The depiction of the Devil having horns and a tail isn’t found in the Bible. It likely originates from literature dating to the first or second century where Jewish and Christian writers associated him with goat demons (Lev. 17:7). It is believed that the Evil One’s fall was rooted in pride. About him it says in Isaiah 14:13-14, “You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’”
Over the years artists took to creating mocking (cartoonish) caricatures of the goat-like Devil, presumably to damage his pride. Clearly the plan backfired. Today, parents dress their children in devil costumes, some get tattoos of the figure and yes, even my favorite college athletics program has a version of it for its mascot.
Pride seems to be the kernel from which every other sin sprouts. In the Adversary’s attempt to gain the Most High’s throne, he created a temptation for Adam and Eve that was based on it. After lying to Eve about God’s words, he sunk the seed of pride in fertile soil when he said, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good from evil” (Gen. 3:4-5). The seed produced Pride-fruit without delay. The Bible records that immediately it was a delight to her eyes, and she took it.
From the first one until now, little has changed when it comes to sin. Today’s offenses are more varieties of pride-fruit. Thoughts that start as “I want” and “I deserve” blossom into self-serving actions.
What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. (Jas. 4:1–3)
What do you do with those “warring passions?” When pride-related thoughts enter your mind, you have the opportunity to do one of two things. You can ask God to restrain the passions and to give what you need to glorify Him, or you can fertilize the pride-seeds of selfish passion until you are driven to sin.
But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. (Jas. 4:6–8)
If you love God more than you love yourself, He will give you grace. If, by feeding your selfish passions, you love yourself more than God, He will oppose you. When you submit to God you resist the devil. That is the war and those are the stakes. Who gets your heart? Self or God?
There’s one more crazy (but incredible) thing. Self-sacrifice is followed by a promise, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you” (Jas. 4:10). The consequence of succumbing to selfish pride is sin and death, but the outcome of submitting to God is honor—the kind that is without regret!
If you’re not struggling with a pride issue right now, then you probably will before the day is out. Recognize that pride is where temptation starts and remember that the answer is to deny yourself and go to the God who gives more grace.
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age (Tit. 2:11–12)