A sensitive topic was on the agenda so I approached it with more than a little trepidation and a lot of prayer. What I was about to tell them is no longer popular in the world. I had prepared myself for possible objections, and steeled myself to stay calm and give thoughtful answers in a calm voice. Oddly enough, when you defend the word of God, it should never sound “defensive.”
A few weeks later, one of the young women wrote me a note. She told me she had not agreed with everything I said, but that she had learned things she never knew before that would affect her views from then on. She said she was likely to change her mind on some as she considered the things I had presented. She thanked me for the time and effort I had taken to teach that study. I still have that note, and always will.
Contrast this to another young woman who, as the subject was presented, began to seethe. She compressed her lips into a thin line and narrowed her eyes in contempt. As soon as I took a breath, she raised her voice, and accused me of judging her personally. She told me I was wrong in a tone of voice I would not have used on an enemy. Then she folded her arms, sat as crossways as she could away from my general direction, and lifted her chin defiantly. I doubt she heard anything else I had to say.
It was an important topic that should not be avoided, and really, to be responsible before God as a teacher of His word, I could not have avoided it. No names were mentioned. I knew no one’s personal history. I carefully said at the beginning, “I am not aiming this at anyone here because I do not know you that well.” By her own actions, this person identified herself to all as one who had the problem, and by her own actions she told me that she would not even consider that she might be wrong.
I have far more confidence in the first woman’s continuing faith than the second. I only hope that by making such a big deal out of it herself, that the latter will remember it and perhaps reconsider in spite of herself. Her problem, you see, was pride. She wasn’t wrong simply because she couldn’t be wrong.
But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble,” James 4:6. That word “resist” is a military term. It means “to range in battle against,” according to W. E. Vine. It means you are going to war against God.
Matthew Henry says it like this: “In his understanding [the proud man] resists the truth of God; in his will, he resists the law of God, in his passions, he resists the providence of God.” How many other ways can God reach us? If we resist all these things because of pride, we will never find his grace.
I found so many passages where God talks about destroying the proud that I lost count. Sometimes it was individuals. Sometimes it was a small group like the church at Corinth. Sometimes it was the general personality of a nation, like Edom and Moab. People who are proud will never find God, because they will never admit their need for Him.
It can all be seen in something as small as a Bible study. That first listener is far more likely to experience the grace of God. She is open-minded and willing to listen, and most of all, she is willing to consider that she might possibly be wrong about something. Peter refers to the same scripture as James in 1 Pet 5:5,6. Notice, however, the context of this reference.
Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elder. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for "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.
Though he begins by speaking about the elders in particular (5:1-3), he gradually moves on to the more general “older” and “younger.” As with the constant urging in the book of Proverbs from which the original passage comes (3:34), he expects us to learn from those who are older, who have more knowledge, and more experience. Perhaps they are wrong, but if we instantly dismiss them because they disagree with us, how can we ever hope to find out? It all reminds me of children who look at a new dish and say, “I don’t like that,” when they have never even tasted it. Childish, indeed, and so are we when we are too proud to listen and study because, “I’ve never heard that before, so it can’t be right.”
Is anything worth missing out on the grace of God? When it is asking too much of us to say, “I was wrong about that,” or even, “I might be wrong about that,” it will be asking too much of God to say, “Enter in…”
Talk no more so very proudly, let not arrogance come from your mouth; for the LORD is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed. 1 Sam 2:3.