Two men went to the temple to approach God in prayer and seek His favor. One, a Pharisee very sure of his outstanding spiritual achievements, recounted to God his flawless service record. He even thanked the Lord that he was better than others, especially that tax gatherer over there.
This other man didn’t dare lift his head. He stood at a distance and pleaded guilty as a sinner, asking God for mercy.
Jesus, who told the story, informed His audience that this man went home forgiven, while the self-righteous man did not. Why? Because God always rejects pride and accepts humility: “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6).
Walking in humility, just as Jesus did when He was on earth, is God’s plan for us as believers. We take the first step when we accept Christ’s invitation from Matthew 11:29 and take His yoke upon ourselves. The second step comes when we learn from Him how to humble ourselves.
Our Commitment Does Not Automatically Make Us Humble
In our relationships with others, we often find a lack of love in our hearts. We are insensitive to people’s feelings and indifferent to their circumstances. Our lack of love shows up as hidden anger, impatience, irritation, bitterness and a tendency to quickly pass judgment. If we analyze these feelings and actions, we find that all of them have their roots in some form of pride. Like the Pharisee in Jesus’ story, we feel superior because of our background, ministry position, education, knowledge or spiritual experience.
Jesus’ disciples were radical: They were men who forsook all to follow Christ and held nothing back. They left their homes, parents, families—everything. Yet after three-and-a-half years of listening to Jesus’ teaching, learning from His example and experiencing His presence, they were fighting about who among them was the greatest.
For us this means that we, too, can forsake all, be totally committed to world evangelism and be willing to die for Christ. Yet within our hearts, pride can still exist, as well as the longing to be more important than others.
Jesus: Humble before God and Men
In contrast, Christ dealt with people in humility. During His earthly life, He always sought to lift others up, even when He confronted them with their problems. He never looked for opportunities to gain a higher position, more respect or greater honor for Himself. That’s why He could tell His disciples to follow His example and be servants of all, to choose the last seat instead of the first and most prestigious one.
When we look at Jesus, we find that He first humbled Himself before God, to the point of death on the cross (Philippians 2:7-8). That heart attitude before His Father enabled Him to be humble before men as well.
The Bible tells us that we received our pride and self-important nature from Adam. So we must receive humility from the second Adam, Christ.
The way we receive it is to learn from Him how to humble ourselves like He did. Therefore, the key to Christlike humility is that we first humble ourselves before God. Only then is it possible for us to be humble before others as well.
When we forget who we are when we stand before God, this is when we think we are better than others. The one who is aware of how much he was forgiven will find it much easier to meet a wretched man and deal mercifully with him, even saying to him with conviction, “You are better than I, because my debt was much greater than yours.”
The problem with most of us is that we forget from where God has brought us. I have an old, worn-out shirt that hangs between my nice dress shirts in my closet. I wore it when I was 18 or 19 years old. It doesn’t fit me anymore, but once in a while I stand there and look at it. It takes me back to those days in North India when I worked with a mission team. It helps me remember God’s grace and stay down-to-earth.
James 4:10 exhorts us: “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord.” For our transformation into Christlikeness, this is where it all starts!
Will you make a commitment today to practice this Scripture? You will find that your love and compassion for others will grow tremendously, and you will experience the joy of being a servant like Jesus.
Dr. K.P. Yohannan
Founder & Director of Gospel for Asia
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About 5 Minutes with K.P.
5 minutes with K.P. is a short devotional that first appeared in our ministry magazine, GFA World and is written by Gospel for Asia's Founder and Director, Dr. K.P. Yohannan.