“But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.” (James 4:6 KJV)
James, inspired by the Holy Spirit, wrote a bold letter addressed to all Christians. In chapter 4, he talks about humility and submission to God. This is a hard subject to deal with, but James tackles it with the authority given by the Lord. He gives practical advice to every Christian who wants to live a godly life. Let’s focus on verse 4:6, where he shows us the major hindrance that keeps us from submitting to God’s will: our pride.
#1 What is wrong with pride?
There is a kind of pride that is not sinful. Paul talks about this “positive” pride, saying, “let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another” (Galatians 6:4 KJV). If you’re proud of finishing work that took a lot of effort, that’s legitimate. But if that makes you think you’re better than others, then you have crossed the line. The border between good pride and sinful pride is subtle.
The Bible tells us more about the pride that God doesn’t approve of. Proverbs 8:13 and 1 Samuel 2:3 talk about negative pride and treat it as a synonym of arrogance. Arrogance is the “offensive display of superiority or self-importance; overbearing pride” (from dictionary.com).
That’s the problem with pride: it makes us think we are superior to others. It makes us exaggerate our own importance. That drives us to reject advice, including from Scripture. It makes us think, even if unconsciously, that we don’t need God. The psalmist wrote that “the wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts” (Psalm 10:4 KJV). Pride makes people self-centered, and it ultimately leads them away from God.
#2 What Does It Mean to Be Humble?
Paul told his readers “not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think” (Romans 12:3 KJV). He also said that each must “esteem other better than themselves” (Philippians 2:3 KJV). Peter, quoting the same proverb that James did, wrote that we must be “subject one to another, and be clothed with humility” (1 Peter 5:5 KJV). In other words, a humble person is not self-centered. They value and serve others. They also welcome others’ help and advice (Proverbs 13:10). The humble know that every good deed they do is a gift from God (1 Corinthians 4:7).
The apostle Paul was a remarkable man. But he learned to be humble. He said, “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Galatians 6:14 KJV). The humble gives glory to God, not to themselves. They seek that God’s name is exalted, not their own.
In chapter 4 of his letter, James tells us what we need to do to become humble:
- submit to God (James 4:7)
- draw near to Him (James 4:8a)
- pursue holiness (James 4:8b)
- repent (James 4:9)
Each of these steps is part of the sanctification process. Becoming humble is necessary for any Christian that wants to be closer to God.
#3 God Rewards the Humble
Humility is necessary to pursue a true relationship with God and to do His will (Colossians 3:12). But we can’t make it on our own. That’s why James says that God “giveth grace unto the humble” (James 4:6 KJV). When we humble ourselves, we are able to recognize our dependency upon God, to seek Him, and receive grace.
Paul wrote that our example of humility is Jesus Christ, who “humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:8 KJV). The Son of God could have come to the world as a mighty and rich king. But He came as a servant, and He died the most humiliating form of death (Galatians 3:13). His goal wasn’t to exalt Himself. He was obedient to the Father, and the Father “hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name” (Philippians 2:9 KJV).
The apostle Peter told his readers to “humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time” (1 Peter 5:6 KJV). His affirmation is like what James wrote in verse 4:10, while he was talking about humility. He said, “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up” (James 4:10 KJV). The Lord Jesus Himself also gave us similar advice, saying, “For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 14:11 NKJV).
The humble don’t look for recognition of their accomplishments. They credit them to God. They seek God’s glory, not their own – just like Jesus did. It is God who will give the proper reward and who will exalt each person at the right moment.
God gives us grace to enable us to be humble. Humility allows us to know how unable we are to do any good deed apart from God. It also allows us to recognize the graceful and merciful work of God in our lives. Being humble makes us dependent on Him, and not on ourselves. It helps us submit to Him and pursue a holy life – not to be proud of it, but to be even humbler. Through every step, He will give us more grace and will help us do His will.
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Master's Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years.