James 4:4-12 - Humility in Community
Within the diversity of the church, there can be no community without humility.
This is the fourteenth of an 18-part devotional series. Sign-up here to have these devotionals sent straight to your inbox.
You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.
Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?
The way of the world is, at its core, self-centeredness, not humility. It is the way of our own hearts and minds also. This attitude and behavior prevail in our lives until God in His mercy brings new life through faith in Jesus Christ.
In the ancient writings of Daniel from the Old Testament, the great King Nebuchadnezzar boasted of his own power and authority, but God humbled him by taking from him all of his power and authority, then made him to live as does a beast of the field. Hear what the king said after being brought back to himself,
The Most High’s dominion is an eternal dominion; His kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as He pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of earth. No one can hold back His hand or say to Him: ‘What have you done?’
In similar fashion, our nation’s founders signed the Declaration of Independence, which declared that even kings are to be humble before God in how they treat their subjects. Earthly kings, such as King George III of England, are accountable to the heavenly King of Kings and Lord of Lords and should conduct themselves in a measure of humility, because they are ultimately responsible to God for those over which they have authority.
Humility before God of which James speaks makes absolute sense because if there is anything true in this world it is that we did not make ourselves. We owe our existence to something or someone outside ourselves. Therefore, you are beholden or responsible to another that is greater than yourself.
In our civil government, elected officials require humility since their authority and influence are a trust from the citizens who elected them, and they are rightly bound by the Constitution for which they took an oath to preserve and protect.
This type of community flourishes when the elected officials, trusted by the citizens, are devoted to humble service for the blessing and benefit of those they were elected to serve.
If you were to stop this hectic life for a few precious moments to reflect on things beyond yourself, you might gain a humbler appreciation of your own existence. Consider the amazing birth of a child, the sacrificial love of a parent, and the astounding variety of life on this magnificent earth. From the smallest single-celled organisms to the mighty blue whale, there is overwhelming variety connected by many common similarities.
For instance, humans are full of variety while having an overwhelming amount in common. We all have the same type of body parts; internal skeletal system, heart, brain, lungs and liver to name just a few. For the most part, they function the same in each of us. Unfortunately, unlike God, who looks at the inside, we tend to limit our focus on the outside and foolishly separate ourselves from one another by skin color or some other superficial difference of appearance.
Humility before God and your neighbor means appreciating this simple truth: because all things belong to God, and you owe all of your existence to God’s power, you do well to treat others as God requires they be treated, not how you think they ought to be treated.
God’s Word describes the uniqueness of every person by referring to the followers of Christ as each being a member of one body, the Body of Christ. Everyone in the Body has a particular work to do and important part to play.
The apostle Paul explained it this way,
"For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them. . .” (Romans 12:3-6)
Humility in community means acknowledging that each person is vital in the functioning of the whole body, so there is no need to be puffed up about one’s position and look down upon another’s. Rather, we are to use the opportunities provided by God to be a blessing and benefit to others for God’s glory.
Rev. Ron Zeigler is a State Capitol Minister in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.