The First Commandment states: “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them.

(Exodus 20: 1-5)

The sin of Pride is found in the love of one’s own excellence. St Thomas Aquinas terms Pride to be a “frame of mind, in which a man, through the love of his own worth, aims to withdraw himself from the subjection to the Almighty God, and sets at naught the commands of his superiors.” By not staying within his lane and by not abiding to his “essential orbit”,  he turns his back to God, and forsakes the very one who made him.

This does not come about by ignorance or weakness, but is found in a person’s vainglory and self-exaltation, that prevents him from submitting to obedience and to God. Thinking himself better than others, or even equal or better than God, Pride corrupts with the prospect of power, of adoration (that only God deserves), of validation. In failing to attribute his gifts, talents, and credentials to the Lord God who made him and thus gifted him these things, he adopts a Saviour complex in which he thinks to himself that it is he who should save the world, rather than Jesus who saves the world.

Pride goes against the First Commandment for it presumes that the creature is greater than God. The self becomes deified into a god, and the self bows in vain worship to exult the self.

The Gospel of Luke, chapter 4 speaks of how Jesus was led into the dessert and was tempted by the devil. A closer examination of the text reveals that Christ is tempted and tested in the area of Pride, for the devil himself was thrown down from heaven by his pride. Henri Nouwen writes that the three temptations faced by Jesus can be summed up in the following: Relevancy, Spectacularism, and Power – these have to do with Pride and self-glorification.

The first temptation: “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread” –  attacks the identity or the Ego of Christ. There is a temptation

to prove one’s relevance and identity. But Jesus turns this back to his true mission, “One does not live on bread alone”.

The second temptation, “I shall give to you all this power and their glory… if you worship me,” is an attempt to attack with an attachment to power.  We must understand, that God being Almighty God –  if God did not permit the devil to tempt him, the devil would never have had a chance to even come near. However, Jesus submitted in obedience to the Father’s Will, so that He who is fully divine and fully human, could conquer temptation and sin, and pave the way for us to conquer in like manner. The temptation to power is immense and the devil craved to be God. He desired the worship that only was fitting for God, so much so that he had the audacity to command the Son of God to worship him. Which is why St. Michael rebuked him, “Who is like God?” Jesus’ response brings it back to the first commandment which was given by God, “You shall worship the Lord, your God, and him alone shall you serve.”

The third temptation, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here…” is a temptation to be spectacular. The spectacular is what awes others, what attracts them. However the spectacular also draws attention to the one who is commanding the spectacle, rather than God. It elevates the person, rather than Christ. This is why Jesus replies, “You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.”

According to St. Cyril of Alexandria, the way to conquer pride, is to follow the model and example of Christ Himself.

There is a temptation, if we are given with visions, or great gifts, or insights, to think of ourselves as being the chosen ones. This was especially a struggle with the apostles who were specially hand-picked by God and were witnesses to the marvels wrought by His Word and hand. So Christ took on the lead to show them (and us) that the way was not to clamour for the places of power and glory, but to take off one’s robes and to go right down to the act of washing someone else’s feet – an act that was deemed only to be done by the lowest servants, according to Jewish custom of that time.  St. Augustine writes that Christ’s humility is more than a moral example to be followed, but is the central way that our reconciliation with God occurs. Christ was humble yet, to obey even unto death, and today, He who is the Lord and Maker of all, humbled himself to become and be contained in the lowly forms of bread and wine. Christ’s humility is both salvific and exemplary. In Christ’s humility, we see the desperate state of humanity, and also the immense worth of humanity, that Christ was willing to humble Himself to save all. God’s extravagant self-emptying love revealed in the Incarnation highlights, by contrast, the possessiveness of human love.

In describing Christ’s redemptive work as more curative than juridical, St. Augustine draws on medical images of “cleansing,” “purifying,” and “healing.” As the medicus humilis, Christ heals our particular infirmity and makes possible our return to God. If human beings had suffered from a different ailment, a different medicine would have been prescribed to counteract the symptoms; humility is the remedy because pride is the sickness.

It is said of St. Anthony of the Desert, that he was gifted a vision of the snares which the devil had laid out across the world. He groaned out to heaven and asked the Lord what may be done to combat these traps, and God replied to him, “Humility.”

Humility is the salve that will redeem and heal humanity from the illness of pride. May we follow Christ who was humbler yet, to accepting death, death on a cross.


By Brian Bartholomew Tan

Sources:Augustine, Enarrations on the Psalms, in R.Arbesmann,“Christ the Medicus Humilis in St.Augustine,”Augustinus MagisterII .Cyril, of Alexandria, Commentary on John, 13:2-5Delany, Joseph. “Pride.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 12. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. 21 Jan. 2020, J. M. Henri, In the Name of Jesus (Crossroads Pub, 1992)Ruddy, Deborah Wallace, The Humble God, (Project Muse, 2014)The Desert Fathers: Sayings of the Early Christian Monks