THE HUMBLE WILL BE LIFTED
James 4:10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.
We begin this lesson with a profound statement, used by the bible scholar, Matthew Henry, as he concluded his study on this text. He said, "The highest honor in heaven will be the reward of the greatest humility on earth." Generally, a statement like this is used to finalize a study such as this - to "nail it down" with a conclusion that will remain with the student, as a constant reminder of the importance of humility in the Christian life. It is intentionally used at the beginning of this lesson simply because it is a conclusion that can be reached from numerous scriptures found in the word of God. The lesson text is only one of many.
Leading up to this text verse, James contrasts the two extremes of pride and humility by stating that God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble (James 4:6b). People can either be proud, and demonstrate pride, used here in a sinful way, in their lives, or they can be humble, and live a life of humility. The words translated God resisteth the proud, carries with it the idea that those filled with pride are the enemy of God. They are considered to be traitors, or rebels, that God battles with, or wars against. Having selfish pride, the proud resist God's authority, disregard His laws, and are disobedient to His commandments. The time will come when the proud will become humble as they stand before Christ Jesus and tremble at their final judgement.
God's grace is given to the humble - abundant grace, as it is used in James 4:6a indicates, more grace. Those that are humble and lead a life of humility, recognize their need for the grace of God, just as the repentant sinner recognizes their need for forgiveness. The humble recognize this need, seek it through prayer, and are thankful for it when given by God. The same God that promises grace and honor to the humble, promises disgrace and dishonor to the proud.
The apostle, Peter, uses practically the same phrase as James wrote in the lesson text: ...for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble (1 Peter 5:5). In the following verse,Peter says, Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, and He may exalt you in due time. That God will exalt those that humble themselves, is not a mere possibility, but is assured at some time in the future. In due time means at the appropriate time, or the time that God chooses. This exaltation could be in this life on earth, it could be in the life to come, or it could take place in both.
Humility is a learned, not an innate, characteristic of a person. Peter says Christians are to be clothed with humility (1 Peter 5:5b). Humility is put on, and is displayed as an outer garment worn, and seen by others. Read Colossians 3:12-14. There we find the apostle Paul listing some Christian characteristics that are put on - mercy, kindness, humbleness, meekness, longsuffering, forbearance, forgiveness, and charity, or love. Paul emphasizes love, saying that it is the bond of perfectness. As His children, we have this bond, this obligation, or a sincere promise to be obedient to the will of God. Through His Son, Jesus Christ, God wills that we obey a new commandment...that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to another (John 13:34-35). The perfectnessthat God requires of His children can only be attained through humility that is demonstrated by wearing the humble garment of love!
The teaching of humility, by James and Peter in the texts quoted above, came directly from Jesus Christ, Himself. Matthew records these words of Jesus ... he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted. Matthew Henry, in his Commentary, also says that honor sought by the proud "...is like the shadow, which flees from those that pursue it, and grasp at it, but follows those that flee from it." Christian greatness cannot be achieved by aggressively, and avidly, seeking to be masters or high, prestigious places of authority. It is attained by the demonstration of humility, through love, as a servant to all. We close this lesson with our lesson text. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He shall lift you up.