Humble Yourself

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18th Sunday after Pentecost | September 23, 2018

Proverbs 31:10-31  • Psalm 1  •  James 3:13 – 4:3, 7-8a  •  Mark 9:30-37

If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your heart, don’t cover up the truth with boasting and lying. For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind.

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.

What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you? You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure.

So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts…

James 3:13-4:3, 7-8a New Living Translation (NLT)


James is very practical in his writing and he pulls no punches.  The word that stuck out to me as I read this passage was the word humility.  As I look around at our culture, it’s not something we easily find. Those of us who are older will remember when Mohammed-Ali proclaimed, “I’m the greatest!” We live in a world that says that if you don’t promote yourself, you will be left behind – if you don’t promote your church, you will be left in the ashes.  This self-promotion is what causes much of the conflict in our lives and in our churches.  James reminds us to live a life like Christ.  We are reminded to live our lives with humility – with the wisdom that comes from above.  We should ruthlessly eliminate jealousy and selfish ambition from our lives because that his not where true wisdom comes from.

Pure and true wisdom comes from above and produces different kinds of fruit than jealousy and ambition.  It “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 asks the question, “What causes quarrels and fights among you?” It is the desires that come from within…it is those same desires that tempt us and cause us to sin.  Again, Jealousy and selfish ambition rear their ugly head.  James tells us that we don’t get what we ask for because we don’t ask and even if we do ask, we do it with selfish motives.

Is there any hope for us?  Yes!

So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts…

These are powerful words…but again it is what Jesus did while he was here on this earth.  Jesus humbled himself by dying a criminal’s death on the cross so that we could be free from sin.  As we humble ourselves before God and draw ourselves closer to God – he will draw closer to us.

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