The verse James 4:6 states, “But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.'” This verse packs a powerful truth that has implications for how we should live as followers of Christ.
To properly understand this verse, we first need to examine the broader context of the passage it comes from. James 4 opens with a rebuke from James against the quarrels and conflicts between Christians. He chastises them for seeking after worldly pleasures that lead to fighting and warns that friendship with the world equates to “enmity with God” (James 4:4).
James then calls for repentance and expresses grief over the sinful desires that wage “war” within followers of Christ (James 4:1-3). He encourages submitting to God and drawing near to Him, stating that He will in turn draw near to believers (James 4:7-8). It is within this context of rebuking sin and calling for wholehearted devotion to God that James declares, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6).
The main points we can derive from this verse are:
- God actively opposes the proud.
- God gives grace to the humble.
Let’s explore what each of these statements means.
God Opposes the Proud
To be proud means to have an exaggerated view of one’s importance or abilities. A proud person is arrogant, haughty, and considers themselves above others. The proud person typically denies their own faults and shortcomings and seeks to elevate themselves over others.
The Bible repeatedly warns against pride and exalts the virtue of humility. Pride is essentially self-glorification – a grasping after God’s rightful glory and an elevation of self. James captures it well when he describes pride as boasting in arrogance against the truth (James 4:16). A proud person fails to acknowledge God as supreme and seeks to rise above their rightful, humble position before Him.
Therefore, God continually opposes pride. The proud become an enemy of God because they rebel against His sovereignty and refuse to glorify Him. Throughout Scripture, God brings down and opposes the proud while exalting the lowly:
- “Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the Lord; be assured, he will not go unpunished.” (Proverbs 16:5)
- “Before destruction a man’s heart is haughty, but humility comes before honor.” (Proverbs 18:12)
- “For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 14:11)
God resists pride because He detests arrogance, self-exaltation, and self-sufficiency apart from Him. James highlights God’s opposition to pride as a warning and call to repentance. The proud need to renounce the idolatry of self and humbly submit to the Lordship of Christ.
God Gives Grace to the Humble
In contrast to pride, humility recognizes one’s utter dependence on God. The humble person acknowledges their flaws, limitations, and position before God as His creatures. They do not think too highly of themselves or seek their own glory.
According to James, it is the humble whom God blesses with more grace. This means God is disposed to show abundant favor, help, and strength to those with a lowly spirit. When we humble ourselves before Him, recognizing our great need, God promises to exalt us and lavish us with aid and mercy:
- “He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way.” (Psalm 25:9)
- “The Lord lifts up the humble; he casts the wicked to the ground.” (Psalm 147:6)
- “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Matthew 23:12)
God’s grace is unmerited favor. When we humble ourselves and acknowledge our inability to save ourselves, God steps in with divine favor and strength. James highlights God’s grace to make it clear that the only proper response to God is humility. Pride leads to judgment, but humility elicits God’s help and blessings.
Examples of Pride and Humility
Scripture offers many examples of pride being brought low and the exaltation of the humble. The book of Daniel portrays King Nebuchadnezzar as proud and arrogant, declaring “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built?” (Daniel 4:30). But God humbles him through a period of madness, teaching the king that all his power and wealth were from God alone. In contrast, Daniel models humility, relying on God rather than his abilities.
In the New Testament, we see pride in the religious leaders who considered themselves above others. Jesus condemns their arrogance (Matthew 23). Meanwhile, Jesus praises the modesty and faith exhibited in the Canaanite woman’s appeal to Him, saying her faith is great (Matthew 15:28).
The parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector further illustrates the difference between pride and humility (Luke 18:9-14). While the Pharisee’s boastful prayer is rejected, the tax collector’s humble admission of unworthiness is exalted by God. These examples help us understand what godly humility looks like in action.
How Should This Affect Us?
Recognizing that God opposes the proud but gives grace to the lowly should move us to cultivate humility and eschew pride. Here are some key ways this truth can impact our lives:
- Examine ourselves – We should regularly inspect our hearts and motivations to identify and repent of pride (Psalm 139:23-24).
- Focus on Christ’s humility – As believers we must seek to emulate Christ’s humility displayed through His incarnation and death on the cross (Philippians 2:1-11).
- Esteem others – Humility fosters respect, gentleness and an elevation of others. We should view ourselves as no better than fellow sinners saved by grace (Romans 12:3, 10).
- Pursue lowliness – Scripture calls us to actively pursue humility and resist pride. When we humble ourselves before God, He promises to exalt us (1 Peter 5:5-6).
- Remember our place – Recognizing that every good gift is from above fosters gratitude to God and a proper perspective of ourselves as undeserving, dependent creatures (1 Corinthians 4:7).
Living in light of the truth that God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble necessitates that we regularly practice self-denial, elevate others, recognize our dependence on God, and seek a Savior-like lowliness. Embracing humility is essential if we are to receive more of God’s unmerited favor and aid.
In summary, James 4:6 offers both a sobering warning and gracious promise. God actively opposes and brings down the proud who arrogantly promote themselves and rebel against Him. But He gives greater grace to the humble who look to Him as supreme and recognize their dependence. This verse challenges us to ponder our hearts and consider whether pride or humility marks our lives.
Seeking after humility requires denying our fleshly tendency toward self-exaltation. But it leads to a life abundant in God’s grace and aid as we look to Christ and find our worth in Him alone. Clothing ourselves in true humility before both God and man draws us closer to our Savior and opens the floodgates of heaven’s grace. God promises to lift up all who humble themselves before Him (1 Peter 5:6). May we actively flee pride and seek the blessing found in Christ-like humility.