“Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.” (James 4:10)
How much of what we express or demonstrate in our conduct actually displays this humility? And how often? Perhaps a deeper question is how often should we? One of the hardest part of our spiritual walk is embracing this humility in our lives. It’s hardest not because it is hard to do, but because it’s rarely on our minds. James gives us some pointers before this imperative.
- “Submit therefore to God” (James 4:7)
- “Resist the devil” (James 4:7)
- “Cleanse your hands” (James 4:8)
- “Purify your hearts” (James 4:8)
- “Be miserable and mourn and weep” (James 4:9)
The result is “He (God) will exalt you.” So how often do we exercise humility? Not very often, perhaps 1%, 5%, 10% … or all the time? Or do we exercise humility only when we “draw near to God” (v.8)? Let’s think about how often God’s presence is with us. Is He with us only 1%, 5%, 10% …of the time? He is with us 100% of the time, all the time! The key is to “draw near to God”. There is no excuse when we are not humble, even arrogant at those other times, for it was only then when we placed ourselves far from God.
In his commentary on James, Matthew Henry talks about the origin of their wars and fighting among the Jews. It was not (as they pretended) a true zeal for their country, or for the honor of God, but their prevailing lusts and pride were the cause of all. You see, it is men’s sinful nature and pride that are the root causes for the fighting and hurt among us. Even when the best intentions are misplaced to result in hurt, we have to self-examine ourselves if that passion or conviction is properly exercised. Interesting, it seems, that James would instruct us to be “miserable” (James 4:9). Who wants to be miserable? Well, when our sins and pride are taking us in the opposite direction of where God wants, we’d better be miserable!
Everyone who is proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD; assuredly, he will not be unpunished. (Proverbs 16:5) It is repentance, a determination to return to God’s way, that brings joy and a blessed spiritual life. Afterall, joy is one among the fruit of the Spirit, the result of being in Christ. We all want that joy, don’t we?
“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” (Proverbs 9:10). Further in Proverbs, “In the fear of the LORD there is strong confidence, and his children will have refuge.” (Proverbs 14:26). These instructions from Proverbs are the reasons James tells us to submit to God (James 4:7).
And then Jesus Himself teaches “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 14:11). The results of our attitudes, proud or humble, are described in passive voice by Jesus. Now, let’s consider the “who” that controls the results, “humbled” by whom, and “exalted” by whom? Notice also that “everyone” is the scope. Yes, that means you, me, and everyone with no exception. That’s a humbling thought. God does not miss anyone, and He assures us that the results will be rendered according to the attitude and actions we choose. This makes our choices easy, doesn’t it?
There are two rules on humility.
- Rule #1: I’m not always right.
- Rule #2: Even when I’m right, refer to Rule #1.
You see, the first rule is the principle. The second rule defines our attitude. It helps to keep these on our minds to check our attitude and actions. We don’t need to exalt ourselves when we know that God is in control.
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