The worst sin is the one we feel the best about.
The seven deadly sins are a group of vices assembled according to early Christian thought (pride, greed, wrath, envy, lust, gluttony, and sloth). I used to dismiss them as little more than a medieval naughty list.
But maybe that list is more accurate than I thought, especially the way it starts with pride. In the famous registry of things the Lord hates, Proverbs 6:17 tells us the top item is “a proud look” (NKJV). It’s the sin that leads the pack.
During the last few weeks here on the blog I’ve talked about ceremonial laws that illustrate sin in the Bible. Think about what happens as someone in Leviticus 13 develops leprosy of the head (v. 29). When something is wrong with the rest of your body, you can see it. But if something is wrong with your head, you don’t see it, not without the help of a mirror, or the comments of others. It virtually remains invisible to you.
That’s what pride does. It renders everything wrong with me invisible, and by default, exaggerates every good thing about me. In fact, if pride allows me to critique myself at all, it is a critique that still manages to elevate my ego:
I guess I tend toward being a perfectionist. Translated, that means I have incredibly high standards, as Ozymandius would have said, “Look upon my works, ye mighty, and despair!”
I just don’t know how to quit sounds like a confession, but can really become a commentary on the tenacity of my character, making me a regular Rambo of virtue.
And you’ve heard all the rest (or variations of them): Sorry, but I call it like I see it (an apology for bluntness, but a subtle reminder that one is a paragon of honesty), I’ve got to discipline myself; I eat like a horse (someone skinny apologizing for overeating at dinner, but really just drawing attention to their naturally blessed high metabolism).
I don’t want to get nit-picky here, but we play a lot of these games without meaning to.
Pride can get far uglier, though. It grants a sense of entitlement to things one does not deserve. Consider the story of King Uzziah in 2 Chronicles chapter 26. At the height of his accomplishments and strength, after he had successfully defended the interests of God’s people, and while his praises were being sung from all quarters, then he stepped across a line into ruin. It hadn’t happened when he was depressed and had drunk too many goblets of wine. It was when things had never been better. Flush with accomplishments, he entered the temple, and sought to offer incense to God, a service belonging only to the priesthood.
He was confronted by the priests, and would probably have withstood them, except that leprosy suddenly sprang up on his forehead. That’s right. On his head. What had long been a problem growing undetected and unseen within this successful ruler, had sprung into full manifestation.
How many of us, even for short seasons, have felt certain forms of delusional exaltation. Because of praiseworthy achievements, prowess of some type, excellent reputation, outward beauty, talents, skills, or wealth, we see boundaries as being for lesser people. This sense of entitlement born of pride–a leprosy of the head–could describe every individual on earth. And if left alone, indulged in, boasted in, will ultimately prove fatal.
In every case dealing with leprosy in Leviticus, two things must be involved for salvation: a priest and a sacrifice. This was what people began to discover about Christ in the gospels:
“There came a man full of leprosy. And when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and begged him, ‘Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.’ And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, ‘I will; be clean.’ And immediately the leprosy left him” (Luke 5:12-13).
And this is what we discover about Christ in full today:
“He holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself” (Heb. 7:24-27).