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The One God Honors

February 15th, 2013

Humility comes before honor.

Proverbs 15:33b

We can more easily see this in others than ourselves – a reality we should work to reverse. A most important spiritual trait is a bent toward self-examination rather than toward the examination of others, and this is simply another application of the truth of this verse: the one who feels worthy of honor is the least deserving of it.

But humility still must be properly understood. If a position of leadership should be respected and honored, then those who hold that position should expect such honor. Parents, for example, should teach their children to respect them. But the parent still has an obligation to act worthy of that respect. The same is true for all leadership, whether church, government, business, or wherever.

Humility also does not mean to demean oneself without reason, or to deny abilities, talents, and knowledge, or to destroy healthy self-esteem. It means, rather, as guided by the Word and the Spirit and the Christian community, to view ourselves soberly and honestly. We are always upheld by the grace and love of Christ, so we can rest our hearts and be at peace even under the strictest examination. Grace means that God has chosen us for His purposes and will complete His work within us. His love gives us confidence.

Worldly sorrow masquerades as humility, but it deprives us of hope and leaves us harder than we were before. I have known many Christians of conservative groups – especially the judgmental type of Pietism that has come down to us today – that believe this is helpful for one another. So they are brutally critical of others, depriving them of hope, without the awareness of the harm this does, harm to the recipients as well as to the critics. God have mercy on the community that has replaced Christian compassion that always lifts, with human critical directness that is guided by nothing other than a bias toward criticism.

Our humility, however, is tested by how tolerant we are of unjust criticism, how slow we are to return unkindness with more unkindness, and how willing we are to see ourselves with sober judgment. The Spirit will lead us, if we allow Him the time, to see ourselves more clearly. And as we humble ourselves before Him, He will by His grace assure us of forgiveness, acceptance, and growth into Christlikeness, and bestow upon us fitting honor.

The goal of God is not to abase us but to honor us. Those who humble themselves are lifted up and honored by God. God opposes the proud but He exalts the humble (James 4:6; Proverbs 3:34).

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