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The Pitfalls of Pride

This year (2023), during the first weeks of February, the Daily Readings invite us to listen to, think about, and meditate on some of the oldest and best-known stories of our faith: The Story of Creation, The Fall of Man, Cain and Abel, Noah and the Great Flood, and the Tower of Babel. Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” God’s pains-taking work resulted in a world of incredible beauty where Adam and Eve enjoyed a unique relationship with their Creator. “God saw everything that he had made, and behold it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). It was Paradise.

The stories that follow, however, could be subtitled The Pitfalls of Pride. In Genesis 3, Adam and Eve try to hide from God in the bushes and then blame their disobedience on each other. That was pride raising its ugly head for the first time. We see it again in Chapter 4, when Cain’s arrogance leads him to resentment, anger and violence. And we hear it in his indignant response to God: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9). In Chapter 6, the people of Noah’s time had allowed their pride to lead them into every sort of evil, immoral, and scandalous behavior, so that, “the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth  the LORD was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was grieved” (Genesis 6:5-6).

Genesis 11 tells the story of the building of the Tower of Babel. Back when all the people of the world spoke the same language, they had a big plan: “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves” (Gen 11:4). There it was again: their big plans were full of vanity and conceit. Once again, humanity was about to learn the pitfalls of pride. The story ends with the sad result that their pride produced: “So the LORD scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they stopped building the city (Genesis 11:8). They gave up their plans and dreams. What began as an inventive, creative, and industrious enterprise had become a pile of rubble.

Things got so bad that “the Lord was sorry that he had made man on the earth” (Gen 6:6). Amid all the corruption, violence, and just plain wickedness described in the Book of Genesis, there was one bright spot, one reason to hope. In the narrative of the Great Flood (which takes up four chapters, Gen 6-9), we find Noah and his family. “Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD (Gen 6:8). He was already an old man when he was told by God to build a huge ark, but “Noah complied; he did just as God had commanded him (Gen 6:22).  And after the flood waters receded, God said to Noah: “I establish my covenant with you, that never again… shall there be a flood to destroy the earth…. I set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth” (Gen 9:11,13). One bright spot, one reason to hope!

Although many of the stories of the Bible warn us of the pitfalls of pride, they also demonstrate God’s mercy and goodness and His loving concern for His children. All these centuries later, these old stories from the Book of Genesis, if we take them to heart, can still be very powerful. Their message can even change the world.


New American Bible (Revised Edition)

If I take the wings of dawn and dwell beyond the sea, Even there your hand guides me,

your right hand holds me fast      Psalm 139:9-10

“He Will Hold Me Fast”

  • Six Days of Creation. Genesis 1:1-31
  • The First Sin and Its Punishment. Genesis 3:1-24
  • Cain and Abel. Genesis 4:1-16
  • The Great Flood. Genesis 6:9-9:17
  • The Tower of Babel. Genesis 11:1-9
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