Humility and Exaltation

by Dennis Stackhouse

When Jesus related the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector, His concluding remarks are recorded in Luke 18:14: "I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted."  Our Lord clearly indicated that the tax collector in His parable, a man who acted in a humble fashion, would be the one that was ultimately exalted.  On the other hand, the Pharisee, who conducted himself in a rather proud manner, would end up being humbled.  In many instances, is this not completely opposite from what the world would tell us?

We learn more in James 4:6: "But He gives a greater grace.  Therefore it says, 'God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.'"  Here we see that God is actually opposed to those who are proud.  And this should come as no surprise when we realize that "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling," according to Proverbs 16:18.  We can also read in Proverbs 11:2: "When pride comes, then comes dishonor, but with the humble is wisdom."    Is it any wonder that God opposed the proud?  Pride is not one of God's characteristics and He doesn't tolerate it in His followers.  Notice also in James 4:6 that God gives His grace, or unmerited favor, to those who display humility in their lives.

Additional information is provided in James 4:10: "Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you."  All of us enjoy praise whether it comes from a spouse, a co-worker, a classmate, a friend, or an employer.  We like to have our accomplishments recognized.  But these earthly praises pale in significance for the Christian who looks to the eternal.  The man or woman who walks humbly before God will be exalted by God Himself.  And honestly, there should be no one we would rather have exalting us.  This thought is taken even further in I Peter 5:6: "Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time."  When the time is right God will exalt the Christian man or woman who has displayed humility in their dealings with others.

Perhaps the importance of humility is best seen in the fact that Jesus Himself displayed it while living on this earth.  He described Himself in Matthew 11:29: "Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart."  As the apostle Paul is insisting that all Christians have the attitude of Christ, he speaks of our Lord's atoning work in Philippians 2:8: "Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross."  We live in a society that does not place a high premium on humility; in fact, it may actively oppose it.  Fortunately for Christians, we can live with the assurance that God does have high regard for humility and that if we will only exercise it in our daily lives, the time will come when God Himself will exalt us.  Peter's words we looked at just a moment ago are worth repeating: "Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time."

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