Devotional Week 2: Humble Yourself

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QUESTION: Have you ever been in a situation where everyone treated some people as more special than others, maybe a “popular group” or something? How do you think that made the other people feel?
READ: James 2:1–13
MEMORY VERSE: “If you show favoritism, you sin…” (James 2:9a)

Have you ever felt the need to impress someone? Perhaps on a date or in a job interview? Maybe you needed to raise money for an event or program? Maybe something far less dramatic, like impressing a child? Whatever the occasion, most of us have tried to impress someone, and usually to gain something in return – a laugh or a little recognition or something grander like money, a job, or a partner. In the second chapter of James, the people of God were trying to impress the rich in their midst by showing favoritism because of what they thought the rich could do for them in times of trials. This is the opposite of what they should have been focused on – the glory of Christ. But by seeing again the glory of Jesus, they could fight against favoritism in two ways.

First, when believers see Christ over riches, we will not show favoritism. The audience James addressed gave honor to people the world deemed honorable – those with gold jewelry and fine clothing. But these things are not worthy of honor. We see in James 1 that material things will fade away, and the rich are not to boast in exaltation, but in humility. Christ alone deserves this honor because He is rich in glory. Secondly, favoritism is destroyed when believers remember that Christ died for the needy. James reminded his readers that Christ humbled Himself in the form of a man not to save the spiritually rich, but the lowly and despised sinners, to give His life for the poorest of the poor so that they might be made rich.

When this is rightly understood, favoritism goes extinct. When Christ is seen in all His glory, in all His fullness, in all His humility, favoritism cannot survive.

He took on flesh and, though He was rich, became poor for our sake so that we might become rich. James told his readers not to give honor where honor is not due when dealing with the rich and to never look down on the poor because this is who Christ came to save; He came to save you, in all your spiritual poverty. The gospel should transform how we live and how we treat those around us. Christ has reversed our status in the world.

Again, James alluded to the Sermon on the Mount here, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). This is the story of the Bible. God has chosen to show His grace to the poor – to those with physical needs, and most importantly to those who recognize their spiritual need. So, by neglecting the poor, the people were neglecting the grace that lies at the heart of God.

Christ not only reverses our status in the world, but He also transforms our standards.

The people in this passage were not only neglecting the poor and honoring the rich, but the rich were the ones actively oppressing them. Even though the rich were the ones causing trials for them, they had the idea that the rich could still provide material protection and security. In their meeting times, they were trying to curry favor from people who were far from God while keeping those who were near to God far away. Instead of seeing people as Christ saw them, they saw people as the world saw them – a means to an end. James showed the practical implications of theological truth. For James, orthodoxy (right belief) leads to orthopraxy (right practice), and these two things find their home in humility.

We come to faith by humbling ourselves before God and confessing that we are sinners in need of salvation. Once we are in the faith, we humble ourselves as Christ did, in the service of others.

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:3–5).

We were the spiritually poor with nothing to offer God, and yet He has made us rich by the good and perfect gift of salvation. When we understand this, we can, in turn, see fellow Christians correctly. We will no longer view them as a means to an end. Instead, we will see them as co-heirs of an inheritance that is more valuable than all riches. We will see them as brothers and sisters, sons and daughters of the One who spoke creation into being. We will realize they are family members who can help us through times of trials and temptation. Instead of turning for help to those the world deems honorable, we will turn to those in the body of Christ as a means of grace given to us by God. We will see them as reflections of Jesus who can help us give Him honor, glory, and praise.

QUESTION: What fears and doubts lead you to look to the world for help? What do you do to fight against this temptation?
QUESTION: How do you fight against pride and cultivate humility on a daily basis?

DISCIPLINE PRACTICE: Prayer

When we begin to view others in light of what they can do for us instead of as people made in the image of God or as brothers and sisters, we need to turn to God in prayer. James said we have not because we ask not, and when we do ask, we do it out of wrong motives. So, the first thing we need to do is ask the Lord to give us proper motives and desires. If you do not know where to start, here is some help from The Valley of Vision:

“O lover of the Loveless, It is thy will that I should love thee with heart, soul, mind, strength, and my neighbor as myself. But I am not sufficient for these things. There is by nature no pure love in my soul; Every affection in me is turned from thee; I am bound . . . Spirit of love, make me like the loving Jesus; give me His benevolent temper, His beneficent actions, that I may shine before men to thy glory. The more thou doest in love in me and by me, humble me more; keep me meek, lowly, and always ready to give thee honour.”

The Valley of Vision (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1975)

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