The Danger Of Pride

This post is written to link with Five Minute Friday: write for five minutes on a one-word prompt. The prompt today is danger.”

Last night in our church small group we were looking at Jesus’ encounter with the woman caught in adultery in John 8:1-11. If you’re not familiar with the story, you can click on the reference to read it, but to summarise: The Pharisees bring a woman to Jesus. She has been caught in adultery and the law says she should be stoned to death. They ask Jesus what they should do, trying to trick him into saying something they can use against him.

Let’s pause there for a second. On reading the account last night, I was particularly struck by the heartlessness of the Pharisees. How appalling to publicly shame this woman just to try to trap Jesus! One of the others in our group admitted that she felt a little sorry for the Pharisees as they had tried so hard to keep the law but Jesus had come and turned everything on its head. However, they were getting no sympathy from me! There is no excuse for the cruelty they showed to the woman. (And where was the man anyway?)

As our discussions continued though, it did get me thinking.

Jesus’ solution to this tricky problem is ingenious. As one of our group said, “how could you not come away from this encounter thinking that Jesus is a legend?” (in the sense of amazing and admirable, not fictitious!)

He agrees that the law says to stone the woman but challenges them, “Let the one who has never sinned pick up the first stone.” (John 8:7 NLT)

And he writes in the dust with his finger. We pondered for a while what he could have been writing in the dust and then one of our group pointed out a verse from the Old Testament:

“LORD, you are the hope of Israel; all who forsake you will be put to shame. Those who turn away from you will be written in the dust because they have forsaken the LORD, the spring of living water.” (Jeremiah 17:13 NIV)

Could he have been writing the names of the Pharisees in the dust?

Whatever he wrote, the message hits home. Starting with the oldest, the woman’s accusers lay down their stones and leave. Only Jesus is left, the only one who is without sin, who truly has the right to condemn the woman, but he chooses not to, instead urging her to “go and sin no more.” (John 8:11 NLT)

We had some great discussion, and it got me thinking about the danger of pride. The Pharisees were so careful to keep the law that they were horrified by the sin of this woman – something they would never do. I highly value compassion, so I am horrified by the way they treated the woman – something I would never do. But are we really so different? By judging the Pharisees, am I not showing the same kind of pride they showed in judging the woman?

The truth is, none of us is without sin. None of us has the right to cast the first stone. Each of us deserves to have our names written in the dust, and only by the grace of God can we have our names written in heaven instead (Luke 10:20).

I still have a lot to reflect on, in general and in a specific situation. How do you challenge sin without pride? How do you deal with it without resorting to stone-throwing? The danger of pride is all too real, but I think remembering that none of us is without sin is a good starting point.

28 thoughts on “The Danger Of Pride

  1. Every day I flaunt my pride,
    self-favour flowing from my lips,
    and I smile and do not hide
    that I’m all that and a bag of chips.
    Every day I step right out
    into a world ’twas made for me,
    and all the lesser mortals pout
    to see the glory they can’t be.
    Every honour is deserved,
    for I am perfection’s sum,
    and the front pew is reserved
    to be polished by my bum
    as I listen to the ways
    that even God must owe me praise.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. From a Jewish perspective, if a Pharisee had picked up a stone, he would be guilty of claiming to be equal to God. The Pharisees saw themselves better than others, their sin less dirty, but Jesus changed their perspective upward. I sometimes get locked into a western view of the bible, which is dangerous.

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    1. Thanks, Bronte, that’s interesting. So, who would have actually done the stoning to fulfil the law when it was required? I agree, there are a lot of cultural things we don’t fully understand from our own perspective.

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      1. Personally, I would not have picked up the stone, sorry if that was the message you received. But I do make quick judgment calls, it is something we naturally do.

        It’s about understanding God’s Word as it applies to my life- yes- but it is also understanding God, amid free will, consequences, healed or not. Paul was never healed from his affliction. Why? Paul told us, that it kept him humble. The point is to look upward instead of looking down, hopping around like grasshoppers. There is a whole lot more to knowing God. The question is what am I missing by looking down.

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      2. I didn’t think you were saying you would have picked up the stone. I was just wondering who would have done the stoning in situations where the law required it. I assume there were other situations where people were stoned.
        Yes, looking up to God is definitely the best way!

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  3. We can sometimes become so clever and so adept at “comparing” sins…judging/criticizing and (inwardly) condemning others – all the while making excuses for our own sin. Pride really is crafty and deceitful. Sounds like you had a great discussion. Always great to come home with lots of “food for thought.”

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    1. Yes, it is very easy to deceive ourselves and think our own sins aren’t so bad somehow! It was a great discussion and it was good to learn from everyone else’s thoughts.

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  4. Nice post. I agree with you—no sympathy for Pharisees from me either (unfortunately, and I hate to admit, I can see a bit of me in them and their actions). And, like you, I have always wondered where is the man?

    Pride goes before a fall, honor before humility. Two Biblical guidelines I strive to keep before me.

    Blue Rock Horses Frederick County, Virginia bluerockhorses.com

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  5. I’ve had the same feelings, Lesley—where was the man? And how could they have been so heartless? But I have never heard that verse about dust in connection with this story—how poignant.

    The Bible does have a lot of people confront others with sin (we’re in 1 and 2 Kings, with Elijah and Elisha and other prophets). So there must be a way to do it. But I agree, pride is the biggest danger and the thing we should check our hearts for first. And our motive needs to be sorrow that the person has sinned and dishonored God and a desire to help them come right, rather than to just see them punished. But other than that, I’m at a loss. I hate confrontation, so my temptation is to avoid saying something when I should. But even if I don’t say anything, I need to make sure my thoughts and prayers are compassionate and not arrogant.

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    1. Thanks, Barbara! I didn’t know about the connection with the verse from Jeremiah either. And I agree, it is really challenging to know how to confront others. I don’t like confrontation either. As you say, I think our attitude is important however we choose to deal with it.

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  6. It is so easy to judge other’s sins, but ignore our own. We do need to be careful that we are not being prideful (or judgmental), because none of us our perfect, we all sin, and my sin is just as bad as the next person’s, they are all the same in God’s eyes.

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  7. Looking back at the cross, I can remember that I was given mercy. Therefore, I should be giving mercy. I was given amazing grace, so I should season my responses with grace. I was granted forgiveness, and I am to forgive others. The gospel is changing me because as I better appreciate what I have been given, I am less likely to think wrongly about how I respond to sin in others. It is a journey. But there is no turning back.

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    1. Your comment reminds me of the parable of the unforgiving servant and I agree, if we have known grace and forgiveness that should motivate us to offer it to others.

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  8. Thank you for sharing some of your small group’s discussion, Lesley. I had never heard of the Jeremiah scripture of the dust applied to this passage, and I’ll have to ponder it some more, but it is very insightful! I admire how Jesus handled this group of hypocritical Pharisees trying to trap Him! And I appreciate the kindness and love He extended to this woman. He is a true gentleman!

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  9. Great post Lesley! Yes I always wondered where was the man was in this account!

    But Jesus handles it in a legendary way.

    I once heard a song by Johnny Cash that wondered if it wasn’t the sins of the Pharisees Jesus was writing in the dust ie; gossiping, pride, greed, avarice, injustice etc.
    Food for thought. 🤔
    Blessings, Jennifer

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