Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you,
1 Peter 5:5-6
In his classic book, Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis writes this about pride: “There is no fault which makes a man more unpopular, and no fault which we are more unconscious of in ourselves.” Because pride is so hard to detect in ourselves, God regularly uses the Bible like a mirror to reveal our pride. And like a good mirror does, the Bible not only reveals the defect of pride, but it helps us long for the beauty of humility.
It has been said that comparison fuels discontent. That’s true at times, but more often comparison simply fuels pride. In passages such as Luke 18:9-14, the Bible teaches that it is comparison to other people that fuels the sin of pride. Have you ever noticed that as weird, unsuccessful, or immoral as we may be, we can always find a reason we are better than someone else? It’s funny and sad all at once.
The antidote to this is not the pursuit of humility by brute force, but rather a comparison of another kind: the comparison of oneself to God. As counter-intuitive as it may seem, it is not looking within to our own character or looking outward to other people that helps us to flee pride and seek humility. Rather, it is looking outward to God’s character and God’s acts that compels this change. In Isaiah 6:1-6 and in 1 John 1:5-10, it is God’s perfect holiness and purity that exposes our pride, and drives us to repentance. And in Philippians 1:1-11, which we read together on Sunday, it is Jesus’ acts of incarnation and crucifixion that cultivates humility in us. When we get a taste of who God is and what He has done for us in Jesus Christ, our restless pride melts into humble security as the children of God.
Of all the many things the Bible says about humility, perhaps the most repeated is the promise of reward for the humble. Riffing on passages like Psalm 149:4 and Proverbs 22:4, Jesus echoed the promise this way: “For everyone who exalts himself with be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted (Luke 1:52, 14:11, 18:14).” But Jesus didn't repeat this phrase simply to promote morality, and He certainly was not suggesting that salvation is earned or kept by our humility. Rather, Jesus is proclaiming that it is on the path of humility that we come to know God and ourselves rightly. And it is on the path of humility that we can walk secure as the children of God through the Son of God, who humbled Himself to be made like us that He might die for us.