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)]

prickly pear cactusI enjoy stopping for a short stroll on the boardwalk of a local nature preserve that is home to well over 100 gopher tortoises (a protected species) and a wide assortment of native plants. The boardwalk is low to the ground and has no railing because it’s not there to protect people from the alligators and snakes of the swamp; it’s there to protect the animals and their dry scrub habitat from people! Several signs are posted about not stepping off it onto the fragile landscape. When I spotted an absolutely beautiful prickly pear cactus in full bloom, I was disappointed it was out of decent photo range. Since mine had been the only car in the parking lot, I was tempted to disobey the posted signs. “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, however, I would have admonished them for their lack of environmental concern! Recognizing sin’s whisper in my ear, I stayed put. Nevertheless, I realized how tempting it is to think my desires are more important than anything or anyone else.

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. Last year, a town north of us had a severe water shortage and asked residents to water lawns only once a week—yet, despite the city’s pleas, people disregarded the restrictions. Apparently, their landscaping took priority over the needs of their community. When no water comes out of the fire hydrants, however, the color of their grass will be of no importance.

I regularly see drivers run red lights, fail to yield right of way when entering roundabouts, and multi-task by texting, applying make-up, eating, and reading while driving. Apparently, their desire to get somewhere on their timeline takes precedence over anyone else’s safety. Of course, the few seconds they may save will be lost in an accident!

Why do we disobey laws (or God) so easily? What was it that made me (even briefly) think I deserved a photo denied to any but those with the finest camera and telephoto lens? The answer C.S. Lewis might give is pride. Calling it the “complete anti-God state of mind,” he considered pride the underlying cause of every other vice.

Competitive in nature, pride causes people to look down on things and other people. Could it be pride that makes people decide their lawns are more important than their city’s water supply or their destination is more important than the safety of their fellow drivers? Is it pride that causes us to think God’s commands, government regulations, traffic laws, community requirements, ethical principles,  moral standards, and even the rules of common courtesy apply to everyone else but not to us? Is it pride that makes us forget about doing unto others as we would have done to us? Could it be pride that makes us think that we deserve bigger, better, faster, fancier, sooner, or more than the other guy? It certainly was pride that allowed me to briefly think I deserved a photo op denied to others!

Pride means more than enmity between people; it is enmity to God. Faced with one infinitely superior to him, it was Satan’s pride that caused him to rebel and fall from heaven. It is our pride that makes us rebel, as well. We foolishly think that we’re better, smarter, richer, prettier, wittier, grander, saintlier, and more deserving than anyone else. We’re not!

It is pride which has been the chief cause of misery in every nation and every family since the world began. …Pride is spiritual cancer: it eats up the very possibility of love, or contentment, or even common sense. [C.S. Lewis]

“Scoffer” is the name of the arrogant, haughty man who acts with arrogant pride. [Proverbs 21:24 (ESV)]

Haughty eyes, a proud heart, and evil actions are all sin. … Mockers are proud and haughty; they act with boundless arrogance. [Proverbs 21:4,24 (NLT)]

(A week later, I came across another cactus right beside the walking path in the Botanic Garden. Thank you, God!)

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