Shortly after the turn of the last century, a preacher was concerned about several evidences of pride in his life. It seemed to him that he was consumed with pride, and as an antidote, sought to put on some acts of particular humility. So one thing he chose to do was to make a sandwich board that explained the gospel and then spend a day wearing the advertisement in the downtown area of a large city. He expected to receive many condemning and hostile comments and he was not disappointed.
Pride seems to be ever-present and humility seems to be always-elusive.
In James 4, the apostle offers a number of brief exhortations that address the issue of pride and humility. Here are six manifestations of humility, according to James:
- The humble man submits to God (v. 7a). The prideful man lives as if indulging in his fleshly and worldly desires (v. 4) is his right. The humble man is the one who finds joy in submitting his will to the sovereign will of God and obediently following Him.
- The humble man resists sin and temptation (v. 7b). He recognizes that sin is destructive and he does all he can to fight against sin and its various temptations. The humble man realizes that it is to his benefit to stay as far from sin and temptations as he can. He does not flirt with sin or entertain its possibilities in his mind because he knows of his fleshly propensity to fail. In contrast, the prideful man believes he can withstand any temptation and is unafraid to indulge in activities and thoughts that he rationalizes as “liberty,” ignoring the warning that such indulgences make him God’s enemy (v. 4).
- The humble man desires God (v. 8a). He wants to be with God and He wants to enjoy God’s presence and blessing. He will do anything and give up anything to draw closer to God. The prideful man might also say that he wants God, but he wants God on his terms. As C. S. Lewis warned in The Screwtape Letters, he wants “God and…” He wants God, but he also wants what he wants.
- The humble man confesses his sin (v. 8b). The humble man is quick to acknowledge to both God and man, “I was wrong…please forgive me.” He recognizes that the problems in his life are internal and a result of his own sins and his own fleshly desires and he is quick to seek the restoring grace of God’s forgiveness. The prideful man excuses, rationalizes, and ignores his sin. He believes his problems are the result of the sins of others against him, so he does not know God’s forgiveness.
- The humble man grieves over his sin (v. 9a). The older the humble man gets the more he sees the propensity for sin in his flesh, and it grieves him (cf. Mt. 5:3ff). He is broken-hearted over his sin and in that sorrow, he turns to God for comfort.
- The humble man rejoices in God’s provision of forgiveness and comfort (v. 9b). The humble man recognizes that grief over sin will result in joy with Christ and that joy in temporal treasures not only will bring disappointment, but unending gloom and sorrow.