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James 4:10: Godly Humility

“Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.”

James’ has exhorted his readers to “submit” to God (James 4:7), here they are challenged to “humble” themselves in His sight. Submission to God's authority will precede humiliation, and genuine repentance is performed as in the sight of God; for when a sinner is truly awakened to a sense of his guilt, he seems to see, wherever he turns, the face of a justly incensed God turned against him.

All through the Bible you will find the conviction that it is only the humble who receive the blessings of God. God will save the humble person, “When they cast you down, and you say, ‘Exaltation will come!’ Then He will save the humble person” (Job 22:29). “A man's pride will bring him low; but honor shall uphold the humble in spirit” (Proverbs 29:23). “God dwells on high, but He is also with him that is of a humble and a contrite spirit” (Isaiah 57:15). They that fear the Lord will humble themselves in His sight, and the greater a man is the more he ought to humble himself, if he is to find favor in the sight of God. Jesus said, “But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (Matthew 23:12; Luke 14:11).

So, we dedicate this message to humility, being “poor in spirit.” (Matthew 5:3). “Happy are the nobodies.”

There is such a thing as false humility, “Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind” (Colossians 2:18). People can pretend to be humble, but the reality is that they are “These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh” (Colossians 2:23).

People pretend to be humble, but in reality they are prideful. The Bible calls it “puffed up.” “…lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil” (1 Timothy 3:6). False humility may convince many people, but it is certain that God knows the difference. You can pretend before men, but God sees the heart. “For the Lord does not see as man sees;[a] for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

Humility is not those who glory in their humility. Someone has said, “I have written a book on humility, titled, “Humility and how I attained it.” Or one who said, “Lord, it’s hard to be humble when you’re perfect in every way.” Or how about, “Lord, it’s John, the one You’ve heard so much about.”

The attitude of humility is despised by the world. You cannot find a greater antithesis to the worldly spirit than to, “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord…” Self-reliance, self-assurance, self-confidence, self-esteem, self-image, believing in yourself, possibility thinking, ‘pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps,’ ‘you can do it,’ and ‘I’m O.K., you’re O.K.’ cannot survive with humility. By the way: “You’re not O.K. and I’m not O.K., but Jesus says, ‘That’s O.K.!’”

Would you hire a person with the following resume’?

“I am small, insignificant, less than the least of all men. I am servant of everyone. I know that I’m no good and nothing about me is good, no matter how hard I try, I just can’t seem to ever do anything right. I don’t get along well with people. I’ve been beaten up, stoned and left for dead and run out of town. I am weak, my eyesight is bad, and I suffer from an ailment that refuses to be healed. I beat on myself a lot. I am untrained in speech and not very persuasive, and when I do speak, I do so with fear and trembling. I do not consider myself to be very intellectual. All in all, I am a wretched man. Oh, by the way, I did make tents for a living once. Sincerely, Paul of Tarsus.”

But Paul was an educated, brilliant theologian who studied under Gamaliel, a Pharisee and a celebrated doctor of the Mosaic Law, held in honor by all the people, Acts 5:34–40. But when face to face with almighty God, his attitude was one of humility.

When the great Jewish prophet Isaiah came face to face with this almighty God, he declared, “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.” (Isaiah 6:5). “Undone” in this verse means “to come unglued.” “to fall apart.” “to be ruined, to cease, cut off, or destroyed.” That’s humility!

The Greek word for “humility” is tapeinophrosune, meaning, “having a humble opinion of one's self, a deep sense of one's littleness, lowliness of mind.” “Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us” (Romans 12:3 NLT).

Tapeinophrosune means to make low, bring low, to bring into a humble condition, to abase, to assign a lower rank or place to, to humble or abase one’s self, to be ranked below others who are honored or rewarded, to have a modest opinion of one’s self, to behave in an unassuming manner.” –Wuest

“If you exalt yourself, He will pull you down. If you lie down in the dust before Him, He will lift you up. It is according to God's usual way of acting to practice these reversals. Mary truly sang, ‘He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree. He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich He hath sent empty away.’ (Luke 1:52 KJV).” –Spurgeon

“Making low In God’s eyes, the one who lowers himself is the one who is elevated; the one who genuinely considers himself to be the least is the one God considers to be the greatest.”–John MacArthur

Humility is not the suppression of personality. Lawrence of Arabia went so far in suppressing his personality that he changed his name to “Aircraftsman Shaw,” just an ordinary man in the R.A.F. When Lawrence died in a bicycle accident, he was hailed as a wonderful example of humility.

Always be yourself! You will find that you’re better at being yourself than trying to be anyone else. Don’t repress your true personality, allow God to take what you are and mold it for His glory.

We all struggle with pride in life! Sadly, many of us do not realize the potential that waits for us if we just let go of our pride and move forward in God's plan. In fact, the Bible goes so far as to warn us that God hates the sin of pride and will discipline the proud! Let us not see ourselves as “wise in our own eyes” but let us become humble and willing to learn from God and others!

We are a proud crowd!

•Pride of face: I’m better looking than others. Some people will do anything to look better than others.

•Pride of place: my house is nicer than others. My job is better than others. “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’” (Hebrews 13:5).

•Pride of race: Racial prejudice is absolutely forbidden in the body of Christ. There is no color or nationality at the cross of Christ. “For “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13). “Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all” (Colossians 3:11).

•Pride of grace: It is a wonderful to be a Christian, but it is only by the grace of God. “God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it” (Ephesians 2:8,9 NLT). We are proud of Jesus who gave Himself for us!

Humility is always the virtue of the righteous. Pride is always the mentality of the unrighteous.

Pride was the first sin, the serpent said to Eve, …“You will be like God…” (Genesis 3:4,5).

Pride was the sin of Lucifer, “For you have said in your heart: ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.’” (Isaiah 14:13,14).

We should have the spirit of Gideon: “And the Angel of the Lord appeared to him, and said to him, ‘The Lord is with you, you mighty man of valor!’” It was just incredulous to him that God would choose him, his response was, “Not me, Lord! “O my Lord, how can I save Israel? Indeed my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.” (Judges 6:11-15). That’s humility!

We should have the spirit of Moses: He was totally conscious of his inadequacies. When God called him he said, “Not me Lord, Exodus 3:11, “Who am I…” and when God told him to go to Pharaoh, he said, “Not me Lord, send my brother.” (Exodus 3-7).

We should have the spirit of David: When God through Nathan the prophet called upon David to build a house for Him, David said, “Who am I, O Lord God?” And what is my house, that You have brought me this far?

We should have the spirit of Isaiah: “Woe is me.” (Isaiah 6:5).

We should have the spirit of Peter: He was naturally aggressive, self-confident and self-assertive, but when he truly sees the Lord he says, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” (Luke 5:8).

Jesus set the example for His children:

Philippians 2:6-8, “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”

Humility is the complete absence of pride, self-assurance


Proverbs 11:2, “When pride comes, then comes shame; but with the humble is wisdom.”

Proverbs 16:5, “Everyone proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord; though they join forces, none will go unpunished.”

Proverbs 16:18, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”

Proverbs 16:19, “Better to be of a humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud.”

Proverbs 18:12, “Before destruction the heart of a man is haughty, and before honor is humility.”

Psalm 101:5, “The one who has a haughty look and a proud heart, him I will not endure.”

Psalm 138:6, “Though the Lord is on high, yet He regards the lowly; but the proud He knows from afar.”

Isaiah 57:15, “For thus says the High and Lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.’”

Jeremiah 50:31, “Behold, I am against you, O most haughty one!” says the Lord God of hosts; “For your day has come, the time that I will punish you.”

“A man who had just been elected to the British Parliament brought his family to London and was giving them a tour of the city. When they entered Westminster Abbey, his eight-year-old daughter seemed awe-struck by the size and beauty of that magnificent structure. Her proud father, curious about what was going on in her mind, asked, ‘And what, my child, are you thinking about?’ She replied, ‘Daddy, I was just thinking about how big you are in our house, but how small you look here!’

Pride can creep into our lives without our awareness. From time to time it's good for us to be ‘cut down to size.’ We need to be reminded not to think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think. It's easy to become proud when we stay in our own circles of life. But when we are thrust into larger situations, with increased demands, pressures, and competition, we come to the shocking realization that ‘big fish in small ponds’ shrink quickly in a large ocean.

One thing that stands out in the Word of God is that the Lord despises the haughty. Under inspiration the psalmist said, ‘One who has a haughty look and a proud heart, him I will not endure’ (Psalm 101:5). And James said, ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble’ (James 4:6). If we ask the Holy Spirit to help us see ourselves as we really are, He will enable us to control our foolish pride.” —R W De Haan, Our Daily Bread

“He will lift you up.”

Psalm 30:1, “I will extol You, O Lord, for You have lifted me up, and have not let my foes rejoice over me.”

And the result of your humbling yourself before God is that the Lord will exalt you. He will lift you up to share His glory. “For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite” (Isaiah 57:15 ESV).

The Greek word, hupsoo, “exalt” is used here, meaning, “height, elevation, to lift up spatially, to raise high.” Figuratively, it can describe lifting one up to a place of honor, fame, power, or position, to exalt. 1 Peter 5:6, “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time…”

“A lot of people misinterpret the promise at the end of James 4:10. James is not saying that God will exalt you to some high position in society. He is saying that God will exalt you above your problem, above that which is keeping you down. He will exalt you, both in this world by His grace, and in the next world to His glory.

But before God can lift us up, He has to take us low. God wants us to weep and mourn over our sin. He wants us to start seeing our sin the way He sees it. When we do that, then we’ll get the help that God gives.” –Tony Evans

I close with Habakkuk 3:17-19, “Though the fig tree may not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines; though the labor of the olive may fail, and the fields yield no food; though the flock may be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls—Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer’s feet, and He will make me walk on my high hills.”

Whatever our situation in life, good times and bad, rich or poor, healthy or unhealthy, joyful or sad, when we “humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God” (1 Peter 5:6) He will exalt us!

Unless otherwise noted, the New King James Version of the Bible was used. Also The New Living Translation (NLT); The New American Standard Bible (NASB); The Message (MSG); The New Century Version (NCV); The Amplified Bible (AMP); The King James Version (KJV), The New Life Version (NLV); English Standard Version (ESV); J.B. Phillips New Testament; Easy to Read Version (ERV); Common English bible (CEB); NET Bible (NET) and The Living Bible (TLB). Contemporary English Version (CEV).

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