While talking about my work with young men who struggle with purity, my spiritual director once told me something that has stuck with me for years; she said, “Jesus is harsher against pride than he is against any other sin, including lust.”
I have been thinking about this for a while and it is very true. Look at the Biblical evidence. When faced with sexual sins of others, this is how Jesus reacted:
“The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such. What do you say about her?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the eldest, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus looked up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again.””
When dealing with lust, he says:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.”
The teaching could be summarized in the following points:
- Avoid lusting after others and also avoid the situations/things that tempt you to lust.
- Don’t commit adultery with your body OR mind.
- Repent when you have sinned sexually.
While He does not say it isn’t a serious sin, but he is MUCH harsher on pride.
Here are some verses where he talks about pride – notice there are many more instances of rebuking pride than there are sexual sin:
“Beware of the scribes who like to walk around in long robes, and like respectful greetings in the market places, and chief seats in the synagogues, and places of honor at banquets, who devour widows’ houses, and for appearance’s sake offer long prayers; these will receive greater condemnation.” -Mark 12:38-40
“Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the front seats in the synagogues, and the respectful greetings in the market places. “Woe to you! For you are like concealed tombs, and the people who walk over them are unaware of it.” -Luke 11:43-44
“The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
The writers of the New Testament epistles echo these harsh warnings against pride:
“‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ Submit yourselves therefore to God. “-James 4:6-7 AND 1 Peter 5:5
Furthermore, in opposition to pride, Jesus praises those who are humble:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” -Matt 5:3
“every one who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.” -Luke 18:14
Pride makes us believe we don’t need God. We are either too good or too bad for God. In turn, pride makes us incapable of turning our lives over to God, because we make ourselves into autonomous creatures who have no need of a Savior or Lord. In other words, pride makes us dependent on ourselves alone and God has no room or a limited place in our lives.
Many Saints have said that the most foundational of all virtues is humility, because without a dose of humility, we aren’t open to God’s love and grace. This is why Jesus was much harsher on pride than sexual sins.
In fact, Jesus frequently uses the humiliation and shame of sexual sins to crush our pride and increase our humility – so we depend on Him even more. God can take something bad and bring something good out of it. With that in mind, we are to become like Christ who was the model of humility. As St. Paul says:
“Do nothing from selfishness or conceit, but in humility count others better than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.” – Phil 2:3-8