“Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will lift you up.” James 4:10
Humility is a difficult word for many of us to grasp in an age of aggression, high-powered executives, and national pride. What does it mean to be truly humble? How can we be a humble person without being walked on in an emotionally unhealthy way?
John the Baptist had the privilege of being the one to announce the coming of Israel’s Messiah in Jesus. He paved the way through preaching, teaching, and baptizing. Multitudes of people followed John and, to use a modern equivalent to help paint the appropriate picture of his influence, he became a “rock star”. However, John had the true humility from God to say of Jesus in Mark 1:7, “After me will come one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie.” In John 3:30 John also said, “He must become greater; I must become less.” Jesus would later say of John the Baptist, “I tell you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John; yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.”
Where does humility begin? It begins with God Himself. God the Son laid down his royal robes as a king and, in humility, willingly chose to live among men, women, and children on a sinful earth. Listen to the way The Message describes it: “When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn't claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.” Jesus does not ask us to do anything he has not already done himself.
How do we become humble in our daily lives? First, we humble ourselves before God. 1 Peter 5:6 says, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” This comes by prayer and rightly acknowledging our place before God. This is why seeing yourself as a slave is often a helpful way to remain in that humble state. And, yet, we are also sons and daughters, which emphasize the close, personal relationship God wants with us too.
God’s Word also seems to emphasize that obtaining humility is something we choose to do or something that can be forced on us. Matthew 23:12 says, “For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” We can either humble ourselves before God and others or, if we exalt ourselves, we will eventually be humbled. “Pride comes before a fall” is a very true statement. (Prov. 16:18)
Andrew Murray, the 19th century South African writer, teacher, and pastor wrote a book titled “Humility” and said this about the subject: “This, my friend, is a secret of secrets. It will help you to reap where you have not sown, and it will be a continual source of grace in your soul. For everything that inwardly stirs in you, or outwardly happens to you, becomes…good to you if it finds…you in this humble state of mind.” Go before God continually, humbling yourself so that you, too, may see the rich results of a life right before God.