If there ever was a person in the Bible who could have pulled rank it was a man named James. When he wrote the epistle of James he could have impressed his readers with something like, “This book is from James, the beloved blood brother of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes who are scattered.” Anyone who picked up the letter would have immediately been alerted to the fact that they were reading the words of someone who was very important. They had better pay attention to what he said because James had the inside track, his big brother was Jesus himself!
But James was a man who walked in humility. When he mentioned Jesus, his emphasis was upon their relationship, he described himself as a bondservant of the Lord Jesus Christ. A bondservant was a lowly slave. Jesus may have been James’ older brother, but what was really important to James was that Jesus was his Lord and master.
Humility is a character trait that is important to the Lord. He modeled it for us when he, being equal with God the Father, laid aside the glories of heaven and humbled himself to be born as a man and to literally die for us. The root word for humility is humus, which means derived from the earth, low to the ground. Humility is the polar opposite of lifting yourself up. Jesus was the embodiment of humility. James followed in his older brother’s footsteps.
We don’t see James using his close proximity to Jesus as a pass to escape trials and testing. He didn’t pull rank to get out of serving those in need or to avoid suffering. James may have been related to the Mighty, but he embraced the life of the mini.
The Lord is calling each one of us to increasingly deeper levels of humility. James teaches us that God is opposed to the proud but gives grace to the humble. Don’t you want God to pour out his grace in your life? James instructs us that the way to more grace is to humble yourself in the sight of God. This is something that we intentionally do ourselves.
For James, walking in humility didn’t mean moping around talking about how pitiful he was. It didn’t mean reminding everyone of how unqualified he was to even be a follower of Christ. He could have retold the story of the time that he, his mother Mary and his siblings actually thought Jesus was crazy and wanted to have him committed! (See Matthew 13:55-58 for that story.) He could have berated himself for his unbelief and lack of faith while Jesus was alive. He also could have felt sorry for himself because how could he ever live up to bar set by his older brother who was literally perfect? But walking in humility doesn’t mean we continually tear ourselves down or seek to get others to feel sorry for us.
Walking in humility also doesn’t preclude the amazing credentials that James did have. Not only was he the blood brother of Jesus, but, the resurrected Jesus personally appeared before him during the forty days before his ascension. Paul referred to James as one of the pillars of the early church in Galatians 2:9. It was James who settled the disagreement over whether the Gentiles must become Jews before they could become a Christian in Acts 15. James was the undisputed leader of the mother church in Jerusalem, but his lofty position didn’t keep him from walking in humility.
Walking in humility is not tearing ourselves down and talking about how pitiful we are. It also does not preclude having amazing gifts or talents or positions of leadership. Walking in humility is an attitude of the heart that realizes that every blessing, every opportunity, every natural gift and resource come from the hand of God. Thankfulness is a hallmark of humility.
Eusebius, the early church historian, gives us insight into the life of James. He said that James’ knees were hard like those of a camel because he was constantly bending his knees in worship of God. James’ knees were proof that he lived his life literally low to the ground, a life of reliance upon the Lord trusting him for every need, depending upon him, thanking and praising him in all things. Because of his humility, mini brother James was mighty in the Lord!
LET US PRAY…
Lord we thank you for the life of James the brother of Jesus who didn’t pull rank with you but lived his life dependent upon you. Will you stir up in each one of us the desire to walk in a deeper level of humility before you? Show us how to do this. Warn us when we are falling into presumption and pride, that we may turn back to you. Thank you for showering us with more grace as we learn to walk in humility before you.
In Jesus’ mighty name, Amen.