God is in the business of opposing and exalting, of bringing down and lifting up.
There is one thing that the Scriptures say God exalts and lifts up. It’s not talent. It’s not effort. It’s not having it all together. It’s not good behavior or good plans. It’s not success and great resources. The one thing God exalts is humility.
“‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you…” 1 Peter 5:5b-6
Peter wrote these words from experience. He felt the fall that comes from pride, and he experienced the exalting that God gives to the humble. There’s much to say here, but at the core of of this divine physics is the nature of a true and real relationship between God and humans. God is God, and we are not. God is All-Sufficient, while we humans are all-dependent, dependent on God for breath, lunch, a functioning liver, everything.
So, the only true way to live in relationship with God and as a human in God’s world is in humility and dependence. To walk in pride and independence in God’s world is an attempt to re-write the laws by which God created our world. Such a way of life isn’t real, it’s not true, it’s not how things work.
Thomas Merton said it well, “Pride makes us artificial; humility makes us real.” Pride de-humanizes you. Humility humanizes you. God created us to be human, humbly and freely dependent on Him. Sin is a pivot away from being human, a futile grasp after super-humanness that deeply damages the design God has for his creation.
I cannot imagine anything worse than being opposed by God. And, I cannot imagine anything better than being exalted by God. It’s not just my imagination, like Peter, this is what I’ve lived. My pride has led to falls. My humility has led to exaltations. Pride is way overrated. Humility is deeply undervalued, and misunderstood. Humility isn’t about devaluing who you are, it’s about waking up to who you truly are and the dependent freedom God created you to live in. By all means employ your talents, give your best effort, stay on top of things, live well, aim to be successful in your endeavors and steward your resources; but may we do so from a deeply humble human heart–a real heart–that God can relate to, love, work with, and exalt.