Pufferfish & How to Battle Toxic Pride Sermon Illustration

Encouragement for Pastors
Leadership Development
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Stew on This: How Proud Are You? (Pride Sermon Illustration)

Pufferfish & How to Battle Toxic Pride Sermon Illustration

“Pride is your greatest enemy, humility is your greatest friend,” (John R. W. Stott).

Pride. It is the first of the seven deadly sins. C. S. Lewis, the famed English author, devoted an entire chapter in Mere Christianity to pride. He said, “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.”

Pride is an attitude of self-sufficiency, self-importance, and self-exaltation toward God and toward others. The apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13:4 that, “Love is not arrogant.” Arrogant is an interesting word. It means, “puff up, blow, or inflate,” like blowing air into a balloon. Picture the old bellows in the factory or by the fireplace, you squeeze them together and air “breathes” out. Arrogance describes a person who has an exaggerated view of themselves. They are conceited. Arrogance is inflated selfishness.

When I think of arrogance, I think of a fish. Not any fish, but a pufferfish (commonly called a blowfish). Pufferfish use their highly elastic stomachs and the ability to quickly ingest huge amounts of water (and even air when necessary) to turn themselves into a virtually inedible ball several times their normal size. Some species also have spines on their skin to be sure other fish stay away.

Arrogance in people means they ingest huge amounts of self. They become overinflated many times the reality of who they are and they become distasteful to others.

Almost all pufferfish contain tetrodotoxin, a substance that makes them foul tasting and often lethal to fish. To humans, tetrodotoxin is deadly. It is up to 1,200 times more poisonous than cyanide. There is enough toxin in one pufferfish to kill 30 adult humans and there is no known antidote. Arrogance (being puffed up and inflated with self) is foul tasting to others. It is toxic to relationships, and the only antidote is the fruit of the Spirit, which is love.

Pufferfish have long, tapered bodies with bulbous heads. Some wear wild markings and colors to advertise their toxicity, while others have more muted or cryptic coloring to blend in with their environment. Similarly, some people are pompous braggarts. They’re easily spotted with their arrogance on display. Others are subtle braggarts. They have learned the art of turning attention on themselves through seemingly self-effacing comments. They parade their unworthiness all the time keeping the focus on them.

Pride is not very attractive, is it? Are you dealing with the issue of pride in your life?

Remember the words of Jesus, “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted,” (Matthew 23:12, ESV).

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Glenn C. StewartPastor & Church Coach
Glenn C. Stewart has forty years of experience leading churches, planting a church, and developing leaders. He has served as an adjunct professor of theology and leadership at the Orlando campus of Palm Beach Atlantic University, and as the chairman of the board of a Christian college and seminary. Along with his degrees in Bible and theology he has a master’s degree in organizational leadership. Glenn has a heart for serving pastors and being a spiritual mentor.


Glenn C. Stewart
Glenn C. StewartChurch & Pastor Coach

Authorship Credentials:

  • Adjunct Professor of Theology and Leadership
  • Certified as a Human Behavior Consultant
  • Authorized Wiley Everything DiSC© Partner
  • Organizational Leadership Assessment (OLA) Partner
  • Certified Facilitator of Ken Blanchard’s Lead Like Jesus Encounter Groups
  • Certified Facilitator of CPP Personality, Career, and Organizational Development Assessments
  • International Speaker and Trainer


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