The Psalmist tells us that God distances himself from the proud (Ps. 138:6). In fact, a proud look not only separates one from God, it causes one to incur his wrath! This is undoubtedly why James wrote, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6). But what is humility, really? What does humility demand, require, express, and acknowledge?
James went on to say, “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). Humility demands full submission to God. It’s difficult to teach those who think they are so wise that they already know enough. Because he gives grace to the humble, God’s people must put off their own desires and accept his law and love. This requires resisting Satan and his temptations to follow our own desires. That is what fully submitting to God means. Let us have the Bible and eternity in our minds and entirely adhere to sound Scripture in submission to God!
Then James said, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands…purify your hearts…” (James 4:8). Humility requires seeking God’s favor and mercy. One who seeks his favor and a close relationship with him must be willing to come to him, for he does not force himself upon men. This is a decision based upon an individual’s faith and obedience. However, the key is WORK. It is not easy to cleanse our hands and purify our hearts, but that is what must be done.
Furthermore, James tells us we must “lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom” (James 4:9). Humility must express appropriate sorrow for sin. The sin that used to be fun and brighten our day must now ruin our days. It must make us feel absolutely terrible. That cannot happen unless we realize that sin will condemn us to hell, and therefore is a serious matter. Only then will we be like the tax collector, a man so sorrowful for his sins that he wouldn’t even look up to heaven but instead wailed, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” (Luke 18:13)
Finally, James concludes by saying, “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he will lift you up” (James 4:10). Humility must acknowledge the sight of the Lord. The Psalmist and the prodigal son recognized that they had sinned against God and heaven (Ps. 51:4; Luke 15:18). God is the primarily the One against whom our sins are committed, and God is the only One who can pardon our sins. When we recognize that, it helps bring about humility.
God gives grace to the humble. While men repeatedly sin against him, God joyfully accepts those who take action and come to him in repentance (Luke 15:22-24). The way to heaven is to realize our sins and shortcomings, and humbly depend upon the will of an all-powerful God for our eternal salvation.