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James 4:6 (NIV)
6But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:
”God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
Wow, try that one on! That kind of hits us in the teeth doesn’t it? I had never heard that being humble would get me anywhere. To the contrary, I was raised in that arrogant culture that said I could be cocky as long as I could back it up. Who comes up with that stuff? I wish they would stop, because I buy into a lot of it; but it’s just foolishness.
Let’s talk about James. He was the half brother of Jesus, and he was talking to Christians when he wrote this. Does that mean he thought some Christians were arrogant? I know he did, because there are some arrogant Christians, and I am one of the worst. I think it’s all about me. The stock market falls, and it must have something to do with me. It rains on my golf day, and I think God is not paying attention to my needs. Who cares about the water supply or farmers or food for people, for that matter; I deserve a sunny day to play golf. The list of my arrogances and self-absorptions could go on for days — and I’m a “Christian”. So I guess even though my soul is saved, my relationships may not be saved due to my arrogance.
Therefore James boldly says, “Hey, you Christians, drop the arrogance and pride; because God will stand in your way if you don’t. He opposes the proud.”
I get the most and sweetest opportunities to work on humility in my marriage and with my kids. With the power struggles that go on in families, it’s so hard to do something so counterintuitive. But again, that’s exactly what God asks of us. He asks us to drop our pride and humbly communicate with and serve those around us.
Now that’s tough, very tough at times. However, since my pastor first challenged me to do this, I’ve kept a mental scorecard of how things went.
When I’ve humbly communicated with my wife and treated her as superior to me, things always went well. To the contrary, when I put myself above her in any way, let the misery begin. When I get short or dictatorial or critical with my children, communication absolutely shuts down and I can feel them withdraw from me physically and emotionally. If instead I communicate to them how important they are to me, I actually get an opportunity to teach and lead.
In talking to some of my non-Christian friends, they tell me the biggest turnoff to Christianity is Christians themselves. I believe it, too; I walked around for years feeling somehow a little more enlightened than others as a Christian. How arrogant of me!
Christianity does not make me better or more enlightened than anyone, and my Christianity is not of myself anyway. My Christianity was of and about Jesus being willing to die a gruesome death as punishment for my indiscretions. I have nothing to be boastful about or proud of; He did it all. I did nothing. I was merely the recipient of an offered gift.
Jesus would’ve been repulsed by my attitude about my Christianity. He would’ve reminded me that being a Christian means you wash the feet of others as he did at the Last Supper, which I’ll cover in a minute. He was telling me to be subservient to everyone and to live in total humility.
Humility is an immediate and big attitude adjustment. Here are the ways it plays out for me in everyday life.
Arrogance says: Everyone owes me something and I’m constantly feeling shortchanged.
Humility says: I don’t deserve anything and anything I get I’m thankful for.
Arrogance says: I’m not getting treated well.
Humility says: I’m getting treated better than some and better than I probably deserve, given my sinful nature; so I’m thankful.
Arrogance says: I’m right in this fight.
Humility says: Grace is more important than being right.
Arrogance says: I shouldn’t have to.
Humility says: I’ll be glad to; I’m lucky to have purpose.
Arrogance asks: Why isn’t everyone meeting my needs?
Humility says: Look at all these needs in others I may be able to help with.
Arrogance says: You owe me.
Humility says: I owe God and I’ll spill it out on you.
Arrogance says: I’m tired of waiting.
Humility says: I’ll be learning God’s lessons in His time.
Arrogance says: I want to control my own life and work in my own best interest.
Humility says: I’m lucky He allows me to serve Him and His purposes and His children.
Arrogance asks: Why would Kay ask this or that of me, or why won’t she understand? I deserve better than this.
Humility asks: Why would God love me enough, after all I’ve done, to allow me to have a beautiful wife and children? I’ll do anything I can to show Him appreciation and pour love on Kay, and she deserves it.
Ultimately, arrogance says: I don’t need God and I don’t need a Savior.
Humility asks: Why would anyone, given all my shortcomings and sins, love me enough to send their kid to die for me? I’ll drop what I’m doing and follow Him anywhere.
Now I’ll ask you — and I know this can be a tough one to grapple with — are you operating with humility in all areas of your life? Do you have people or groups of people in your life that you look down upon? Do you feel like you are “above” certain things? Do you talk to the people around you with a tone that would indicate to them that you feel lucky to have them in your life?
Remember, James said God would stand in direct opposition to the proud. That’s enough for me; life’s hard enough wrestling with my own difficulties without having God standing in direct opposition to me.
Yet still my arrogance and ego flare up daily and I have to constantly look at what I’m thinking. Always, humility and putting others ahead of me is the answer. Are you humble enough to try it? When I do it, it continues to save my butt.
Phil Cate is a resident of the Atlanta, Georgia, metro area and runs a small medical equipment resale business. He is available for speaking engagements and can be reached at PhilC@ER3.biz or by phone at 678-429-0901
Printed by permission from Phil Cate, Mama told me Jesus saved my soul, but who was gonna save my butt??? Confessions, lessons, and revelations of a born rebel, © 2008.