Thrown Down By Pride, Lifted Up In Humility
But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.” James 4:6 (NAS)
Jesus, in the sermon on the mount, told the assembled multitude “You are to be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matt 5:48) No amount of massaging that passage is going to get you around the thrust of Jesus’ statement.
Praise God that the writer of Hebrews emphasizes and supplements our understanding that through Christ’s offering “He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.” (Heb 10:14) We can confidently say we are perfect in Christ Jesus because His offering did what it was designed to do, give us a clean (perfect) conscience. This in turn allows us to draw near to God. The indwelling Holy Spirit and the teaching of the New Testament then give us the tools to take that perfect conscience and develop Christ-like, (dare we say?) perfect character. What great gifts from God, right brethren? Implemented properly through faith, knowing who we are in Christ and our purpose, we will develop a practicing righteousness geared to meet the command of Christ to be perfect as our Heavenly Father.
So what does this have to do with the Old Testament passage that James and Peter both quote from Proverbs 3:34 which reads, “Surely He scorns the scornful, but gives grace to the humble.” ? (NKJV) Peter’s and James’ inspired New Testament renderings read slightly different since their quotes are from the Septuagint translation of the Old Testament.
Pride’s downbound ride
There’s a little something that can get in the way of our walking in the footsteps of Christ. It’s called pride. Another name it’s known by is arrogance. Simply put, it’s a self-exalting, overblown view of our own importance, excellence and intellect. It’s obvious from the inspired letter of James that for some in Christ, those same that the Holy writ says are perfect in Christ, pride was an issue.
Perfection, viewed improperly, can be a destructive force manifested in an arrogant, prideful manner. Some of us may remember the popular song of yesteryear that bore the chorus, ‘ O Lord, it’s hard to be humble, when you’re perfect in every way…’
The Old Testament example we can offer as exhibit A of the destructive nature of pride and an improper picture of one’s perfection would be Lucifer, star of the morning (Isa. 14:12) and the record of his fall from grace as revealed in the book of Ezekiel in chapter 28:12-17. Even though the lamentation taken up is said to be directed at the king of Tyre, it was really directed at him (Satan) who was the power behind the arrogant earthly king. We offer a few highlights here for instructional purposes.
The prophet writes, “You had the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty ” (Ezek 28:12b); going on to note Lucifer was in the garden of Eden but prior to that on the heavenly mount with God: “You were the anointed cherub who covers, and I placed you there. You were on the holy mountain of God; you walked in the midst of the stones of fire. You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created, until unrighteousness was found in you.” (Ezek 28:14-15) What was this unrighteousness found in him? “By the abundance of your trade you were internally filled with violence, and you sinned…Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom by reason of your splendor.” (Ezek. 28:16a, 17a) For this, Lucifer was cast down as profane off the mountain of God destined for destruction. Lucifer took what God had given him and twisted it. Instead of humbly worshipping He who made him in such perfection, Satan convinced himself he deserved to be worshipped because of his beauty and wisdom. He set out to do whatever was necessary to get that worship. Since his rebellion, the Destroyer has left a wake of desolated souls and a broad swath of devastation. All due to his prideful desire to occupy a position not his.
The greater gift, humility
The Lord has given us a greater gift-humility. Contrast the picture above with that of our God, come in the flesh. “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. ” (Phil 2:5-8) What was the result for us of this heavenly humility? Jesus came to serve, not be served, and to give His life as a ransom for many. For that, God exalted Him high above every other name.
James has been dealing with the source of quarrels and conflicts. They arise because of envy, not having, and being friends with the world, doing whatever it takes to get what is wanted, including murder. Sounds self-serving, Satanic, doesn’t it? You stand opposed to God if you’re trying to twist His program to meet your selfish needs or prideful desires. Remember, he’ll cast you down off His mountain.
The perfect God’s program was and is, selflessness and service to man, a desire to save. Do you have this attitude? If you serve Him with a humble heart, He will give you the grace that draws you ever nearer to Him. If we humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God, we get to taste the fruits of that greater gift by being exalted and seated with Christ. We, those perfect in Christ, get to take that honored position once occupied by Lucifer. Is God’s plan awesome or what? Amen.