Proverbs 25:6-7 “Do not exalt yourself in the king’s presence, and do not claim a place among great men; it is better for him to say to you, “Come up here,” than for him to humiliate you before a nobleman.”
We all would like to claim a place among the great men. George Banks says it clearly in the movie Mary Poppins. He laments, “A man has dreams of walking with giants…” after losing his job as a bank officer.
The humble Christian knows his place. Instead of prideful self-promotion, he is content with his position. But that humble contentment is a difficult thing to practice. It’s difficult because everything around us screams at us not to be content. Every television commercial we see, whether good or bad, tries to convince us that we don’t have enough, that life could be better, that we deserve more than we have. And we tend to agree.
Its difficult because humility is something that you can’t work on by focusing on it. Pride can be pointed out and confronted. But humility is practically unaware of itself. It doesn’t want to be noticed. It’s not the sort of thing you achieve by resolving, “This year I’m going to be humble,” and then checking yourself periodically to make sure you are. If a humble person becomes truly aware of his humility, it is almost impossible to resist taking a certain pride in becoming so humble.
Someone once said, “A proud man is always looking down on things and people: and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you.” Proud hearts don’t acknowledge God above, not sincerely. If they come to him at all, they come to him with their hands full of their own good works, their own mystical experiences, their own superior beliefs, to impress him. Pride leads us to exalt ourselves in the presence of The King of Kings. But God doesn’t have anything to offer us if our hands are already full. He certainly isn’t impressed with what we have to bring. The only proper way for me to approach him is as a beggar. The humble Christian knows that this is his place, and he is content with his position.
A humble position is not a bad place to be. There is no place to go but up. The humble Christian knows that when he is in his place, he is also in a position to be honored.
That’s not to say that humility is an absolute guarantee of earthly honor. A proverb is not the same thing as a promise. Solomon says it is better for the king to say, “Come up here.” He doesn’t say that it always happens that way. We know from experience that sometimes the wrong people get all the attention. But if humility has truly taught us our place, and if we are content with our position in life, that won’t matter. We will be happy with the status and the things God has decided to give us.
And we’ll know that when we are humble before the Lord, we are in a position in which God does promise to honor us. “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up,” the apostle James reminds us. There is nothing more humbling than admitting, “I have sinned and I need to be saved.” Then we are coming before God with empty hands, begging him to forgive us.
God lifts us up. Like the king in Proverbs he says to us, “Come up here.” “Come up here. My Son Jesus Christ has traded his life for yours. He lifted you out of your sins and set you free.” “Come up here. You’re one of my children now, a child of the Great King, a prince or princess in the Kingdom of God.” “Come up here. Your home and your citizenship are in heaven.” “Come up here. I have given you an honor that nothing can surpass, a position that no one can take away, a place by my side, where you will know my eternal care.”
There is no higher position than to be one of God’s humble little children.