Proverbs 11-12| Week 6: Only the Humble Can Thrive
Author: Jody Green
Contemporary culture has hijacked Christianity’s sacred holidays (e.g. Christmas), miraculous events (e.g. Easter), and sacred symbols (e.g. the rainbow). Their Faith-meanings have been replaced with secular, senseless and sinful significance. Though America has not always acted as a Christian nation, past citizenship often displayed a reverence for God. However, after the atrocities of World War II, cynicism, humanism and scientifism tore apart our country’s religious veneer; human pride now reigns in America, not respect for God.
The outpouring of pride has taken varied forms throughout history, in fact, some consider rebellious pride the original sin. Adam and Eve’s desire for the forbidden led to aspirations for wisdom apart from dependence on God; at the very least, pride deceives us morally, blinds us mentally, and hardens us volitionally. Proverbially, pride is antithetical to the fear of the Lord and opposed to humility, a trait vital for acquiring wisdom.
The fear of the LORD is hatred of evil, pride and arrogance … When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom. (8:13; 11:2)
Many Eastern nations, even today, are known as ‘shame cultures’ - saving face (or family honor) is often more important than building character. Disgrace, mentioned above, is equivalent to social excommunication. This is often a factor motivating honor killings in the Near East - something our individualistic society has difficulty grasping. Losing honor (or face), in a ‘shame culture,’ is avoided at all cost. Proverbs warns those who will listen to Woman Wisdom: the most direct path to disgrace is pride. Conversely, God rewards the humble in spirit:
Toward the scorners [God] is scornful but to the humble He gives favor. (Prov. 3:34) … Seek the LORD, all you humble of the land, who do his just commands; seek righteousness; seek humility. (Zeph. 2:7) … Humility comes before honor.” (Prov. 15:33; 18:12)
James, the only NT wisdom book, weighs-in on pride and humility, as well. As a half-brother of Jesus, James emphasized humility as a Divinely-valued characteristic that is absolutely necessary for a grace-filled relationship with God – one that resists the world, the devil, and draws near to God.
‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. … Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you. (James 4:4-6)
Pride is an iconic sin of the human heart; boasting is pride’s fruit. James zeroes in on boasting about our life and our future. This sadly infers - pride that we can control our own life - is an affront to God. “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there … trade and make a profit’— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. … Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.’ As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.” (James 4:13-16)
Pride assumes personal control over things God solely & sovereignly controls. No wonder it offends God.
On the other hand, humility is not passive determinism or the inability to share your opinions, preferences or wants. Since Christlikeness is the Holy Spirit’s transformative goal for believers’ lives, we look for an example in our Savior. Awaiting death, in Gethsemane’s Garden, Jesus prayed: "Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done." (Lk 22:42) Humbling ourself before God is deferring to His will and trusting His love to motivate wiser and more wonderful plans than our own. Humility refuses to “think more highly of himself than he ought to think … but through love, serves one another.” (Rom. 12:3; Gal. 5:13)
Heavenly Father, we humble ourselves before You, trusting Your Goodness, Grace and Glory. May our hearts draw near to You in love, our wills bow before You in worship and our Lives serve Your will, not our own. Amen.