James 4:1- 10
November 7, 2021 / CAN
Rev. Shihoko Warren
We continue to look at the Book of James which provides us practical teachings and wisdom to be real Christians and to build an authentic community of faith.
Today, we are looking at chapter 4: ‘Authentic Humility’.
This year, I have suffered from frozen shoulder, or as Japanese call it “forty’s or ‘fifty’s shoulder,” since people in their 40’s and 50’s tend to get this severe pain around the shoulder and upper arm.
They say that frozen shoulder has something to do with muscle issues. It was so painful that I couldn’t sleep well, I couldn’t even raise my arm. Basically, for months and months, I couldn’t properly move or use this arm. With physiotherapy and daily muscle exercises, now I can move and use this arm a little better than before.
I realize that muscles play such an important part in performing vital body functions. When we lose muscles or have muscle issues, we cannot do regular activities. It critically affects our daily movements such as standing, sitting, walking, changing clothes…and so on.
When I read James chapter 4 which talks about ‘humility’, I realize that ‘humility’ is just like ‘muscles’ for our Christian life. ‘Humility’ plays such a significant part in Christian daily life.
If we don’t have authentic “humility’, we will never be able to fully love God and our neighbours. We will never be able to fully obey God, nor to follow our vocation or call from God. Without ‘humility’, we will never be able to have spiritual insights and foresights. We just look at people or situations only by what we can see on the surface. Without ‘humility’, we will continue to be influenced by the power of Satan and the worldview that doesn’t belong to the Kingdom of God.
We cannot do anything right in God’s sight, without ‘humility’.
Let’s look at James chapter 4 again. James’ special emphasis here, is our pursuit of ‘humility’.
James repeatedly reminds us that ‘humility’ is the key ingredient for our Christian life and community. In verse 10, James urges us to “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up”.
The opposite to ‘humility’ is ‘pride’. Proverbs 13:10a says: “Where there is strife, there is pride”. ‘Pride’ or ‘arrogance’ is the root of strife and discord in our life and community.
Chapter 4 begins with James’ rebuke for all Christians who don’t have ‘humility,’ but ‘pride’.
In verse 1, James rebukes: What causes fights and discord among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?”
‘Pride’ exalts itself, judges others, doesn’t listen, cannot see its faults; ‘pride’ breaks fellowship and shatters intimacy with God and one another.
James, therefore, leads us to the path of ‘humility’. In verse 6, he is telling us: “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
What is your definition of the word, ‘humility’ or ‘to be humble’? What does ‘humility’ mean to you?
Japanese people put great emphasis on their culture of ‘humility’. From early childhood, Japanese people have been taught to be humble before others, as ‘humility’ is one of the best virtues. We have been trained not to boast about ourselves or our life.
Although my husband lived in Japan for more than 12 years, he always had culture- shock in the aspect of Japanese humility where they even try to deny the truth. For example, when someone said; “you have a beautiful wife or a beautiful child”, the Japanese answer was most likely: “Oh, no, no! my wife is so ugly” or “Oh, my child is so stupid”.
This is the Japanese definition of ‘humility’ or ‘to be humble’ in that culture. However, this is not authentic humility for Christians. Japanese people often believe that ‘self-deprecation’ is ‘humility’. But ‘authentic humility’ is the opposite of ‘self-deprecation’ or ‘self-rejection’. Henri Nouwen said: ‘Humility’ is “the grateful recognition that we are precious in God’s eyes and that all we are is pure gift. To grow beyond self-rejection, we must have the courage to listen to the voice calling us God’s beloved sons and daughters, and the determination always to live our lives according to this truth. ”
Our Lord Jesus Christ is the source of ‘authentic humility’. Christian ‘humility’ is reavealed in Christ’s Incarnation and Crucifixion. Christ’s passion on the cross is the ultimate example of ‘humility’. Philippians chapter 2 declares: Jesus Christ, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! (v. 6-8)
Since the beginning of Genesis, we, humans have hidden our nakedness. Spiritually, we always try so hard to hide our true self from God and others. We feel so ashamed or afraid of our true self to be exposed. That’s why we cover ourselves with ‘pride’ or ‘self-rejection’.
For some people, it is easier to use ‘pride’ to hide their true self, while for others, it is easier to use ‘self-rejection’ or ‘self- deprecation’ to cover the truth. After all, both ‘pride’ and ‘self-rejection’ are the same spiritual obstacle to reject God’s love and truth.
Let us remember and let us put ourselves right there on the foot of Jesus’ cross. What do you see? Look upon our Lord on the cross. He is completely naked! He doesn’t use ‘pride’ or ‘self-rejection’ to hide nakedness. He doesn’t hide anything from God’s truth. He never denies the truth! He became completely naked for us!
Then, why we, Christians who confess that we love and follow Christ, why do we continue to choose ‘pride’ or ‘self-rejection’ to hide our nakedness? Why do we continue to choose the path of fights and discord? Why do we continue to deny the truth in God?
For Christ became completely naked for us, why should we not also become completely naked and die on the cross together with our Lord, Jesus Christ! This is the only way to receive the fullness of Life in Christ’s Resurrection! There is no life in resurrection, without death on the cross. There is no authentic ‘humility’, without nakedness.
1 Peter 5:5b-6 tells us: “All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.”
“Clothe yourselves with ‘humility’”, this is actually a paradox, meaning “Be naked yourselves with humility, just as our Lord Jesus Christ’”.
James gives us practical advice how to “clothe ourselves with humility”, in verse 7- 10, he teaches us: “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and the devil will flee from you. Come near to God and He will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”
Verse 9: “Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom.”
What James refers to here originally comes from Jesus’ Beatitudes on the Mount (Matthew 5).
Jesus says: “4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
If we truly desire to be like Jesus Christ, our Lord, we must choose the path of ‘humility’, letting go of our ‘pride’ and ‘self-rejection’. I will end this homily by reading Philippians 2:1-11.
This gives us a compass to ‘authentic humility’.
“Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.
Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Amen