Friday, January 15, 2010

James 4: How To Humble Yourself

Theme: Wait for the Judge

4) By humbling yourself (3:13 - 4:17)

This passage seems to show several ways to humble yourself:

By showing yourself gentle (3:13-18)

True wisdom does good works with a gentle attitude.  In other places in the Bible, gentleness appears in close connection with humility and self restraint. 

The opposite of gentle wisdom would be bitter zeal or selfish ambition.  The word for "selfish ambition" (NAS) is one which has been used to refer to politicians who promote themselves in a campaign.  Both bitter zeal and selfish ambition are called "arrogant," "lying against the truth", and demonic wisdom. 

Philippians 2 says that humility does not promote itself above others.  The wisdom from God is humble, and bears the fruit of purity, peace, gentleness, reasonableness, mercy, stability, sincerity, and righteousness.  You humble yourself by showing yourself gentle.



By asking for your needs (4:1-3)

Philippians 2 indicates that the humble mind puts the interests of others before self, and even sacrifices for the benefit of others.  By contrast, people's lusts compel them to quarrel and fight to obtain things they want.  Putting one's own lustful desires before the well being of others is a form of pride.  If believers really need something, they should ask God for it.  God does not give us things to gratify our selfish lusts, but will supply what we really need.  You humble yourself by asking for what you need.

By renouncing worldly friendship (4:4-7)

Lusting after the things of the world is a form of spiritual idolatry and adultery.  The tense of the verbs in this passage seems to indicate that someone who has fixed their determination on being a friend of the world, has established himself as an enemy of God.  The question is asked in such a way as to say, "you haven't determined once and for all to be a friend of the world have you?", as if it expects the answer to be "no". 

God's Holy Spirit indwells believers, and desires them to live according to the will of God, rather than as an enemy of God in friendship with the world.  You humble yourself by renouncing worldly friendship.

By repenting of sin (4:8-10)

This passage seems to describe the condition of one who turns to God from sin.  The humble person draws near to God and receives cleansing through faith in Christ, rather than covet the world.  The humble mind is miserable and mournful over sin, rather than laughing and joyous in it.  

Believers shouldn't always be mindful and mournful of their sin though.  The reference, here, seems to speak of those who are still engaging in friendship with the world.  To repent means to change your mind about sin, turning to God from it, rather than to feel sorry.  But godly sorrow over sin does lead one changes their mind about it (2 Cor. 7:10) 

By refusing to slander brethren (4:11-12)

The word for speaking "against" one another, here, is one which is translated "back-bite" in Romans 1:30, and "speak evil of" in 1 Peter 3:16.  The word is compound and comes from two roots, one meaning "down", and the other "to speak".  It carries the idea of speaking so as to put down or defame someone. 

This does not mean one cannot correct their brother, or judge them within the guidelines of Scripture.  Matthew 18:15 calls for this, as do other passages (e.g. 1 Cor. 6:1ff.).  But the Law of liberty is to love your neighbor as yourself, and speaking against or judging someone in such a way as to injure their reputation places the speaker above the authority of this Law.  This is a form of pride.  You humble yourself, then, by refusing to slander your brother.

By refraining from boasting (4:13-17)

The picture, here, seems to be of a business man who makes detailed plans a year in advance. He boasts that during the next year, he will go to such and such a city, do this or that business, and make so much profit.  An example of this is also found in the parable of the man who determined to build larger barns and store up grain for years to come, but then died that night (Lk. 12:16-21). 

Our lives are but a vapor which appears for a moment, then disappears.  Boasting of what one has done or will accomplish, then, is a form of pride (2 Cor. 10:12-18; 11:16-33). The humble man acknowledges that God alone is sovereign (Dan. 4). You humble yourself by refraining from boasting.

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