James 4: “Humble Yourself”


Did you hear about the minister who said he had a wonderful sermon on humility but was waiting for a large crowd before preaching it?

Many years ago, Christian professor Stuart Blackie of the University of Edinburgh was listening to his students as they presented oral readings. When one young man rose to begin his recitation, he held his book in the wrong hand. The professor thundered, “Take your book in your right hand, and be seated!” At this harsh rebuke, the student held up his right arm. He didn’t have a right hand! The other students shifted uneasily in their chairs. For a moment the professor hesitated. Then he made his way to the student, put his arm around him, and with tears streaming from his eyes, said, “I never knew about it. Please, will you forgive me?” His humble apology made a lasting impact on that young man. This story was told some time later in a large gathering of believers. At the close of the meeting a man came forward, turned to the crowd, and raised his right arm. It ended at the wrist. He said, “I was that student. Professor Blackie led me to Christ. But he never could have done it if he had not made the wrong right.”

James 4:5-10 (NLT) Do you think the Scriptures have no meaning? They say that God is passionate that the spirit he has placed within us should be faithful to him. And he gives grace generously. As the Scriptures say,

“God opposes the proud
    but gives grace to the humble.”

So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.

Humble Yourself

C.S. Lewis is quoted as saying, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.”

This section of James’ letter is considered by many to be the climax. You can almost tell by the power of his words that James has something to say! When challenging his readers on the meaning of scripture, James points out that scripture communicates God’s desire that we would remain faithful to Him. He then highlight the verse from Proverbs 3:34 (NLT) “God opposes the proud
    but gives grace to the humble.”

With the application of the word “so” at the begging of verse 7 James is about to communicate how we are called to be humble:

  • (v. 7) Humble yourselves before God
  • (v. 7) Resist the devil, AND HE WILL FLEE FROM YOU!
  • (v. 8) Come close to God, and GOD WILL COME CLOSE TO YOU!
  • (v. 8) Wash your hands
  • (v. 8) Purify your hearts
  • (v. 9) Let there be tears
  • (v. 9) Let there be sorrow and deep grief
  • (v. 9) Let there be sadness and gloom instead of joy
  • (v. 10) Humble yourselves before the Lord, AND HE WILL LIFT YOU UP IN HONOR!

Do you notice how this list begins and ends? Humility.

For Today

Are you in need of grace today? As we’ve read today in scripture, God gives grace to the humble. It’s powerful to consider that your humility gives space for grace. When we humble ourselves before the Lord we recognize who has all the power and control in our lives. In God’s economy, the lower you get, the higher God lifts you up!