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And he gives grace generously. As the Scriptures say, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. - James 4:6-8 (NLT)
A few years ago, a teenage girl robbed a bank in Nebraska and got away with about $6,000. The police solved the case not based on eyewitness accounts, but as a result of the video she posted bragging about the crime. With the money fanned out for all to see, she displayed a sign which read, “I just stole a car and robbed a bank. Now I’m rich, I can pay off my college financial aid, and tomorrow I’m going for a shopping spree.” The Bible says that pride precedes destruction (Proverbs 16:18). Or, in Hannah’s case, pride made for a quick and easy arrest. Case closed.
Our devos this week continue alongside the current teaching series, “Southern Sayin’s.” I’ve often heard the phrase “too big for your britches” used real-time. (I’m sure my mother used it on me.) Those of us raised in the South have always intuitively known what it means. It’s a word of caution about getting too “full of ourselves.” What’s ironic is that when the Bible talks about humility, it often uses words which, literally translated, refer to inner emptiness and living without a need for personal righteousness or reputation. Emptying ourselves would make it impossible for us to become too big for our britches.
We’re going to spend some time as the week progresses looking at several paradoxical statements found in Scripture that all point us in the same direction. Believers are called to move down, not up; to move to the back of the line, not the front; to embrace weakness in order to be made strong.
But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. - Matthew 23:12 (NLT)
In the final days of Jesus’ life, He and His followers were preparing to make their way to Jerusalem. As far as the disciples were concerned, the time had arrived. After all the miraculous things they had witnessed Jesus do in the previous years, they could only come to one conclusion: “We’re going to take this city!” Over the next few days, Jesus’ teaching would intensify, but His posture would continually display anything but conquering strength. On the contrary, His actions would lead Him humbly to the cross. Imagine the shock of the disciples as they witnessed such a plot twist. No wonder they scattered in fear as the events unfolded.
Just before Jesus was arrested, He seized an opportunity to call some people out. It’s clear that the “spiritual leaders” in Jerusalem had become too big for their britches. In Matthew 23, Jesus said of them, “The teachers of religious law and the Pharisees are the official interpreters of the law of Moses. So practice and obey whatever they tell you, but don’t follow their example. For they don’t practice what they teach… Everything they do is for show… And they love to sit at the head table at banquets and in the seats of honor in the synagogues. They love to receive respectful greetings as they walk in the marketplaces, and to be called ‘Rabbi’… The greatest among you must be a servant. But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Wow!
“Greatness” is achieved when we serve others out of pure motive. If we choose not to humble ourselves, the Father will do it for us. (Job 22:29)
If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. - Luke 9:24 (NLT)
Today, we continue drawing lessons from the southern sayin’, “too big for your britches.” We must resist the human urge to see ourselves as exceptional or better than others. This is counterintuitive because our natural bent will always be towards personal advancement, even at the expense of others. Jesus did just the opposite in both what He said and what He did. In Luke 9, He said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me.”
Cross-carrying leaves no room for pride. In fact, it strips us of it. The way we allow what’s not of God to be crucified in our lives is by carrying a cross with Christ. Here's another way of saying it: We must not only embrace the forgiveness and grace of Christ, but also identify with His suffering. He willingly laid down His life. So we’re asked to lay down what’s not of the Father. We can’t crucify ourselves. We can only lay down what needs to be crucified in us, and then Jesus does the rest.
Keep in mind that this way of living is very foolish to the world around us. And that’s part of the challenge. Pride might prevent us from choosing this life because of what others might think. While all of it may seem overwhelming, we need to understand that deciding to pick up the cross is something we can do one step at a time. Southland’s founding pastor, Wayne Smith, used to say, “The problem with life is that it’s so daily.” I get that! But daily life can also work in our favor because we can take each day as it comes without worrying about the next.
My friends in the Alcoholics Anonymous community talk about how the first step toward sobriety is admitting powerlessness. Translation? Humility frees us from the imprisonment of ourselves. Those in AA also encourage each other not to think about what steps they need to take a week from now, or even tomorrow. Think only about the step you can take today. Decide today to humbly take up your cross. Just today. God will grant you strength to take that step. Let me know how I can encourage you along the way.Share Tweet
After they arrived at Capernaum and settled in a house, Jesus asked his disciples, “What were you discussing out on the road?” But they didn’t answer, because they had been arguing about which of them was the greatest. - Mark 9:33-34 (NLT)
Traveling with His closest followers, Jesus did His best to help prepare them for what was ahead, knowing they would be very distressed by what He would say. Through a series of conversations, Jesus was slowly revealing how their time together would soon draw to a close and how His earthly life would come to an end. After telling them that He would be betrayed, arrested, and executed, but would ultimately defeat death by rising from the grave, the Bible says the disciples were confused and afraid to ask Him what it all meant. But they clearly weren’t bothered enough by what Jesus had said to resist arguing with each other about which of them was the greatest!
This glimpse of the disciples offers me some hope. These are the men who had witnessed first-hand all that Jesus had done and yet, in their humanness, still did what humans naturally do. We like to be thought of as unique, even special. Or at least above average. The disciples were no different. To help redirect their thinking, Jesus sat them all down in a home that was hosting them. Mark 9:36–37 says, “Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, ‘Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes not only me but also my Father who sent me.’”
The child, maybe a son or daughter of the homeowner, represented humility and submission. Ironically, the word in Jesus’ native language used for child is also used for the word servant. That makes this statement from Jesus all the more meaningful: “Whoever wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else.”
Have you gotten “too big for your britches” by letting comparison and competition with others get in the way of really loving them? What can you learn from how an unspoiled child approaches people and challenges? Do you measure greatness by what others are doing for you as opposed to what you’re doing for others? Move to the back of the line today.Share Tweet
So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud. - 2 Corinthians 12:7 (NLT)
We’ve been learning some lessons this week from the southern sayin’, “too big for your britches.” Pride is poison to our faith and creates separation. Jesus had strong words about this, and so did the apostle Paul. We’ll finish this week’s devos with his perspective.
Paul had some sort of affliction, probably physical, which he knew was meant to keep him balanced and dependent. Successes and wins alone are fertile ground for pride to take root. I tend to spend more time asking why, or waiting for something to be taken away, than I do asking the Father to teach me something through difficulty. We see Paul as a giant in the faith forgetting that part of what made him so impactful was his willingness to accept hardships as a way to keep him humble.
It’s interesting that Paul considered his affliction to be a message from Satan. It’s true, Satan is always messaging us. But the Father’s message is greater and gives life. I’m grateful that Paul humbly submitted to the Father, struggles and all. Having done so, we’re not surprised that Paul would be able to give us these words:
Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.
Philippians 2:3–5 (NLT)
Paul allowed for suffering to bring him to humility. Humility then brought him into greater union with Christ. Pride will not permit such a union with our Savior.
Is there a challenge in your life that you’re resisting rather than humbly letting it shape your character? Meditate on or, better yet, memorize Philippians 2:3-11 this weekend. And let me know what God might have brought to your mind through the devos this week.Share Tweet