He mocks proud mockers, but gives grace to the humble. (Proverbs 3:34 – NIV)
Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. (James 4:10 – NIV)
But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud
but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6 – NIV)
All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (1 Peter 5:5 – NIV)
Many people have experienced trials in life where they were faced with the certainty that there was nothing in their human power that could help them. The only recourse was to fold or to rely on help from a power greater than them. We Christians call this power God and the phrase, “But for the grace of God” is uttered by those of us who testify to this great and loving power.
Theologians will speak of various types of grace, but they all seem to be in agreement that the grace God bestows on us is free. God’s grace is the favor He shows us. Thank God for that! We are not deserving of this grace, but gratefully our worthiness is not a requirement to receive grace.
Make Your Self Ready
I do think we can make ourselves ready to receive God’s grace. And I’m fairly certain that we often deflect this grace through our own selfishness, arrogance and pride. Perhaps this is why Proverbs 3:34 states that God “gives grace to the humble”. This verse is pointed out in the wonderful New Testament writing of James. In chapter 4, verse 6 James writes, “He gives us more grace”. God gives us more grace to deal with our weakness. God loves to demonstrate through us His power. When we are weak – in other words, humble – His power is evident.
Most of us have a hard time with humility. It sounds so much like humiliation. I’m not much for being humiliated, although my ego regularly needs deflation. However, humility is a fine quality. When we are humble we are open to God’s grace. And God bestows it upon the humble in great measure.
One of the most helpful statements I’ve ever heard about humility is that it is a clear recognition of who we are and what we can, with God’s help, become. Put another way, it is being right sized. We don’t need to consider ourselves more important than we are, neither do we need to grovel and put ourselves down. Truly humble people have a confidence that I think comes from God’s grace. It allows us to walk serenely in the world, but with faith that, as the mystic Julian of Norwich said Jesus revealed to her, “all will be well”.
The great realization of the saints is that they are both glorious children of a loving God and also not really important. It’s a paradox, but in spiritual paradox is great divine truth. Our importance is being part of God’s creation, His plan, the Body of Christ. We humbly accept this and grace flows to us.
Jesus gave us examples of how to live humbly. He told us we must be willing servants of others. Remember how dramatically he illustrated this in the washing of the disciples’ feet at the last supper (John 13).
Like a Child
One of my favorite illustrations from our Lord of what it is like to be humble is recorded in the Gospel of Mark. The disciples had been arguing about who among them would be the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus asked them what they were talking about and they didn’t want to say. But he knew.
Then he sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them,
“If anyone wishes to be first,
he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.”
Taking a child, he placed it in their midst,
and putting his arms around it, he said to them,
“ Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me;
and whoever receives me,
receives not me but the One who sent me.” (Mark 9:35-37)