Sin whispers to the wicked, deep within their hearts. They have no fear of God at all. In their blind conceit, they cannot see how wicked they really are. [Psalm 36:1-2 (NLT)]
It’s easy to get so caught up in the importance of ourselves—our projects, possessions or purpose—that we forget it’s not really about us. Visiting a local nature preserve, I was walking on the boardwalk. This boardwalk is a bit different from most in our area—it’s low to the ground and has no railings. Its purpose is not to keep people dry and safe from alligators, snakes and other denizens of the swamp; its purpose is to keep the animals and their dry scrub habitat safe from us. The preserve is home to some 140 gopher tortoises, a protected species, and a wide assortment of native plants. Two absolutely beautiful prickly pear cacti were in full bloom but way out of decent photo range. Several signs were posted about not stepping off the boardwalk onto the fragile landscape. Mine had been the only car in the parking lot and I was sorely tempted to disobey. “I really want that photo! Who’d know? What harm could I do?” I asked myself. If I’d seen someone else stepping off the boardwalk, I would have admonished them for their lack of environmental concern! How could I even consider it? It was then that I recognized sin’s whisper in my ear and I stayed where I belonged. Nevertheless, I realized how easy it is to think my desires are more important than obedience.
A town north of us has a severe water shortage and asked residents to water lawns only once a week—in spite of being ticketed, people are still disregarding the restrictions. To them, their landscaping is more important than both their neighbors and the water shortage. Of course, when no water comes out of the hydrants during a fire, the color of their grass will be of no importance.
Why do we disobey laws (or God) so easily? C.S. Lewis might point to pride as the base cause. He asserts that pride essentially is competitive. Where vanity admires its own beauty and good looks, pride revels in being the best looking one in the room. Where greed enjoys amassing money or possessions, pride takes pleasure in having more money or things than its neighbor. While gluttony devours the richest food, pride delights in having an even richer and tastier feast than the glutton’s. When lust craves the sexual encounter, pride wants the bragging rights to a greater number of conquests. Pride is what makes people decide their lawns are more important than their city’s water supply and pride is what made me think that I deserved a photo op denied to others! Pride is what makes us think that we’re smarter, richer, prettier, wittier and more deserving than anyone else. We’re not!
Nearly all those evils in the world which people put down to greed or selfishness are really far more the result of Pride. … Pride is spiritual cancer: it eats up the very possibility of love, or contentment, or even common sense. [C.S. Lewis]