It is easy to see some things coming that can hurt or even kill us. We are usually able to protect ourselves from lightning and tornadoes because we can see the danger signs. We have seen the damage these forces can cause and we can prepare as the threat of them approaches. It is easy to see that these things can harm us because they are outside of us. But an internal threat like cancer or a heart attack is much harder to detect.
People, even Christian people, tend to think of sin in the same way. When they consider the word “sin” they think of things they can see on the outside: murder, stealing, lying, or drunkenness. When they think of temptation, they look for things in their surroundings the devil might use to get them to sin. The devil does use things around us to deceive us, and we should watch for signs of danger. But he often works in a subtle way on the inside.
Jesus spoke of two men who went to the temple to pray (Luke 18:9-14). One was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector. The Pharisee thanked God that he was not an extortioner, an unjust man, an adulterer, or a tax collector. Did you notice that the sins he mentioned could be outwardly verified? A man was either guilty of adultery or extortion or he was not; the facts and the physical evidence would speak for themselves. If he had been unjust or had abused his authority as a tax collector, the indications would generally be clear that he had. But the Pharisee didn’t pray, “I am thankful I am not a prideful man”! He was prideful. Jesus said he exalted himself (v.14). He not only saw the sins of others instead of his own sins, but he also made sure to point out the kind of sin that is easier to see. He looked down on others who had committed adultery and extortion while he was guilty of the vile sin of arrogance. His outward life seemed to be pure and religious, but his heart was evil because of his pride.
Pride is one of those sins that shows, and yet a man can be blind to it in himself and may try hard to prove that he is not guilty. For instance, pride will show in how a person talks about himself and in how he treats others. But a man has to be honest to admit that he is guilty of being prideful. If he is not honest, he will say that people just take him the wrong way. How could anyone prove to him that he is being arrogant? If he had stolen something or had gotten drunk, others could just cite the facts. Pride, however, is a sin he thinks is easier to hide or to deny because he can’t be “caught on tape” committing it like murder or theft.
It is easier to see temptation coming in the form of a bottle of beer or a prostitute. The devil is usually more cunning. He works to plant inside us pride, envy, hate, greed, unbelief, and lust. It is harder to see these things developing inside us, but their effects are devastating. Satan put the evil thought of betraying Jesus for money into Judas’ heart (John 13:2). Be very careful what he puts into yours.