“For though the Lord is high, he regards the lowly, but the haughty he knows from afar.”
In other words, God distances Himself from the proud. In fact, a proud look not only separates one from God, it also causes one to incur His wrath! This is undoubtedly why the Bible says, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6).
Yet what is humility, really?
God inspired James to go on to write, “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). Humility demands full submission to God. Those who think they are so wise that they already know either everything or enough are very difficult to teach. God’s people must be different. They must put off their own desires and accept His law and love…because He gives grace to the humble. So Christians must resist Satan and his temptations to follow one’s own desires. That’s what fully submitting to God means. Keep Scripture and eternity in your mind and completely follow the Word of God if you want to submit 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. The man or woman who seeks His favor and a close relationship with Him must be willing to come to Him, because God does not force Himself upon any of us. Only one’s faith – their complete trust in God’s existence and promises – will motivate them to decide to obey Him and come to Him. This requires WORK, which is the key. It is not easy to cleanse our hands and purify our hearts. Yet that is what must be done.
Scripture then tells us we must “lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom” (James 4:9). This is not saying that the Christian must be gloomy at all times; if that were the case, the Bible would not have told us to “rejoice always” (Philippians 4:4). Instead, God is telling us that humility must express appropriate sorrow for the sin one commits. Before the Christian became a Christian, sin used to be fun. It used to brighten one’s day. Now it must ruin your day. It must make you feel absolutely terrible. That cannot happen unless we realize two things: that the Lord who saved us by giving His life is deeply grieved by our sin, and that sin will ultimately condemn us to hell (2 Corinthians 7:9-11; Romans 6:23; cf. Revelation 21:8). Sin is a serious matter. Only when we realize that will we become like the tax collector in Jesus’ parable, a man so sorrowful over his sins that he wouldn’t even look up to heaven but instead wailed, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” (Luke 18:13).
God’s Word commands us to “humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord,” with the assurance that “He will lift you up” (James 4:10). Humility must acknowledge the sight of the Lord. David committed adultery with Bathsheba, tried to deceive her husband about it, and then killed him to cover up his fornication (2 Samuel 11). Only after being confronted by God’s prophet and penitently confessing his sin (2 Samuel 12) did he address God, writing, “Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done what is evil in Your sight, so that You may be justified in Your words and blameless in Your judgment” (Psalm 51:4). Yes, he had also sinned against Bathsheba and her husband…but he realized that ultimately he had sinned against the God who had blessed him and helped him all his life. In like manner, the prodigal son had sinned against his father and brother…but realized that ultimately his sin was against heaven (Luke 15:18). God is primarily the One against Whom our sins are committed. He is the only One who can pardon our sins. Realizing this brings humility.
God gives grace to the humble. While men repeatedly sin against Him, the Lord 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 humbly depend upon the will of an all-powerful and all-merciful God for our eternal salvation.