Humility is a paradoxical virtue. Why? It is one virtue that I do not have when I think I have it. How so? Because as I cannot claim to be humble, I certainly know when I am being proud.
To be humble is as much a social issue as it is a personal learning. Humility is not seen or needed in the lone individual. It is only visible in a community – in the eyes of others – not of oneself.
James, the author of the Epistles of James wrote about humility in
What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
Pride is often at the root of quarrels. Quarrels and fights come about because people insist on their own ways and wishes – thinking theirs is the best way. Pride is a selfish vice. It is about one’s own desires (v.1), one’s own sufficiency (v.2), one’s own pleasures (v.3).
4 You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us? 6 But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:
“God opposes the proud
but shows favor to the humble.
Pride is a worldly vice. It is about entitlement. Pride says I deserve better. It is against God’s grace. Grace is gift given to the undeserving. Humility is acknowledging grace. To be with the world is to be against God because pride rejects grace. Pride says I do not need grace. This is why God rejects the proud but gives grace to the humble.
7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.
How to be humble? Obey God in sincerity and humility of heart. Admit my sins. Be sad and sorry for my mistakes. Acknowledge my need for God – His grace and mercy. God never rejects the humble. He lifts them up – He extends his favour to the humble.
11 Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. 12 There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?
How to be proud? Slander and judge. Speak ill of people. Criticise them. Pride is about self-righteousness. I am right. You are wrong. But there is only One truly righteous – the only one Lawgiver and Judge – God. He commands that I love my neighbour – not judge. When I judge, I am being proud. I am not keeping God’s command. I presume that I am better than God.
Today, let me walk not in pride. Let me remember not to fight and quarrel for my selfish pleasures and desires. Let my heart be at peace with God. Why struggle to gain the world’s approval? Let me acknowledge and receive God’s grace. Let me pray for God to extend his favour not by judging but by loving.