Goods Works versus Humility

When one thinks of humility, the book of James is not your most obvious choice to study out this theme. The general theme of James is “good works”. I would consider “good works” all about doing and humility is all about being, and so it seemed a challenge to read the book from this point of view. The dictionary defines humility or being humble as: modest opinion or estimate of one’s own importance or rank; not proud or arrogant; modest; having a feeling of insignificance, inferiority or subservience; to destroy the independence, power, or will of.

I particularly like the latter as it seems that destroying the independence, power, or will of comes closest to what the Bible teaches us about being humble. When studying the book of James on the theme of humility my aim was to go through each verse and see if the character of humility was to be found in there. The main two distinctions is what character humility will produce, and what humility will give us.

Humility is being patient (Jam 1:4, Jam 5:7-8, Jam 5:11), being self-controlled (Jam 1:19-20, Jam 3:2), being content (Jam 4:1-3), being receptive to the Word (Jam 1:21), being repentant (Jam 4:8-9), being submissive (Jam 4:15), and being self-sacrificial (Jam 5:4-5).

Humility will give us glory (Jam 1:9-10, Jam 4:10), will give us grace (Jam 4:6), will give us rewards for work (Jam 1:25), and will give us spiritual healing (Jam 5:16).

For each of the above, we at least need to find the humility to ask God for wisdom (Jam 1:5, Jam 3:13).

So what conclusion can we draw from this? Being humble provides us with a set of character traits or attributes which will put us in a position in the world in which we can show the love of God through our good works and sincerity of heart. Secondly, being humble is not an end goal to be achieved, but a starting point to obtain from which all our transformation into Christ-likeness happens. This can also be deducted from the Beattitudes, where the first Beattitude says that “blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3), which is also a reference to humility being a starting point to Christ-likeness.