How Pride Robs Us of Intimacy With God

I once heard the story about an Army officer who had just been promoted to colonel. He was feeling pretty high on himself and kept catching himself looking in the mirror saying, “I’m a colonel now,” and saluting himself. (Don’t act like you’ve never been there.)

As this Colonel is getting his new office arranged, he hears a knock at the door and says, “Who is it?”

The guy answers, “It’s Private Andrews.”

The colonel thinks, “Oh, I’ll impress this kid,” so he picks up his phone and starts speaking loudly. “Yes, Mr. President, I know, Mr. President, I understand, Mr. President. Yes, I’ll get right on it, Mr. President. Thank you.”

Then he says, “OK, come in, Private.” When the young man enters, the Colonel says, “I’m sorry I had you wait there. I’m not sure if you heard: I had to finish up my conversation with the president. What can I do for you, son?”

The private sheepishly answers, “I’m sorry, sir, I was just sent over by the communications department … to hook up your phone.”

Pride makes us look foolish. Pride is the root sin behind so many other sins and spiritual dysfunctions. Pride was at the heart of Adam and Eve’s first rebellion. No wonder C.S. Lewis called pride the granddaddy of all sins.

The apostle Paul introduces a list of spiritual gifts in Romans 12 with a warning: “For by the grace given to me, I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he should think. Instead, think sensibly, as God has distributed a measure of faith to each one” (Rom. 12:3).

You see, if we think too highly of ourselves, we won’t feel the necessity of God working in our lives through the spiritual gifts of others, and we won’t pursue the intimate connections in the church necessary to experience them.

If someone is not submitted to God, it’s because ultimately they think they are capable of making it through life on their own. They think they know better than God. If someone doesn’t pray and fellowship with God regularly, it’s because deep down they just don’t feel that desperate for God. They assume given enough time and energy they can figure things out.

If a person is not generous, it’s because they assume they are the one primarily responsible for their successes.

If a person is not connected to the church, it’s because they think they already possess everything they need to make life work.

At the root of all these choices is the proud assumption that I just don’t need the grace of God deeply and intimately at work in my life.

The gospel teaches us the right way to think about ourselves. But pride messes up our lives in so many ways. It keeps us from getting the help we need and just ends up making us look foolish.

Pride keeps you from acknowledging the help you need. And it keeps you from seeking deep connection to the church that you need if God is going to minister to you through spiritual gifts.

Like Paul says in Romans 12:3, pride doesn’t just keep you from thinking sensibly; it literally makes you act a fool.

J.D. Greear
J.D. Greear

J.D. Greear is the pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, and is currently serving as the 62nd president of the Southern Baptist Convention. He is the author of several books, including most recently Essential Christianity: The Heart of the Gospel in Ten Words (The Good Book Company).