To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable … (Luke 18:9)

Luke is setting the stage at the beginning of this story. The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector is a lesson in humility.

“There is no true holiness without humility.”
-Thomas Fuller
Our position in prayer before our Holy God should always be one of meekness. We are not to approach God’s throne with any confidence of our own righteousness but rather with the knowledge of our own sinfulness. The creatures are to come before the Creator in humility, as the recipients of the grace we all so desperately need. I am reminded of a verse in the book of James:

But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6)

This is lesson is echoed in other parts of the Bible:

He mocks proud mockers but gives grace to the humble. (Proverbs 3:34)

“For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Matthew 23:12)

Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
(1 Peter 5:5-7)

Clearly, the way up is down. The correct attire–both day and night–for a child of the King is humility. When God mocks the arrogant mockers, He causes their actions to boomerang on them. Yet He tells us that the humble will receive His amazing grace. It is the Lord who humbles and it is the Lord who exalts. Hannah’s prayer in the Old Testament tells us:

“There is no one holy like the LORD; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God. Do not keep talking so proudly or let your mouth speak such arrogance, for the LORD is a God who knows, and by him deeds are weighed. The LORD sends poverty and wealth; he humbles and he exalts. He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes and has them inherit a throne of honor.”
(1 Samuel 2:2-3, 7-8)

“Humility is nothing else but a true knowledge and awareness of oneself as one really is.” -The Cloud of Unknowing

“The work of a true convert is not done. He (and she) finds a great work to do and great wants to be supplied. He (and she) still sees himself/herself to be a poor, empty, helpless creature who still stands in great and continual need of God’s help. He/she well knows that without God he/she can do nothing. After a true conversion, the soul is increasingly aware of its own impotence and emptiness. It is still aware of its universal dependence on God for everything. A true convert is aware that his grace is very imperfect and that he/she is very far from having all that he/she desires. Through conversion, new desires are produced in him/her that he/she never had before … So he/she still has plenty of business at the throne of grace: in fact, his/her business there increases rather than diminishes.” (Jonathan Edwards)

Take It to Heart

Romans 12 is a wonderful chapter in the Bible to go for a “hands-on” tutorial on humility. It contains practical advice on how we can consider the “everybody else’s” mentioned in our verse for today:

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. (verse 3)

Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.
(verse 10)

Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. (verse 13)

Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. (verse 16)

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. ( verse18)

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. ( verse 21)