The things we say to one another have a way of exposing the underlying operating system of our hearts (Matthew 12:34). So, what matters is not just the words we say but why we say them.
Taking James 4:13-17 too literally would lead to one prefacing everything or ending everything you say with “if the Lord wills…” To do so misses the whole point – it’s not about what you say so much as why you say what you say. It’s about the attitude of the heart that is the reason you think and speak as you do.
James 4:13-17 is all about us, setting the dials of our lives on humility, not arrogance. Living with a certain humility that comes from knowing who we are and how temporal and not in control, we are.
Who hasn’t spoken words similar to those in vs13?
- Next year I’m going to study at…
- Next month I’m moving to…
- I’m going to have three children…
- When I am married…
We don’t typically intend to be boastful when we speak like this, and yet if we are not careful these sorts of statements about the future and our future plans are devoid of a sense of;
- Reverence for God (Proverbs 9:10)
- Laying our lives & plans down in submission to God’s will (2 Cor 5:14)
- An awareness of our frailty & our transience (vs14)
- And our inability to control very much of what happens in our lives (vs14)
Jesus taught us to pray; ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done’ (Matthew 6:9-10). This is how to set your life-dial on humility. To pray like this, think like this, live like this. To live surrendered to God, wanting to do His will not boastfully thinking and speaking about the future as if you’re in charge of your life but living your life in reverent worship of Him who is Lord of all.
So, set your life-dial on humility – don’t invite God into your plans for your life, but humbly, daily ask Him to show you His plans for your life.
Having urged us not to befriend the world (in the sense of compromising so that we live like the world & or putting our trust in worldly things rather than in God), now James urges us to befriend God.
The God of the Bible is not dispassionate; instead, He is righteously jealous for us, yearning for a relationship with us (vs5). God wants us for Himself; He went to great lengths to send His Son Jesus to die in our place for our sin SO THAT we could be restored to a right relationship with Him, so it is unsurprising to learn that God is jealous for us.
And yet our relationship with God is a strange unequal relationship. He is holy God almighty; we are tiny little people, sinful people. It’s like a friendship where one person always does the giving! They take all the initiative; they are continually blessing their friend, paying for everything, lifting the other friend around, giving, giving, giving. And yet both want the relationship.
Because of who we are, because of our frailty and our failings, for us to stay in relationship with God needs God to be continuously gracious towards us. And that’s precisely what He is and does; God gives more grace, all the time (vs6), God lavishes grace on us. He can handle our need of grace, is even drawn to our need of grace, but is offended by self-reliant pride.
So surrender and receive His loving disposition towards you. Tuck into His care and protection, thank Him for and receive His grace. As you do, you’ll become closer and closer to God, which will enable you to resist your enemy.
I think of the tiny weedy Grade 8 at High School who looks like they belong in Grade 6 still because the testosterone hasn’t kicked in yet. They are vulnerable to bullying by the thugs of the school, a target for abuse and taunting. But they have this massive gentle giant of a Grade 12, the Head Prefect of the school. And he wants to be their friend; if only they would stick close with him, the resident school thug won’t risk coming close because they know the Head Prefect will defend his little friend and they know he is in authority at the school and so can’t compete. That small Grade 8 just needs to say; ‘I need help’ and the Head Prefect will rush to his side to help, and the thug won’t dare come close.
If we would just humble ourselves and call out to God, He will rush to our sides. And with God by our side, who can be against us and succeed (Romans 8:31-32)? We have a promise here, that if we draw near to God, if we stay tucked into our relationship with Him, near Him – then the devil will flee from us, will leave us alone because God is greater and more powerful than him.
So, every day. Draw near to God, reach out to God in prayer and worship, knowing He will respond and come near to You because He loves you and is jealous for you. And with God by your side, you won’t have to fear anything or anyone (read Romans 8:31-39).
I love the sense of realism in James. In vs2-4 James challenged and urged us to consider trials “all joy” because we know that the testing of our faith would produce good things in us like steadfastness and growth in godliness.
James knows that the sound advice he has just given is challenging and so in vs5 he encourages the reader to pray to God for wisdom. Such a prayer is humility on display and humility is a vital attitude to hold on to for the Christ Follower.
I like to begin prayer with the simple acknowledgement that my very act of praying is declaring something both to myself and to God – that I need God. After all, if I did not need God, if I had it all covered myself, then I would not be praying. Prayer and humility go hand in hand, and God is drawn to humility (James 4:6) while prayerlessness, on the other hand, is a warning sign of residual pride.
The humble praying person ought to simultaneously have a robust confidence James declares because God is the giving God. God’s nature is to give, and so James states with certainty that God will respond gleefully to any request by you or me for wisdom.
God won’t scold us for hassling Him by asking, God won’t begrudgingly give us as little as possible of the wisdom we need. No, we can pray with confidence because we know that God is the generous giving God and we as His children can, therefore, ask for wisdom in any and every situation with confidence knowing God will provide us with what we need.
Similarly, Jesus promised He would give His disciples the very words and wisdom at the moment we need them (Luke 21:12-15). You and I can have confidence knowing that when we cry out in prayer, God is ever present and eager to answer our humble prayer.
So pray, because you’re realistic about your limitations. Pray because you’re humble, but pray with confidence knowing whom you’re praying to!
Don’t pray hoping God will answer, but pray because you know whom you’re praying to. Your Father who is in heaven, the One who loves you with an everlasting incredible love (1 John 3:1).
The big idea in this Psalm is comparing the futility of worshipping any other so-called gods with worship, trust and reverence of Almighty God. It’s a reminder to God’s people that no other so-called ‘god’ is God, but merely something (an idol) made by human hands, dead and lifeless and therefore not worthy of any praise or fear or trust. Finally it’s an exhortation to trust Yahweh and to worship Yahweh exclusively.
However, in light of our church’s Launch Sunday this coming Sunday it is verse 1 that has my attention;
“Not to us, O LORD, not to us but to Your name be the glory, because of Your love and faithfulness.” (Psalm 115:1 in NIV)
May God and God only get all the praise, glory and honour on our Launch Sunday. This day, this celebration is not about us, not about any person or even any church, or thing that’s been constructed. This Sunday is about God, about His glory and His majesty and about praising and thanking Him!
Because God alone is worthy of praise and honour, God alone has provided, has loved us and has been utterly faithful and true to all His promises. God alone, not us, has sustained us and brought us into this place.
LORD, may You be magnified in Your glory, may You be praised, worshipped, thanked and adored, and may people revere You and place all their trust in You and You alone. Amen.
The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom and whatever you get, get insight. (Proverbs 4:7)
Wisdom starts with a conviction that you need it. Foolishness is to think the opposite, to think your knowledge or perspective is enough. Wisdom therefore requires not just knowledge applied correctly but a heart orientated correctly, for wisdom requires humility.
The context of this particular proverb is vs1-6 of the same chapter where a son is being exhorted by his father to “hear…a father’s instruction”, to “be attentive…that you may gain insight”, to “not forsake my teaching”, to “hold fast my words” & “keep my commandments and live”…
Wisdom starts with a humility that opens the ears, opens the heart to others in this life, who are further down the journey of following and serving God or who might have a perspective you don’t have but need.
Wisdom starts by getting it, from others. “Get wisdom” is not a command you can heed without the help of others, it’s not like a command like “be self-controlled/patient” where we can work harder at obeying.
So the question surely is twofold;
- How is your heart? Are you humble, teachable, willing to learn from others?
- Who are you learning from?
By Gareth Bowley
7 Now he told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they chose the places of honor, saying to them, 8 “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, 9 and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this person,’ and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. 10 But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. 11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 14:7-11)
Just preceding this is the healing of the man on the Sabbath by Jesus while Jesus was a guest of one of the Pharisees homes. They were more concerned about Sabbath observance than about the person (the man with dropsy who gets healed).
Jesus has noticed something about how they arranged themselves at the feast, Jesus had noticed how they chose for themselves places of honour…
So this parable was then told by Jesus to those who were invited to the feast.
The compatibility principle
Right after this parable Jesus speaks a parable to the man who had invited Him.
The historical narrative of the last supper can also be compared to these two feasts. That supper was one where Jesus humbled Himself and modelled true leadership to us.
It is also noted that we who believe in Jesus ultimately get invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb at the end of this age and the beginning of the next.
This passage is also linked to the other teachings on humility:
Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in the way. 9 He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way. (Psalms 25:8-9)
Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure. 6 The LORD lifts up the humble; he casts the wicked to the ground. 7 Sing to the LORD with thanksgiving; make melody to our God on the lyre! (Psalm 147:5-7)
For the LORD takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with salvation. (Psalms 149:4)
When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom. (Proverbs 11:2)
Thus says the LORD: Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool; what is the house that you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest? 2 All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the LORD. But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word. Isaiah 66:1-2
Philippians 2:5-11 – Jesus’ example of humility
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Peter 5:5: Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. (I Peter 5:5-8)
James 4:10: Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.
What questions does it address, ask or answer?
This passages deals with the issues of humility and pride and the wisdom/foolishness of taking honour rather than having it given to you.
Honour is best given rather than taken because “everyone who exalts himself will be humbled.” (Luke 14:11)
The big idea when reading through the various passages on humility is that we ought to humble ourselves and let God exalt, let God honour us in His time.
- God leads and teaches those who are humble – Psalm 25
- God lifts up the humble but brings to nothing the proud – Psalm 147
- God adorns the humble with salvation – Psalm 149
- Humility leads to wisdom, pride leads to disgrace – Proverbs 11:2
- Humility is more valuable to God who made everything than anything else! – Isaiah 66:1-2
- Have this in mind – Jesus humbled Himself and so God exalted Him! – Philippians 2:5-11
- Put on humility, humble yourself so that God might exalt you at the proper time – 1 Peter 5
- God gives grace to the humble but opposes the proud – 1 Peter 5
The humble person will be adorned with salvation, lead, taught, lifted up, given wisdom, valued and will receive grace from God. The humble person will be like Jesus!
Honour is not taken but given. Salvation requires humility in that we have to acknowledge our sin and our need of being saved. And having been saved by God we ought always to be mindful of how we were saved.
Pride in the believer is an antithesis. Compared to God’s majesty, power, holiness we are not in a position to have anything other than humility. Considering our own sinful state and fallenness we really don’t have anything to be proud about.
We have not been treated by Almighty God as our sins deserved, we have been shown mercy and grace, we have been forgiven and set free from the entanglements of our own sin, we are recipients of grace, humble servants of our wonderful King of love.
The paradox is that because God loved us in spite of our fallenness, we have had the greatest honour bestowed on us, we have been so valued by God that He was die for us in our place and to crown us with salvation.
Although we are to be humble, we are honoured by God in the most remarkable way and given a position of honour within His creation for all eternity, not because we are good but because He is good, not because of what we did but because of what He did for us.
So worship God who bestows honour and glory on those who didn’t deserve it but received it through Jesus Christ. To Him be the honour and glory forever and ever amen.
The humble person will be adorned with salvation, lead, taught, lifted up, given wisdom, valued and will receive grace from God. Scripture contrasts this positive outlook to the bleak outlook of the proud person who is opposed by God and who will be humbled by God…
Do you know Jesus as your Lord and Saviour? Have you humbled yourself yet before God, acknowledged that self-salvation, reliance on self and human effort will ultimately fail, it will fall short of the requirements of God?
If not, then know today that receiving honour that lasts for eternity starts with humbling oneself, confessing that you are flawed and sinful, hopeless outside of God and God’s help. Receiving honour starts with asking Jesus to be your Saviour, asking Him to forgive you from your sin and letting Him set you free from sin, shame, bondage and death.
The moment you do this, you get honoured by God, you get the privilege of becoming the child of God (John 1:12).
Are you a believer? Then consider again your salvation. Do you have anything to boast in (Ephesians 2:4-10)? What do you have that you have not received from God as a gift?
The appropriate heart condition for the believer is humility & thankfulness giving honour and praise to the source (God) of all that you have received from Him.
Is there any situation in which you have sort to honour yourself? Remember Jesus’ words; “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 14:7-11)