Bible Reading: James 4:1-12
“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you” (James 4:10)
In essence, the sin of pride is whenever we desire to follow our own selfish ambition instead of God’s will. Whenever we turn from God’s path, we intentionally and consciously decide that our path is better than God’s. Pride is boasting and trusting that our way is more logical than God’s and that it would be more satisfying and enjoyable than God’s. Pride is the root of sin. It is the root of our idolatry.
James reminds us that pride springs forth the fruits of all other sins. Because our hearts long for what we want, we forget about God and about others. “You desire and do not have, so your murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel”.
Even more, our pride causes us to use God as a tool to gain our own desires. v. 3 reminds us, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions”. How often do we approach God for the sake of receiving blessings to fulfil our passions? So often, we do not want God. We pray and seek Him just like those who sought bread from Jesus. Jesus performed miracles to feed the five thousand as a sign that He was the Messiah. However, the crowd wanted to crown Him as King so that they could keep getting free bread. They did not want Jesus for who He was. They had no intention to crown Jesus as Lord over their own lives. They just wanted bread. It is the same with us; we ask for health, blessings, wealth, even successful ministry, a life not wasted, and other spiritual things, yet we do not want God Himself. We desire to follow our own selfish desires. This is pride.
James rebukes, “You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?” (v.4). Pride is like adultery. As a husband who commits an affair is unfaithful to his wife, so we who lust after selfish ambition are unfaithful to our Lord. If we desire our selfish ambition, that is friendship with the world, and it is exactly where Satan wants us to be. You can’t sit on the fence. You are either following God, or you are enemies with Him.
This is the dark reality of sin in all of us. And if Jesus never came to give us new hearts and break our hardened hearts, we would never change. However, v.6 provides us with hope because “he [God] gives more grace”. God calls His people to humble repentance. Quoting Proverbs 3:34, James recalls how “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble”.
In our sin and battle with pride, James exhorts us to humble ourselves by submitting ourselves to God (v.7). This means to give up our selfish ambition and fully surrender our own will and desires and instead turn to obey God’s will in the scriptures. The beginning of obeying God’s will instead of our own is a whole heart surrender to God. It begins with a decision we make in our hearts to turn aside from our selfish ambition and submit to God’s. If we have surrendered all of our hearts, then naturally, we will seek to know God’s will, and He says those who seek will find it.
James 4:8 promises, “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.”
Again James emphasises this point as he exhorts us to “cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded” (v.8). We must deal with our double-minded hearts if we are to be humble. To be humble means to cast away our selfish desires that are displeasing to God and bring our hearts wholly to God alone.
The proper attitude in humility and repentance is to “be wretched and mourn and weep.” It is to “Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom” (v.9). This does not mean we should never be happy. Instead, it highlights the seriousness of our sins. Our hearts which use to take sin lightly with joy and laughter must now scorn it with remorse. Our hearts must turn to hate our sin, and our hearts must turn in humble repentance to God.
Once again, all this is by God’s grace. Jesus said in His beatitudes, “blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). One is blessed not because he does something to earn it. Rather, it is a gift of grace. If we are given the opportunity and grace to repent, take it. To have a humble heart is only God’s grace. Ask for it, seek it, and turn away from our hearts of pride. Surely God “gives grace to the humble”, and those who humble themselves God will exalt.
Lord, please forgive me when I follow my own desires. Forgive me whenever I put myself above You in pride. You are the Lord of my life. Please rule over it. Help me to submit to You and obey Your will instead of my own. Purify my heart and make it wholly for You alone. Have mercy on me and shape in me a genuinely humble heart before You. I scorn my sin, and I know it is abhorrent before You. Give me mercy and draw near to me because apart from You, where else can I go? Remember me in Jesus’ sacrifice and give me grace according to Your promises. Thank You, God. In Jesus’ name, amen.