Many pastors use the terms pride and cosmic plagiarism interchangeably. What they are defining is when a person takes credit for what actually originates with God. This is the foundational struggle of mankind and is the seed and soil which propagates all other sin. Pride rears it’s ugly head in our justification through us trusting in our own merits and trying to be good enough, and in our sanctification through our stubborn independence and our self-delusion of power. John Stott says, at every stage of our Christian development, and in every sphere of Christian discipleship, pride is our greatest enemy and humility our greatest friend.
This ‘enemy’ (pride) enters the scene in Genesis 3 as our ultimate Enemy (Satan), craftily wields it to entice Adam and Eve into rebellion against God. Consequently, God curses Satan and brings pain to some very personal areas of Adam and Eve’s lives. And interestingly these curses become the context where man and woman wrongfully pursue identity. To woman, God brings pain into the process of childbearing and puts tension in the relationship between her and her husband. Now woman sees her family as either a.) an obstacle to overcome (radical feminism) or b.) the ultimate indicator or her value (family-olatry). To man, God turns work into toil by riddling the ground with goat-heads and pests and allowing times of drought. And like the woman with her family, man finds refuge in either the avoidance of work or, more commonly, the commendation and praise that comes with it. This means us guys are often trying to find a sense of worth in our job, status, education, title, pedigree, acclaim, awards, etc. And upon this footing, our identity and joy ebbs and flows with the wave of our work performance and the recognition that it garners.
I don’t know exactly how this type of pride manifests itself in you but I know that it does and that we must be vigilant if we want to ‘walk humbly with God.’ [see Micah 6:8]
As I reflect on my own battle with pride, I confess that it hounds me in every venue of life. However, none more than in my work. There is an innate and internal sort of self-praise that happens in me when I’m able to fashion something neat with my hands or watch the raising of others hands as I strum my guitar. And as disgusting as that sounds, I know the same thing resides in the dark, unreached recesses of your heart. All sin is a form of self-worship, therefore, if you sin (and you do), you really worship yourself as I do.
So where do we go from here? Well I’m glad you asked. As with all other sin, we confess, repent, renew our minds and ask God to change us. However, I want to spend the rest of this post just diving into the renewing your mind component.
In my particular struggles, I have learned to call to mind a small section of scripture in 1 Corinthians 4. It says, What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it? - 1 Corinthians 4:7
In offering commentary on these verses Jerry Bridges says, You have nothing that did not come to you as a gift from God. Our intellect, our natural skills and talents, our health, and our opportunities to succeed all come from God. We have nothing that will enable us to achieve success that we did not receive from God.
John Calvin was more succinct stating, everything in us that is worthy of praise is derived.
So in my self-disclosures involving carpentry and guitar, I can remind myself 1.) I’m not near as slick as I think I am. 2.) any legitimate ability that I have is a mere reflection of something that exists perfectly in God. 3.) I’m a spiritual pauper who has nothing that he did not receive or that was not derived.
To deny these things, in attitude or action, is simply to deny God and commit cosmic plagiarism.
-May God equip and grow us, that we wouldn’t fear obscurity and would prize His renown above all.-