves to those others that I mentioned above who live lives contrary to what we know to be God’s desires with a new level of compassion and understanding. They will see that we too are people like them who are trying to make it in a difficult world. They will encounter our inner joy that comes from our dependence on God. It is when we do this, that they will become interested in finding out more about our source of joy. It is then that slowly we can begin to introduce them to Jesus and eventually share the love of God revealed in the Bible’s salvation story and then they will encounter the Bible as a love story rather than a book of condemnation.
Let’s reflect on just a few more Bible verses.
“When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.”
“God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
So in our human physical world we all are acutely aware of the prevalence and dangers of cancer. Today I hope I have helped you to see the even greater prevalence of this even more deadly spiritual cancer called pride. The good news is that there is a cure for it called humility. Perhaps, since we are all infected with pride at some level, we should seek out our first treatment today. The best news of all is that humility comes with no side effects other than the salvation of more souls for Christ.
Allow me to close by asking you these three questions. In fact, may I encourage you right now to just take a few more minutes and actually write down the answers to these questions? (Stop, grab your paper and pen, then keep reading) Please keep in mind that just like real cancer is usually hard to detect, pride too is so much easier to see in someone else’s life and often hard to see in our own life.
WE ARE CALLED TO LOVE GOD ABOVE ALL ELSE
How is my pride hurting me personally and negatively impacting my relationship with God?
WE ARE CALLED TO LOVE OUR NEIGHBOR AS CHRIST LOVES US
How does my own pride prevent me from being a more Christ-like, understanding, compassionate, and empathetic person when I respond to what I perceive to be sinful living in someone else’s life?
How could shedding my pride help me reach other people who are lost, broken and living in sinful patterns of life with the message of Jesus’ unconditional love?
May I suggest that you share these answers with your weekly gathering of Christian friends and use these for a meaningful discussion?
Dear Heavenly Father and most Divine Healer, I come to you today with two petitions. Please touch the lives of all people suffering the effects physical cancer and comfort them with your love. Also Father, please point out in me all forms of cancerous pride and help me to root it out with true Christ like humility, amen.