“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up in honor.” James 4:10 NLT.
These words of James, like the words of Jesus before him and like chapter 2 of Paul’s letter to the Philippians, show the great contrast between the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of men.
“Come close to God, and God will come close to you.” James 4:8 NLT.
The apostle James writes these words to the Jewish believers who were scattered around the Roman empire, far from their homeland, far from the temple which had for so many centuries been the focal point of the presence of God with the people of Israel.
“God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble,” James writes in his letter to the Jewish believers of the first century. And he follows it with another astonishing statement: “So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” James 4:7 NLT.
“And He gives grace generously. As the Scriptures say, ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.'” James 4:6 NLT
The believers in the first century AD had their faults, as we ourselves do today. In his letter, James takes them to task for worldly desires, ambition, selfishness, lack of control in their speaking, and favouritism in their treatment of others. But there, in the midst of the rebuke, we find the answer…”God gives grace generously.”
The grace of God is a mighty ocean, flowing from the midst of Who He is, uncaused by anything that we are or can do. It carries with it a single condition… humility. We must acknowledge our need of God and His grace, and stop trying to offer Him anything of our own works. Our human nature, directed as it was by sin, can offer nothing whatsoever to God; and if we pridefully insist that we are OK on our own, that we can make it ourselves, we find ourselves in conflict with God. Against the resistance of God, nothing is possible.
But the humble find that God is generous with His grace. He loves His children, and He loves to supply all that we need, moment by moment. All our shortcomings as human beings become opportunities for Him to transform us into children that are like His beloved and only begotten Son, Jesus Christ.
Following a scathing denunciation of the jealousy and selfish ambition so common in the world, the apostle James writes this description of the wisdom which comes from God: “But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.” James 3:17,18 NLT.
“What good is it , dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions?”
This question, asked by the apostle James in his letter to believers in the early days of the church, is as pertinent today as it was when he asked it nearly 2000 years ago.
“So whatever you say or whatever you do,” writes the apostle James in his letter to the Jewish believers, ” remember that you will be judged by the law that sets you free. There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when He judges you.” James 2:12,13 NLT.
These words echo the words of Jesus, found in the middle of the Lord’s Prayer. “If you forgive men their trespasses,” He told His disciples, “Your Heavenly Father will also forgive you.”