Wednesday, July 30, 2014
What we say reveals our (humble?) heart
Praise calls for humility, to be able to agree with heaven’s perspective
YESTERDAY we connected praise with humility. It takes a measure of humility, and maturity, to hand over a situation to God and praise Him for it, essentially thanking Him that He has the situation under His divine jurisdiction.
Peter, in his first letter, talks about being “clear-minded and self controlled so that you can pray” (1 Peter 4:7). In many Bibles it comes under a heading of ‘Living for God’ which would be a fair headline for the whole letter – and the letter of James as well.
Let’s look more closely at these two letters which we find next to one another in the Bible, and which cover many of the same topics, even using the same Old Testament quotation from Proverbs 3:34.
However they are different in style, and from different time periods. James was martyred quite early on and most scholars agree that his letter is one of the earliest we have. Peter’s first letter started doing the rounds some 15 to 20 years later.
Yet both explore Christian living and tackle the the ‘carnal or spiritual’ question directly using words like:
Obey – James 1x, Peter 3x
Truth – James 3x, Peter 2x
Submit – James 2x, Peter 6x, and top scorer…
Humble/humility – James 4x, Peter 4x
This confronts the flesh in us in the way we think, which of course comes out in what we say – “The tongue makes great boasts – what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark” (James 3:5) – and our whole demeanour.
Now let’s consider the passage that is so similar in both letters, although written by different human authors and a decade or two apart. Below I have attempted to put James’ words and Peter’s words together as a composite:
James 4:6-10 and 1 Peter 5:5-7
Clothe yourselves with humility towards one another because… Scripture says:
“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble”… Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Come near to God and He will come near to you… Humble yourselves… therefore, under God’s mighty hand… that He may… and He will… lift you up… in due time.
The quotation is from the Septuagint version of the Hebrew Scriptures, Proverbs 3:34.
The Holy Spirit, at different times, was inspiring both James and Peter. However, we can hardly find a greater emphasis than this clear statement by James, reiterated with equal clarity by Peter. It must be important! Both are telling us, this is God’s way, this is what works – live it!
Both James and Peter also tell us that we are created for praise:
But how? The question is this: Are we able to humble ourselves? Humbling ourselves means putting a low value on non-praise, rooting out judgment and negativity, constraining what our tongue wants to do to promote our opinions and preferences and to give a platform for the feelings that seek to control us. Humbling ourselves is being free to agree with and honour and praise God through Jesus, for what the eyes of faith are able to see Him doing.
That is being “clear-minded and self-controlled”. That is positioning ourselves to be powerful in releasing God’s purposes and not getting in the way of them.