STUDIES IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
“But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: ‘God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.’ Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.” (James 4:6-10)
According to our sinful flesh, we really want to be our own gods. We’d rather the world and even God Himself submit to what we decide and have to say. In contrast, James says, “Submit to God.” Let His commandments stand over your desires. Let His wisdom be greater than yours. Receive His instruction and correction in life, no matter how uncomfortable or painful it may be, trusting that what He has in store for you is much better than what you would choose for yourself.
How can it not be? After all, He’s the One Who knit you together in your mother’s womb. The One Who has loved you with an everlasting love. The One Who offered up His only Son for you even while you were still a sinner and His enemy. That is the One we are commanded to submit to. How can we not humble ourselves and submit to such a God?
When the subject of humility comes up, we may find ourselves thinking about another person who needs to learn this lesson. While it may be true that someone you know may need this message on humility, notice carefully what our text says: “Humble yourselves.” James doesn’t say, “Humble your neighbor.” The focus of these verses is your sins, not your neighbor’s; your heart, not your neighbor’s.
You are to draw near to God with your own heart humbled. Weeping over your own sins. Pleading with God to break down your own sinful life patterns and to make your own heart clean. Why? Because you are the sinner God is speaking to, through James, in this verse. Forget about what your spouse, parent, child, friend, or co-worker may have ever done to you, consider what you have done to God! It’s your sins you should be concerned about first and foremost. Your sin is a violation of the holy will of God and should drive you to your knees in tears over the serious offense you have committed against Him.
The convicted heart cries out, “I have sinned! What can I do? Where can I go?” James gives the answer: “‘God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.’ Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.” What kind of love is this? What kind of God is this that draws near to us in our lowest moments as we freely confess our sinful failings to Him, and then stoops down to bring His grace to lift us up? Why should the holy God of heaven concern Himself with such lowly sinners as we are? Because of His grace. Because He has set His love on us. He has set His righteousness over us through the perfect life and innocent death of His own Son.
The devil seeks to steal your humility by getting you to think that, if you follow any of the directives in this text, it’s of your own doing. The truth is that if you do weep over your sins, if you do desire a pure heart, if you do humble yourself in the sight of the Lord, then that is all a miraculous proof that the Holy Spirit is in you and at work on your heart through His Word! Is that not a wonder? Doesn’t that make you love God more? Isn’t it humbling?
Thanks be to God for this humble brokenness that helps you to see your great need for your Savior Jesus, and all praise to Jesus, Who humbled Himself to death on a cross to secure your forgiveness and salvation!
Chad Seybt is pastor of the following churches in Wisconsin: Morning Star Lutheran in Fairchild, Trinity Lutheran in Millston, St. Paul’s Lutheran in Melrose, and Peace with God Evangelical Lutheran in Onalaska.