What causes us to sin? You can argue that it is fallen human nature to be inclined toward sin. The wages of sin is death, and I think we all can agree that the harmful effects of sin are broad and far reaching. But that still doesn’t elaborate to the root cause of sin.
Scripture shows us that pride is the root cause of sinful behavior. ‘Pride’ meaning arrogance and hubris, not meaning “I’m proud of doing a good job.” The latter is better considered a hardy satisfaction in the proper setting.
"Pride [prahyd] noun a high or inordinate opinion of one's own dignity, importance, merit, or superiority, whether as cherished in the mind or as displayed in bearing, conduct, etc."
Read Genesis. Read the story of Cain and Abel. Considered the first ever documented murder, it is the story of two brothers. Cain becomes jealous over God’s favor on his brother and kills him over it. The cause of his jealousy? His pride.
Sin is pride. Pride is sin. They are to some degree synonymous. You cannot commit a sin without a prideful heart. Pride puffs you up and says you’re the most important person; this makes your ways seem right to you and God’s ways seem foolish or beneath you.
C.S. Lewis wrote this in his book, Mere Christianity: “According to Christian teachers, the essential vice, the utmost evil, is Pride. Unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere flea bites in comparison: it was through Pride that the devil became the devil: Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind… … it is Pride which has been the chief cause of misery in every nation and every family since the world began.”
Choosing your way over God’s is always the root of sin and leads to more and more severe hurt and suffering as you let it develop.
Accounts in the book of Judges usually open with a line like “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” In other words, pride.
And in turn, what do we see is the redemptive change of heart that pleases God? A repentant and humble heart. James 4 dives into this truth and I highly recommend you read it. This line can be found in verse 6 “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
So. How can I avoid sin and please God? Through humility.
I do want to make something clear. This is not a matter of securing salvation. You are saved by grace through faith, through Christ’s death on the cross as atonement for your sins. If you have accepted God’s gift of forgiveness and salvation and seek his forgiveness when you struggle with sin, you are saved. Scripture is clear on that. But the task of growing to be more like Jesus and less like our old ways is a constant occupation which demands study and dedication. Humility and pride are not sole criteria or determinants of whether or not God has saved you. Rather, they are symptoms of sanctification or a lack thereof.
If you find yourself saved but still sinning, I urge you to pray and examine your heart and your motivation. I bet you’ll see correlation between the times you stumble into sin and the times you rely on yourself for wisdom and discernment instead of God, who so gladly gives us those things perfectly.
James 1:5 “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given to him.”