But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
James 4:6 (NASB)
We live in a broken world, one in which conflict and divisiveness are unavoidable. While conflict may often be beyond our control, as believers we are responsible for how we respond in the face of opposition. Also, when in direct conflict with others, we must be able to discern if there is a deeper, personal heart issue to be addressed. Such was the case with the early Christian church. James 4:1-10 tells us that the church was heavily afflicted with strife and polluted with sin. The conflict was so intense that in verse 1 James uses the Greek word polemos when describing their quarrels, which literally means a war or battle. Therefore, James swiftly rebukes the church and proclaims the root of the problem. You. You are contentious, lustful, envious, wicked, spiritually indecisive harlots. You don’t even pray! And if you do, it is only to fulfill your own desires (paraphrase mine)! While his striking rebuke may seem severe and devoid of grace, one thing is certain, where sin abounded, unity within the body of Christ was absent. Many wanted to experience the pleasures offered by the world and were too proud to admit that they needed God. They exalted themselves and creation above their Creator. Essentially, their temporal, earthly conflicts were a result of a deeper conflict with God that would lead to eternal consequences.
James’ admonishment was not only for the early Christian church but is relevant for all those whose hearts have wandered from God and sought friendship elsewhere. His poignant words pertain to each individual who has said, “I know what’s best!” and has elevated himself above his Creator. James’ message resonates with all those who have wrestled with an inflated ego, otherwise known as pride.
In verse 6, James reminds each of us about the perils of pride by quoting Proverbs 3:34, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. What is the difference between pride and humility, and how do we recognize our present condition? Pride is lofty, humility is lowly. Pride is being self-reliant, humility is being God-reliant. Pride exalts the self, humility exalts God. Pride looks down on others, humility looks up to God. Pride puts us in opposition to God, but grace is available to those who humbly bow before Him in full recognition of His sovereignty and honor His authority through obedience. Humility is the very opposite of pride and was perfectly demonstrated in the life of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Philippians 2:7-9 tells us that Jesus, “emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men… He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death… For this reason, God exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name.” The King of Kings left His Father in heaven and became flesh and blood. While fully God, He became fully man and obediently submitted to the Father’s will. Jesus bore our iniquities so that the chasm between man and God the Father could be bridged, and he was exalted for His suffering. No other name can compare to that of Jesus Christ!
Therefore, as believers how do we confront our pridefulness and clothe ourselves in humility? How do we emulate the humble nature of Jesus Christ when confronted daily with the enticements of this world? James provides us with a solution to combating our self-exalted position. We remove the focus from self and turn it towards God.
First, we must submit to God and place ourselves under His authority. Are you seeking the satisfaction of the flesh, or satisfaction in Christ and allowing God to meet your needs? Are you elevating your personal happiness above surrendering to His will?
Next, we must resist the devil and the worldly desires that can give rise to strife and conflict. As you equip yourself with the full armor of God and remain steadfast in truth, Scripture promises the enemy will flee from you.
Draw near to God in worship and fellowship. Direct your heart into the presence of God and in turn, He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands and purify your hearts. Be miserable and mourn and weep. Unlike James’ original audience (who flippantly disregarded their sin), when God exposes sin, our response should be that of genuine sorrow and brokenness. Humble yourselves and He will exalt you because His greater grace is immeasurable, inexhaustible and sufficient for your every need. He will raise you from your broken estate to that of a daughter adorned by grace, equipped with every necessary resource to live a holy life.
Our Mighty and Majestic Father, as we abandon our pride and surrender to your authority today, let it not be for personal gain and “my will be done” but rather “thy will be done.” Amen.