I hate pulling weeds. It was one of the first jobs I had growing up as a kid. Every Saturday growing up, my brother, sister, and I would go out to our yard and start filling up brown paper bags of weeds. I don’t know if my dad purposefully refused to buy the simple weed killer in a bottle because he didn’t want to spend the $2.50 or if he was trying to give us something difficult to do that took up a few hours. All I know is that my dad had a love affair with mulch, and mulch was a breeding ground for weeds. The worst part about weeds is that they never stop growing. You pick them all one week, and seven days later, you have a new batch to pluck. They’re essentially like the Terminator. They don’t stop, they just keep coming. Now that I have my own house with some minor landscaping, my battle with weeds isn’t over. As the weather warms up, those nasty looking weeds are popping up all over my yard again, and I’m battle planning my attack this Saturday. Lots of chemicals will be involved.
I think that the battle we have with weeds in our yards is a lot like the battle we have with sin in our hearts. I know that weeds have been compared to sin before, I’m not the first to make a correlation between the two. But weeds, to me, really illustrate one particular sin that I think all of us struggle with, no matter what our age, maturity, or socio-economic background. That sin is pride. Pride is the most dangerous of all sins, because it leads to so many others. C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity, “The essential vice, the utmost evil, is Pride. Unchastity, anger, greed, drukenness, and all that, are mere fleabites in comparison: it was through Pride that the devil became the devil: Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind….” In fact C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity calls his chapter on pride “The Great Sin”.
Most other sins are easily recognized as evil. We can smell the wickedness on them a mile away. It’s pride that is the odorless sin. I have a carbon monoxide detector in my house. By law it has to be there because the danger of carbon monoxide, unlike smoke, is that you can’t see it or smell it. Pride, like carbon monoxide, can be that invisible intruder into our hearts. It works its way into our lives and for the most part, very few people see it because the danger of pride is that it cloaks itself in our good works. There’s a saying that I’ve heard a million times and it basically says that if the devil can’t make you bad, he’ll make you busy. There is definitely some truth in that, but if I had to rewrite that saying, I would say that if the devil can’t make you bad, he’ll make you proud.
Pride is so despised by God because it robs Him of His glory. We end up doing good works, not because we want to bring glory to God, but because we want people to like us or think we are great. This is where we have to be so careful. You may look just like the guy sitting next to you at church. You have your ministries where you serve and help people, so does he. You attend church every Sunday and small group every week, so does he. You give some money to the church, so does he. Your lives can look eerily similar, but one life my bring God great glory, while the other brings God great sorrow. This is the crux of the matter. God cares more about why we do something and not just what we do. Most of our lives we are trying to answer the “what” questions, and God wants you to answer the “why” question: Why are you doing this? Righteous deeds in the name of our own glory is sin to God.
Just like weeds, the sin of pride keeps coming up in my life. I find it in some area of my life, allow the Holy Spirit to convict and pluck that root, and then the next week, I see it in another area of my life. The best way that I’ve been able to deal with pride is not by doing more good deeds, but by meditating more and reflecting more on the gospel of Jesus Christ. When I realize I’m a sinner and that I deserve hell, how can I be proud? When I realize the depth of God’s love and grace for me, someone so undeserving of it, how can I want glory? When I realize that God is doing the work of salvation, past, present, and future, how can I want people to think that I’m so great? When I realize that I’m powerless and hopeless without Jesus, how can I boast in anything I’ve ever done? When I poison so much in my life by my pride, how can I not live in constant praise and worship to the one who makes all things new? As I see the weeds of pride pop up, I’m moved by an amazing portion in a poem called The Mover in the devotional called the Valley of Vision:
O Lord, I am astonished at the difference between my receivings and my deservings, between the state I am now in and my past gracelessness, between the heaven I am bound for and the hell I merit.
We all have some weeds to pull today. And by tomorrow, we’ll have to do it again.