Humble Yourself before God
“Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble’, therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time” 1 Peter 5: 5-6
Humility is an extremely important character trait for the true Christian and it plays a vital role in our coming to the full knowledge of the truth. Conversely, as the above quoted verse states, pride is a trait that God resists; it is an abomination to Him:
“Everyone proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord; though they join forces, none will go unpunished.” Proverbs 16: 5
Unfortunately, in our western culture, being a proud person is seen as a strength, while being a humble person is seen as a weakness. Many of us who have been raised in this culture are unaware of the extent of this incorrect thinking. We are blinded to the arrogance that exists because we have become so accustomed to it. Of course, when there are extreme displays of arrogance and haughtiness it is looked down upon by most, but the more subtle presence of pride and arrogance goes unnoticed, especially when we consider our pride or humility with respect to God.
Let’s first look at definitions of the English words used here so we can make sure we have the same understanding of meanings:
According to dictionary.com, pride is defined as “a high or inordinate opinion of one’s own dignity, importance, merit, or superiority, whether as cherished in the mind or as displayed in bearing, conduct, etc.” I should mention that the word inordinate here is defined as “not within proper or reasonable limits; immoderate; excessive.”
Humble is defined as “not proud or arrogant; modest” and humility is defined as “a quality or condition of being humble; modest opinion or estimate of one’s own importance, rank, etc.”
It is clear from these definitions that pride is the result of seeing ourselves as more than what we really are. It comes from falsely elevating ourselves above our true place in life or above our actual or realistic importance. It should also be noted that humility does not require that we present or consider ourselves as something less than what we really are, but rather, it requires that we refrain from presenting or considering ourselves as something more than what we really are. Therefore, it is important that we are honest with ourselves and keep a realistic view of our situation in life and our importance, but this can be difficult for us to do.
The Scriptures also teach us that it is wise to let another person praise you, and not to praise yourself:
“Let another man praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips.” Proverbs 27:2
This is wise advice because it is easy for us to exaggerate our importance or situation since we tend to be biased about ourselves. Even if we are accurate in our self-praise, it still can be interpreted by others as boastful and arrogant.
The Scriptures also advice us to present or position ourselves in a lower position and to allow God to raise us to the higher position if we deserve it. Again, we don’t need to consider ourselves as less important than we are, but we should place ourselves at a lowly place and then allow God, working through others, to move us up to a place of honor.
“So He told a parable to those who were invited, when He noted how they chose the best places, saying to them: ‘When you are invited by anyone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in the best place, lest one more honorable than you be invited by him; and he who invited you and him come and say to you, “Give place to this man,” and then you begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit down in the lowest place, so that when he who invited you comes he may say to you, “Friend, go up higher.” Then you will have glory in the presence of those who sit at the table with you. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.’” Luke 14:7-11
What is critically important regarding humility is our ability to see ourselves, our position and our importance, relative to God, not just in relationship to our fellow human beings. As our infinite, omnipotent Creator, God holds a position that is vastly superior to ours and should therefore be approached by us with this in mind.
“When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained, what is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him?” Psalm 8: 3-4
As Christians we want to please the Lord; we want to increase in our knowledge of the truth and be transformed into His likeness. This cannot be accomplished if we are walking with any amount of pride rather than humility, even if we are unaware of our condition.
Let’s first consider the big picture of our walk with the Lord as a Christian. Sometime in the past we were presented with the Gospel, the good news that Jesus died for our sins, was buried, and then rose again from the dead (was resurrected) and was seen by witnesses. He then ascended to heaven and was seated at the right hand of the Father where all things were placed under His lordship.
“Moreover, brethren I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you – unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas (Peter), then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep.” 1 Cor. 15: 1-6
And this later in the same chapter:
“Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. For ‘He has put all things under His feet.’ But when He says ‘all things are put under Him’ it is evident that He who put all things under Him is excepted. Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all.” 1 Cor. 15: 24-28
We Christians have made the Lordship of Jesus Christ a reality in our lives and understand that not only is He the present Lord of lords in heaven, but He someday will put an end to all other rule and authority and power. We were accounted as righteous by making this truth of His resurrection and subsequent lordship a reality in our hearts.
“But what does it [the righteousness of faith] say? ‘The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart’ (that is, the word of faith which we preach); because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in you heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For man believes with his heart and so is justified, and he confesses with his lips and so is saved.” Romans 10: 8-10 (RSV)
We must consider also that it is likely that God had done some work in your life prior to your hearing the Gospel to deal with your pride. We must put aside our pride in order to receive God’s revelation of truth. This was the case for me where I had many humbling experiences leading up to my conversion to Biblical Christianity. This humility is important because the humble man realizes that God is the source of truth and that we must humbly accept the revelation of this truth even when we don’t fully understand every aspect of it. The proud man sees himself, that is, his intellect and reasoning, as the source of truth, and therefore rejects what he does not understand fully. As Christians we stand humbly below the revealed Scriptures, seeing them as the divine word of God. The proud man stands above the Scriptures and picks and chooses what he wants to believe from them (and this is erroneous) and potentially rejecting the important elements of the truth as a result. Christians must combine faith with humility to accept God’s revelation of truth in the Scriptures.
As Christians we need to be careful that we don’t establish truth in our lives from hearing other men’s opinions or develop our own opinions outside of God’s word (from the experiences we encounter), and then try to use various Scripture verses to support our already established viewpoint. The revealed word of God, the Bible, must be the authority for truth in our lives, and this can only happen if we put aside our pride and humbly accept the revelation. Men’s opinions and our experiences must be tested against the Scriptures, and then either accepted or rejected. With this in mind we can more clearly see why it is critical to have a full knowledge of the Scriptures by reading and studying them for ourselves, and then humbly accepting what is revealed, so we can properly determine the truth.
Let’s now consider why pride is an abomination to the Lord. First we know that Satan’s rebellion was rooted in his desire to become like the Most High and elevate himself above his given place, which was an act of arrogance and pride. Adam and Eve also responded to Satan’s lie that they would become like God if they ate the forbidden fruit, also a prideful move to make themselves more important than they were. We see throughout the Scripture record that rebellion is associated with pride as God’s creatures, namely the human race, reject their position under His authority, and disregard His commandments and fail to pay Him the respect and honor that is His due.
Additionally, for a person to be prideful they must be self-centered, which is the opposite of love. Love looks to the well being of others rather than the advancement or elevation of one’s self. Humility is one of the characteristics of a loving person. The Lord Jesus Christ, when He walked on this earth, taught about the importance of humility and also gave an example of it in His own life as He submitted Himself to the will of the Father, even unto death, and as He served others. Even the fact that He lowered Himself to become a man was a great act of humility.
There are many example of humility throughout the Bible, but I want to look at two example from the life and teachings of Jesus:
First, the story of the proud religious Pharisee contrasted with the humble tax collector.
“Also He [Jesus] spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: ‘Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, “God, I thank You that I am not like other men – extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector, I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.” And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.’” Luke 18:11-14
The second account is an explicit example that Jesus gave to His disciples regarding humility and serving each other that occurred immediately after the “Last Supper” Passover meal shortly before He was betrayed and later put to death:
“Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God, rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. Then He came to Simon Peter, and Peter said to Him, ‘Lord, are You washing my feet?’ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will after this.’ Peter said to Him, ‘You shall never wash my feet!’ Jesus answered him, ‘If I do not wash you, you have no part of Me.’ Simon Peter said to Him, ‘Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!’ Jesus said to him, ‘He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.’ For He knew who would betray Him; therefore He said, ‘You are not all clean.’ So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, ‘Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. Most assuredly I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. If you know these things blessed are you if you do them.’” John 13: 3-17
Here Jesus has shown us the position that we have in our lives: we are to serve others, or to be a servant. In the same way, or with the same attitude and consideration of our importance that He had when He washed their feet, this is how we should see ourselves with others, no matter what worldly position we hold. Note that this is the complete opposite of the attitude and approach of most of the people in the world system.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we must recognize the need for us to humble ourselves before God as the above quoted verse from 1 Peter suggests. Yes, the word humble can be a verb and not just a noun. What does this mean to “humble ourselves”? I believe that we need to periodically, maybe on a daily basis, examine ourselves to assure that we are completely aware of our position before Him as His humble servant, and as a servant to others, sifting out any prideful attitudes or areas of our lives where we have allowed the influence of the arrogant attitude of the world around us to creep in. This is an act of faith on our part where we must make the truth of the Lordship of Jesus a reality in our minds and hearts. I see this as being very similar to our use of faith to “encourage ourselves in the Lord” as David did, but to focus on the reality of our humble position, rather than on the faithfulness of God and His promises to us.
Approach the Lord in prayer humbly, recognizing His high standard of holiness and righteousness that we have fallen short of in our lives. All of us have fallen short of God’s standard and have sinned in our past. We can only stand before the Lord now due to the merits of the Lord Jesus and His redemption on our behalf, paying the price for our past sins. Even now, although we are striving to walk in holiness and love with a clear conscience, we must recognize that we have nothing to boast about in the light of our past shortcomings, and should approach Him accordingly.
We must also remember the authority of His Word, the Bible, as a source of truth, seeking to establish our world view and belief system based on its revelations and using it as a source of authority to sort out the lies of the enemy.
In closing I remind you again of God’s resistance of the proud person and His elevation of the humble person. I leave you with this prophecy from the prophet Isaiah showing the Lord’s attitude towards the humble:
“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.’” Isaiah 57: 15