Too Small to be Big

But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.”
— (James 4:6, NASB95)

Humility is a bed-rock Christian grace. The sine qua non (without which not) of godliness. Just as there is something of pride in every sin, there is something of humility in every virtue. The Church Father, Augustine, once famously noted the three parts of seizing and holding the truth: “The first part is humility; the second, humility; the third, humility.”

What is humility, and what does it mean to be humble?

If pride entails thinking too much of ourselves and too little of God, humility begins with a right assessment of ourselves in the presence of God. Calvin said as much: “It is evident that man never attains to a true self-knowledge until he has previously contemplated the face of God and come down after such contemplation to look into himself.

As a result, a humble person is preoccupied with God not man. Gripped by the fear of God, he is not paralyzed by the fear of mere humans. He could care less for the opinion of others. In fact, he doesn’t even place too much weight on his own self-assessment (1Cor 4:1-4).

For this reason, a truly humble man is not easily offended by criticism or even by rebuke. Whatever man may say about him, be it good or bad, the humble soul lives in the knowledge that God sees and knows the truth. This same sense of God helps a humble woman navigate her way through inconvenience without impatience. I love Newton’s famous quote: “When I hear a knock at my study door, I hear a message from God. It may be a lesson of instruction; perhaps a message of patience, but, since it is His message, it must be interesting.”

A humble man also owns his responsibility when things go wrong. He doesn’t shift the blame, and he doesn’t make excuses. If it was his fault, he is quick to admit it. Why deny what God already knows.

By very definition, a humble woman is also a dependent woman. She believes Jesus when He says, “Without me you can do nothing.” So when things go well, she is quick to deflect the credit to God and to the many people who helped her along the way. This knowledge makes a humble person inherently grateful. Pride, of course, is never grateful—how can it be: for pride never honestly believes it has received all it truly deserves.

Above all a humble man will be an obedient person. What kind of a pride drives a man to pursue His own will, or His own pleasure at the expense of God? We may know for sure: Every time we presumptuously sin, pride has the upper hand in our hearts.

How can you grow in humility? Following Calvin’s thought above, there is no better way than to spend time in the presence of God, meditating on His greatness. We meet God reading the book of Scripture. We see His handiwork everywhere in the book of nature. Most clearly of all, however, we see Him writ large in the life of Christ, the God-man. Christ’s every word and deed display the glory of a man who knew Himself before God—who knew Himself as God. This knowledge did not render Jesus too big for humility. Such knowledge actually paved the way for His greatest acts of humility (John 13:1ff; Phil 2:1-11).

The closer we are to Christ, then, the less room there will be in our hearts for pride (Luke 5:8). Drawing near to Jesus will be the death of ourselves, and the foot of the cross will always prove fertile ground for humility to grow in the soul. Surround yourselves with books and sermons that take you to this place, where pride dies and humility springs eternal.

Christ Covenant Church