James 4:10 (ESV) … “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.”
Humble yourselves before the Lord. Echoing the Old Testament words from verse 6, that God gives grace to the humble, James tells his readers to humble themselves before God. God exalts those who humble themselves (Job 22:29; Proverbs 29:23; Isaiah 57:15; Matthew 23:12; Luke 14:11; 18:14; Philippians 2:5–11; 1 Peter 5:6). The picture gives us a helpful definition of God’s grace: it is God lifting up those who have humbled themselves before him.
Humbling ourselves means recognizing that our worth comes from God alone. It is recognizing our desperate need for his help and submitting to his will for our lives. Although we do not deserve God’s favor, he reaches out to us in love and gives us worth and dignity, despite our human shortcomings. According to Luke 18 (niv), when Jesus noted those around him who were “confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else” (v.9), he told the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector who found themselves together in the temple praying. The contrast between the two men challenges the tendency we have towards self-righteousness. The Pharisee “prayed about himself” (v.11), while the tax collector humbled himself and prayed, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner” (v.13). Jesus pointed out that only the tax collector returned home “justified before God” (v.14). Jesus’ summary was, “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (v.14).
He will lift you up. One of the most touching biblical illustrations of this truth is found in Jesus’ parable of the forgiving father (see Luke 15:11–32). The son took his inheritance and set out to be the world’s best friend. It was not until he found himself bankrupt in every way that he repented. He returned home, grieving. The son confessed to his father that he was unworthy to be called a son. But the father lifted him up and welcomed him back into the family. The act of returning required submission. The wayward son’s words of repentance required humility. The end result was great joy. Humility before God will be followed by his lifting us up.