The Humble Life! — James 1:9-15
By Pastor Lee Hemen
May 4, 2014 AM
I was just wondering about how we have sold our souls to the societal notion of Christianity. We no longer have a clue what it means to be humble before the Lord. At Age 32, Elizabeth Gilbert faced a life crisis of personal conscience – she did not want to be married anymore to her devoted husband or to have his children. Locking herself in the bathroom of her upscale home she began to pray over and over, “I don’t want to be married anymore. I don’t want to be married anymore. I don’t want to live in this big house. I don’t want to have this baby.” A voice, her own, answers her and tells her to go back to bed. Thus, begins her own self-focused “spiritual” journey. She goes through a dreadful divorce, moves in with an uncaring lover, and begins a self-ingratiating spiritual quest. Her final theological epiphany ends the way it began, from hearing her own voice speaking to her she concludes her highest religious dogma and theology is “to honor the divinity that resides within me” and to worship at the feet of the God within. Gilbert wrote, “Eat, Pray, Love.” A hedonistic spiritual journey wrapped in cultural selfishness.
The old time country singer Mac Davis sang, “Lord, it’s hard to be humble when you’re perfect in every way!” This is where the likes of Gilbert self-worship leads. In our Christian culture today, sadly, we have sold our souls to the notion of desiring what our spirit wants for us in the moment. After all the heart wants what the heart wants! We have emotionalized our spirituality. Oprah Winfrey would say we need to know we are “creation’s son… creation’s daughter” and that we are “ultimately I am Spirit come from the greatest Spirit. I am Spirit!” Not much humility found there. However, James knew what it meant to find oneself, it meant to lose oneself in Jesus. We forget Jesus taught that we are to “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33) and everything in life follows after that. The book of James teaches us all about the humble life…
We learned last time that if we lacked the wisdom we needed in life to live for God all we had to do was ask him! The problem comes when we do not ask or we ask inappropriately, seeking only to satisfy our selfishness instead of wanting to know the wisdom of God for our lives! We fall into the pit of thinking we need to experience God through feeling rather than reason. James knew that…
I. Godly humility understands the eternal view! (Vv. 9-12)
1. Pride can be found in the poor as well as the rich. The impoverished may be too proud to accept help when needed and the rich may ignore the plight of those in need! In fact, we may be so caught up in our own lives, whether rich or poor that we neglect what is truly important — eternity! Paul understood that what a person goes through today is not reflective of what God is doing or will do in their lives for eternity, he wrote, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all!” (2 Corinthians 4:17 NIV) James reminds us that “The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position.” He does not mean we should be prideful of being poor, but rather we should realize our position before the Lord! There are those who would insist that God desires you to be rich, but in reality God does not care if you are rich or poor only his. The poor should grasp their high position in Christ, perhaps because they are unencumbered by wealth, while the “rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a wild flower!” Here today and gone tomorrow! The wealthy have a low position because their wealth, just as poverty, is meaningless as far as eternity is concerned! When James reiterates, “For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich man will fade away even while he goes about his business.” He knew this was just as true for the poor person! For James the deeper truth, the undeniable truth of life was eternity and that eternity for the believer meant, “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him!” When Peter whined that they had “left everything” in order to follow Jesus, he responded by telling Peter, “everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life!” (Matthew 19:29 NIV) This is what James was referring to, namely that Godly humility understands the eternal view!
EXAMPLE: We are no longer “Bound for the promised Land” of our forefathers. We do not have to “long to see it afar” because our land, that is fairer than day, is in the here and now. We live in a world where most of us have never experienced the hardship of trying to feed ourselves on a daily basis, going without heat, shelter, or clothing. It is foreign to us. James, however, was speaking to an audience that had to strive for daily sustenance and death from famine, disease, or war was around every corner. We have so insulated ourselves from the consequences of our lives that we give no thought to where we will purchase our groceries, the doctor we visit or simply the glass of water we drink from our tap. We have become a society that has become enamored with ourselves. Our faith practice as believers often reflects this common conceit. We are shocked when someone close to us dies or dozens of folks are slain in an instant. We light candles or place plastic flowers by the roadside. The words of Paul should startle us back to reality, “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” (Ephesians 4:1-2 NIV) Paul, like James, understood that Godly humility understands the eternal view of things, do you?
Paul was so geared toward the eternal he would write, “I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:20-21 NIV) I suspect many of us would not be as confident if we knew we would die tonight. Some of us still fear death because we know the life we are living now is not what God would desire. James continues his theme on humility. He knew that…
II. Godly humility understands the consequences of sin! (Vv. 13-15)
1. We often fail to place the proper perspective on our lives. We think we have an unlimited number of days to live; add to that the narcissistic notion that nothing bad should ever happen to us, and therefore when we do face hard times it can be total shock to us! We certainly cannot blame ourselves for the mess we face — it must be God’s fault! This faulty thinking is nothing new however because the Jews of James’ day thought that if you were going through persecution or tough times, it must be because of personal sin in your life. James confronts this head on by stating, “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone!” James offered a sharp rebuke to those who find an easy excuse to blame God for their sinning. There is nothing in a good holy God to which evil can make an appeal. Jesus sympathized with the temptations we go through because he, in his willingness to walk this earth as a man, had “been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15) James knew the truth that “each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.” It is our choice, our desire, our ungodliness that drags us away and not God! Like sexual relations that often result in pregnancy, “after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” The results are not joyous in this instance but horrendous! “The biological imagery is vivid. The lust or desire conceives and from this conception sin is born… The grotesque child, sin, then matures and produces its own offspring, death. The steps are all too clear: unchecked lust yields sin, and unconfessed sin brings death.” (The Bible Knowledge Commentary) Just as the correct response to our trials or the bad things we go through can result in our growth to full spiritual maturity, so a wrong response to our willful lust will result in spiritual decay to abject spiritual poverty and ultimately to death itself! Paul wrote, “What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:21-23 NIV) James knew Godly humility understands the consequences of sin!
EXAMPLE: A young couple moves into a new apartment, only to be surrounded by peculiar neighbors and occurrences. When the wife becomes mysteriously pregnant, paranoia over the safety of her unborn child begins controlling her life. Thus begins the 1968 American psychological horror film written and directed by Roman Polanski, based on the bestselling 1967 novel Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin. Now it is being made into an NBC miniseries. The plot, while being extremely farfetched, smacks of the truth of ill-conceived sin in the lives of Christians. We willingly sin, make excuses for our sin, and then when the consequences of our sin catches up to us we blame God! Many of today’s believers have so impregnated their lives with societal acceptance that they no longer can distinguish what is truly sinful. The Hebrews of James’ day had done this as well, they excused their excesses with the notion that God was blessing their lives and when the consequence snowballed into full-blown trials they blamed God! The ungodly spawn we produce are ungodly lifestyles that we think and claim are spiritual! We are dying spiritually from the Rose Mary’s Baby we have conceived! James would say, “Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers.” (v. 16) He knew Godly humility understands the consequences of sin!
Humility understands the eternal view and humility understands the consequences of sin!
This article is copyrighted © 2014 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.