And Samuel said, When thou wast little in thine own sight, wast thou not made the head of the tribes of Israel, and the LORD anointed thee king over Israel? When men are cast down, then thou shalt say, There is lifting up; and he shall save the humble person. Look on every one that is proud, and bring him low; and tread down the wicked in their place. For thou wilt save the afflicted people; but wilt bring down high looks. Though the LORD be high, yet hath he respect unto the lowly: but the proud he knoweth afar off. A man’s pride shall bring him low: but honour shall uphold the humble in spirit. The lofty looks of man shall be humbled, and the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, and the LORD alone shall be exalted in that day. For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.
~ 1 Samuel 15:17, Job 22:29, Job 40:12, Psalm 18:27, Psalm 138:6, Proverbs 29:23, Isaiah 2:11, Isaiah 57:15
And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted. But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.
~ Matthew 23:12, James 4:6, 1 Peter 5:5
Places of Honour, by JC Ryle.
And he put forth a parable to those which were bidden, when he marked how they chose out the chief rooms; saying unto them, When thou art bidden of any man to a wedding, sit not down in the highest room; lest a more honourable man than thou be bidden of him; And he that bade thee and him come and say to thee, Give this man place; and thou begin with shame to take the lowest room. But when thou art bidden, go and sit down in the lowest room; that when he that bade thee cometh, he may say unto thee, Friend, go up higher: then shalt thou have worship in the presence of them that sit at meat with thee. For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.
~ Luke 14:7-14
Let us first learn from these verses — the value of humility. This is a lesson which our Lord teaches in two ways. Firstly, He advises those who are bidden to a wedding to “sit down in the lowest place.” Secondly, He backs up His advice by declaring a great principle, which frequently fell from His lips, “Whoever exalts himself — shall be abased; and he who humbles himself — shall be exalted.”
Humility may well be called the queen of the Christian graces. To know our own sinfulness and weakness, and to feel our need of Christ — is the start of saving religion.
Humility is a grace which has always been a distinguishing feature in the character of the holiest saints in every age. Abraham and Moses and Job and David and Daniel and Paul — were all eminently humble men.
Above all, humility is a grace within the reach of every true Christian. All do not have money to give away. All do not have time and opportunities for working directly for Christ. All do not have gifts of speech, and knowledge, in order to do good in the world. But all converted men should labor to adorn the doctrine they profess by humility. If they can do nothing else — they can strive to be humble.
Do you want to know the root and spring of humility? One word describes it. The root of humility is right knowledge.
The person who really knows himself and his own heart, who knows God and his infinite majesty and holiness, who knows Christ and the price at which he was redeemed — that person will never be a proud person.
He will count himself, like Jacob, unworthy of the least of all God’s mercies. He will say of himself, like Job, “I am vile!” He will cry, like Paul, “I am the chief of sinners!” He will consider others better than himself (Philippians 2:3).
Ignorance — nothing but sheer ignorance, ignorance of self, of God, and of Christ — is the real secret of pride. From that miserable self-ignorance, may we daily pray to be delivered.
The wise person knows himself — and will find nothing within to make him proud.
Let us learn, secondly, from these verses — the duty of caring for the poor. Our Lord teaches this lesson in a particular manner. He tells the Pharisee who invited Him to his feast, that, when he made “a dinner or a supper” — he ought not to “invite his friends,” or relatives, or rich neighbours. On the contrary, He says, “When you make a feast — invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind.”
The precept contained in these words, must evidently be interpreted with considerable limitation. It is certain that our Lord did not intend to forbid men showing any hospitality to their relatives and friends. It is certain that He did not mean to encourage a useless and profuse expenditure of money in giving to the poor. To interpret the passage in this manner, would make it contradict other plain Scriptures. Such interpretations cannot possibly be correct.
But when we have said this, we must not forget that the passage does contain a deep and important lesson. We must be careful that we do not limit and qualify that lesson, until we have pared it down and refined it into nothing at all. The lesson of the passage is plain and distinct. The Lord Jesus would have us care for our poorer brethren, and help them according to our power. He would have us know that it is a solemn duty never to neglect the poor, but to aid them and relieve them in their time of need.
Let the lesson of this passage sink down deeply into our hearts. “There will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you: You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.” (Deuteronomy 15:11.) A little help conferred upon the poor judiciously and in season — will often add immensely to their happiness, and take away immensely from their cares, and promote good feeling between class and class in society.
It is the will of Christ that all His people who have the means, should be willing and ready to help the poor. That stingy, calculating spirit, which leads some people to talk of “the work-house,” and condemn all charity to the poor — is exceedingly opposed to the mind of Christ. There is a reason why our Lord declares that He will say to the wicked in the day of judgment, “I was hungry — and you gave me no food; I was thirsty — and you gave me nothing to drink.” There is a reason why Paul writes to the Galatians, “All they asked, was that we should continue to remember the poor — the very thing I was eager to do.” (Matthew 25:42. Galatians 2:10.)
Let us learn, lastly, from these verses — the great importance of looking forward to the resurrection of the dead. This lesson stands out in a striking manner in the language used by our Lord on the subject of showing charity to the poor. He says to the Pharisee who entertained Him, “The poor cannot repay you — you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”
There is a resurrection after death. Let this never be forgotten. The life that we live here in the flesh, is not all. The visible world around us, is not the only world with which we have to do. All is not over when the last breath is drawn, and men and women are carried to their long home in the grave.
The trumpet shall one day sound — and the dead shall be raised incorruptible. All who are in the graves shall hear Christ’s voice and come forth — those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of damnation. This is one of the great foundation truths of the Christian religion. Let us cling to it firmly, and never let it go.
Let us strive to live like men who believe in a resurrection and a life to come — and desire to be always ready for the eternal world. So living, we shall look forward to death with calmness. We shall feel that there remains some better portion for us beyond the grave. So living, we shall take patiently all that we have to bear in this world. Trial, losses, disappointments, ingratitude — will affect us little. We shall not look for our reward here in this poor world. We shall feel that all will be rectified one day, and that the Judge of all the earth will do right. (Genesis 18:25.)
But how can we bear the thought of a resurrection, without dread? What shall enable us to look forward to a world to come, without alarm? Nothing can do it, but faith in Christ. Believing in Him — we have nothing to fear. Our sins will not appear against us. The demands of God’s law will be found completely satisfied. We shall stand firm in the great day, and none shall lay anything to our charge. (Romans 8:33.) Worldly men like Felix, may well tremble when they think of a resurrection. But believers, like Paul, may rejoice.