One of the greatest challenges to our relationships—all our relationships—is our struggle with our own pride. At times, it causes us to puff ourselves up and think more highly of ourselves (1 Corinthians 8:1). At other times, it causes us to be blind to our own faults (Matthew 7:3-5). Still, at other times, it causes us to pursue our own wants and desires, even to the point of causing rifts in our relationships. James, the half-brother of Jesus, knew this well. As he explains in question format: “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?” (James 4:1). In the very next verse, he states, “You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight” (James 4:2b).
Our Need for Humility
Humility is essential for all relationships. Whether we are talking about our husband-wife relationships, parent-child relationships, workplace relationships, or our relationships with our friends and neighbors, we all need humility for our relationships to thrive. It is no surprise, therefore, that Peter applies this need to our relationships within the church. Hear his directive: “All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another” (1 Peter 5:5b).
We need humility to avoid becoming puffed up and arrogant. We need humility to see our own faults. And certainly, we need humility to place others before ourselves. In short, we need humility to put to death our selfish objectives and vain conceit, so that—in humility—we could value and esteem others above ourselves (Philippians 2:3). This is why Peter calls us to dress ourselves with humility.
To help us pursue humility, he gives us two wise motives: “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5c, cf. Proverbs 3:34).
Two Motives for Humility
First, God opposes the proud. It is a truth that pops up time and again in the Scriptures (1 Samuel 2:7, 10; Isaiah 2:11; 26:5; Ezekiel 17:24). Even Jesus taught this principle. On three separate occasions during his earthly ministry, he taught that “all those who exalt themselves will be humbled…” (Luke 14:11; 18:14; Matthew 23:12).
One of the biblical narratives that illustrates this so well for us is the narrative of Pharaoh and his reluctance to let God’s people go (Exodus 10:3). His heart was hardened, and his pride wouldn’t allow him to release his labor force—a labor force that would raise monuments for the exaltation of his own name. So, God acted with his mighty hand (Exodus 3:19; 6:1; 7:4; 13:3), and, through plagues, he judged and humbled Pharaoh.
Our great lesson here is to not follow in Pharaoh’s footsteps. He never humbled himself, so God opposed him. And no once can stand against God. For this reason, Peter gives us the best advice he could give us on this topic: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand” (1 Peter 5:6a). With such pastoral care for our own well-being, Peter pleads with us to humble ourselves. Don’t wait for God to humble you. Save yourself some heartache in life—and in your relationships—by simply humbling yourself. Be willing to place others’ desires above your own; be willing to consider others as more important than yourself; be willing to clothe yourself with the garment of humility toward others.
Second, God shows favor to the humble. On one hand there is a cautionary motive that urges us to humble ourselves. On the other hand, there is an inspiring motive that stirs us to live our lives with humble hearts: God deals favorably with and shows his grace and kindness to the humble. Jesus taught this, too. In the same passages where he teaches on God’s opposition to the prideful, he also states, “those who humble themselves will be exalted” (Luke 14:11; 18:14; Matthew 23:12). In other words, the lowly of heart will be lifted by the Lord (cf. Matthew 5:5).
The gospel illustrates this remarkably well for us. When we draw near to Jesus as he is offered to us through the gospel, it means we are first humbled and then lifted and exalted. The gospel first humbles us because it opens our eyes to realize we are utterly lost in our own sin, without any power to save ourselves. So we entirely depend on Jesus, who died for our sins and was raised for our justification (Romans 4:25). Then, we are raised to the position of children of God and co-heirs with Christ, and—because of the great love and value God places on us—we are given a heavenly homeland to look forward to. Truly, the gospel brings us low and raises us. No wonder Peter encourages us to humble ourselves, so that God “may lift you up in due time” (1 Peter 5:6b).
The Example of Our Humble Servant
We are encouraged to continue to clothe ourselves with humility. It is how we first approached Jesus. And it is how we ought to continue to live as we wait for the upward call of Christ, who taught us what all of this looks like. With great humility, he clothed himself in our likeness. He took on human flesh and came to us as a helpless infant, born among animals. The King of all creation made himself lowly in order to one day endure the humility and the shame of the cross, all to deliver us from sin and death, so that all who humbly trust in him would receive grace upon grace.
My hope for us is that we would all continue to clothe ourselves with humility toward one another, just like our Savior did for us. Spend some time in prayer this week asking him to strengthen you in this area. He knows our weaknesses and our struggles with pride. But he has also given us his Spirit to strengthen and enable us to live in his likeness. May the Spirit of Christ help each of us to put on Christlike humility toward one another as we continue to praise him and proclaim his name to everyone around us.
With love for you in Christ,