In the late 1970s there was a worship chorus that encouraged singers and listeners to “Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord.” That line was followed up with a reason to do so: “And He will lift you up (higher and higher).” The sentiment is appealing and Scriptural because we have that very promise in James 4:10.

Sadly, our modern society would like to make the promise the purpose. In other words, we spend our time concentrating on what God promises to do to the neglect of our responsibility. I would suggest that it is the Christian’s responsibility to carry out our end of the agreement, and leave it at that. We are expected to humble ourselves—act in humility. If we do so as a means to reward then we are no longer humble but mercenary. We also begin to view God with an air of superiority saying, “I’ve done my duty (been humble), now God is required to respond by ‘lifting me up.’”

In light of the focus found in Micah 6:8 (the Lord has told us what is required of us: to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God), humility is an act of worship—not a means to elevation. So when James offers the promise of being exalted because of humility, he simply is directing Christians to be in worship. If we want to experience true worship, we will approach the Lord in an attitude of humility. Having done so, we will find ourselves in direct worship of the living God. We have no other responsibility.

Two thoughts occur to me: first, I no longer require anything of God. He requires humility from me. And second, regardless of God’s response to me, I have been in worship of Him through my humility of heart. My elevation is God’s desire for me. It is spiritual in nature and not physical or political. Therefore, let me worship Him . . . with humbleness of heart.

Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.”   —James 4:10