What does it mean to humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord (James 4:10)?
Humility before God is a critical concept in the Bible. James 4:10 states, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.” But what exactly does it mean to humble ourselves before God? Here is an in-depth look at the meaning behind this verse.
To Provide Context, James 4 Discuss Humility Amidst Worldly Pleasures and Pride
It’s important to understand the broader context of James 4 when looking at verse 10. In the preceding verses, James rebukes those who make plans and focus on worldly pleasures without consulting God. He chastises them for boasting in arrogance and reminds that their lives are fleeting. James asserts that this proud attitude is evil and amounts to boasting against God’s will (James 4:13-16).
In James 4:1-3, James further reprimands those who fight and covet after their own lusts and pleasure. He states that this is the root of the conflicts they face. James clarifies that even when they do ask of God, they ask with wrong motives, merely to satisfy their pleasures.
With this background, James advocates for humility before God as the antidote to this worldly pride and self-centeredness. Drawing near to God necessitates humbling ourselves before Him.
Humility Involves Recognizing Our Lowliness and Submitting Fully to God
To “humble yourselves before the Lord” first requires an honest recognition of our status before a holy God. As sinful human beings, we have nothing commendable in ourselves that warrants any pride (Romans 3:10-12). We must humbly acknowledge that we are but dust before Almighty God (Genesis 18:27).
This humility continues as we acknowledge the grace we have received undeservedly. There is nothing we can do to earn salvation and forgiveness. It is only by God’s mercy that we are saved through Christ’s sacrifice (Ephesians 2:8-9). As recipients of such immense grace, humility is the only appropriate response.
At its core, biblically humility means considering others above ourselves (Philippians 2:3). It is the opposite of self-exaltation and self-focus. Humility recognizes that our gifts, resources, and very lives are not our own, but graciously given by God to steward.
Humility also entails full submission to God. We humble ourselves by surrendering our wills, plans, desires, and very selves fully to Him. This means laying down our agendas to pursue God’s purposes. It means seeking first His kingdom above all else (Matthew 6:33).
Humility Involves Repentance and Openness to God’s Conviction and Guidance
For the proud described in James 4, humbling themselves would require repentance. They must turn from the worldly passions that wage war within them (James 4:1-3). Humility starts with admitting our sins and need for God’s forgiveness.
Humility also keeps our hearts soft and pliable before God. The proud resist God’s conviction, wisdom, and guidance. But the humble continually open themselves to the Holy Spirit’s work in their hearts. They receive God’s word with eagerness and respond promptly to His corrections.
The humble long to know God’s thoughts over their own. They desire His will over self-centered ambitions. This continual openness and responsiveness reflects a humility that starts in the heart.
Humility Produces Activities Oriented Toward Serving God and Others
True humility transforms attitudes which in turn produce outward actions. As humility replaces pride, self-focus gives way to God-focus and others-focus.
Humility serves God through fervent prayer, worship, and obedience. The humble reorient their schedules and plans around pursuing Him foremost. They expend their resources, time, and energy on Kingdom priorities rather than self-pleasure.
Humility also serves others through giving generously and meeting felt needs (Acts 20:35). It looks out for others’ interests above its own and willingly defers to them (Philippians 2:3-4). Humility displays itself through compassion, encouragement, gentleness, patience, and kindness (Colossians 3:12).
The proud hoard opportunities, resources, and positions for self-gain. But the humble gladly share with and build others up. They do nothing from selfish ambition but in humility consider others more significant than themselves (Philippians 2:3-4).
The Humble Acknowledge Their Dependence on God for Everything
Undergirding true humility is a fundamental recognition that we need God desperately. Apart from Him, we can do nothing (John 15:5). Every good gift comes from above (James 1:17). He alone is worthy of all honor and glory.
The humble do not think more highly of themselves than they ought (Romans 12:3). They understand every achievement, possession, and talent originates in God. Even the very faith they exercise to believe comes from Him (Ephesians 2:8-9).
This poverty of spirit acknowledges no capability or righteousness outside of Christ (Matthew 5:3). It confesses with Paul: “But by the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Corinthians 15:10). The humble know pride and self-sufficiency have no place before a generous God.
God Exalts the Humble and Resists the Proud
After calling believers to humility, James 4:10 provides this encouragement: “and [God] will exalt you.” Scripture consistently reveals that God blesses and honors the humble. But He opposes the proud.
James 4:6 quotes Proverbs 3:34 which says God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. We activate God’s grace by humbling ourselves under His mighty hand (1 Peter 5:5-6). His grace then exalts us at the proper time.
Jesus personified this humility that God honors. Philippians 2:5-11 describes how Christ set aside his rights, took the form of a servant, and humbled himself to die on the cross. Therefore, God highly exalted his name above all others. His path to exaltation went through the valley of humble servanthood.
We may not see immediate exaltation for our humility like Christ did. But we can trust God will lift up the humble at the right time and for our ultimate good. Our humble service stores up treasure in heaven if not always on earth (Matthew 6:1-4).
The Humble Find Rest and Abundant Life in Christ
Most importantly, humility aligns us to experience the blessings Jesus promises those who follow him. In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus beckons the weary and burdened to find rest in him through taking on his yoke of humble obedience. Though humble servanthood seems difficult, Jesus promises it actually results in rest for our souls as he shoulders the load.
Likewise, Jesus guarantees in John 10:10 that he came to give abundant life. This happens as the proud “die to self” and live fully unto Christ. Paradoxically, humble surrender leads to our greatest freedom and fullness of life in God. We access it by humbly submitting our wills to Jesus’ easy and light yoke.
Thus humility frees us from the destructive tendencies of pride that lead to conflict, isolation, emptiness, and separation from God. As James 4 reveals, pride simply does not lead to life. The abundant life Jesus gives flows from a posture of humility.
Cultivating a Lifestyle of Humility Before God
Growth in humility involves ongoing cultivation. Here are some ways we can continually humble ourselves before God.
1. Start by asking God to reveal areas of pride and self-sufficiency. We are often blind to our own pride. Pray for openness to the Holy Spirit’s conviction about any self-focus, self-reliance or self-exaltation. Confess and turn from specific areas of pride as He reveals them.
2. Reflect on the cross and Christ’s humility that saved us (Philippians 2:5-11). Allow Christ’s love and sacrifice to constrain our self-centeredness (2 Corinthians 5:14-15). As 1 Peter 5:5-6 exhorts, let Christ’s humility instruct and motivate our own.
3. Submit areas of your life to God daily. Lay down your plans, relationships, use of time, gifts, and resources on the altar before Him. Offer them up with an openness for God’s will over your own. Yield to the Holy Spirit’s leading in how to steward your life for God’s glory.
4. Apply humility in relationships and team efforts. Look out for others’ interests first. Esteem them as more important than self. Defer to their preferences and suggestions. Allow others to lead sometimes rather than always seeking control. Confess and ask forgiveness when you wrong others.
5. In prayer, worship God for who He is. Praise Him for His surpassing worth and majesty. Declare your dependence and unwavering trust in Him. Thank Him for His grace and help. Submit your requests to His perfect will. Define success by God’s kingdom coming, not your personal agenda being fulfilled.
6. Meditate on specific Scripture verses about humility like Philippians 2:3-11, James 4:6-10, Proverbs 22:4, 1 Peter 5:5-7, Colossians 3:12-17. Ask God to speak through His word and transform your heart.
7. Celebrate and affirm evidences of humility you notice in other Christ-followers. Let it inspire you to deeper surrender to Christ.
8. Remember that apart from Christ, you can do nothing (John 15:5). Acknowledge that every good thing in your life is by God’s grace. Thank Him throughout your day for His gifts and help.
9. When you fail or struggle, admit your dependence on God for wisdom, strength, and perseverance. Rely on His supply of grace rather than self-effort. Allow difficulties to remind you that He alone is your source and sustainer.
Humility requires continual cultivation in our lives. But such humility unleashes incredible blessings from God. As James 4 promises, He lavishly pours out grace on the humble. He lifts them up and uses them powerfully for His kingdom. We access this grace by humbly submitting everything to God, seeking His will above all else. When we walk in humility before Him, He promises to exalt us and accomplish great things through our surrendered lives.