We heard in our sermon by Pastor Adam this morning in James that “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. (James 4:6). Examples of pride and humility abound in our lives. I’ve always found it amusing that an athlete who wins a championship or is granted an award will often say, “I’m so humbled.” How can that be when they are at their greatest moment of recognition? That is humbling!? Are they now adding lying on top of their arrogance? Sounds like some false humility to me! But maybe I need to be humble in reception of their statement and not pridefully judge them. Maybe that athlete truthfully realizes amidst the praise being lavished upon him/her that something isn’t right. The praise and adoration rightfully belong elsewhere. That could very well be the realization that is coming upon the athlete. In that moment of glory, they realize that the praise and glory really belong upon their Creator, not upon the creature.
Personal experience: I received my own humbling recently. I always pride myself on my supposed immunity to the flu, and thus never get the vaccine. In reality, it is more because of my background in mathematics (and likely some pride there). Statistically, I don’t think the data is strong enough to show any benefit. Well, I’ve been able to make it 20 years since the last time I got the flu. But I got 20 years-worth of it this go around, and that humble pie has me reconsidering my prideful stance come next year.
Illustrations abound: Life is littered with examples that clash humility and pride. Consider the bumper sticker on the min-van that says, “I used to be cool.” We chuckle in that it reflects the humility to have accepted the family mobile at this stage in life. But it also insinuates the need to be affirmed that the person really was cool before the van. The humorous statement that “If you ever see a turtle on the top of a fencepost, you know that he didn’t get there by himself” is probably my favorite. Mr. Turtle did nothing to put himself in that position. It would be like a pinch runner in baseball getting subbed in for a batter who had just hit a triple. The next batter follows up with a home run. It would be the height of foolish pride for that pinch runner to come across the plate pounding his chest and drawing attention to himself. He did nothing to earn that run. As ridiculous as that seems, that is so often what we do when we are prideful in light of the gifts that the Lord gives to us. We point to ourselves as the rightful creator of such blessings, rather than the humble and needy recipient.
A warning: The Scripture we considered points out that God opposes the proud. There are many sins that are terrible, in that they pull us away from God as we seek to hide. But pride rises to the top of the list as it rears its head directly in contention against God. Thus God, by His very nature, must oppose and destroy it. It is indeed the height of stupidity to stand in opposition to the Sovereign Lord.
A motivation: God gives grace to the humble. Warnings have their place, but so also do rewards. God promises to give grace to the humble, and we should long to receive that blessing.
How: CS Lewis pointed out that the humble person is not the one who thinks less of himself, but rather the one who thinks of himself less. Therein lies one of the best motives towards humility. Thus, the conversation lands with putting the other’s interests above our own and results in ministering to their needs and encouragement. Pride is put off, humility is put on, the other person is encouraged, and we experience grace.