STUDY | Spend the week studying James 4:6, 10. Consult the commentary provided and any additional study tools to enhance your preparation.
DETERMINE | Which discussion points and study questions will work best for your group.
PRAY | Pray for our pastors and this week’s message, the upcoming group time, your group members, and their openness to God’s Word.
LANDING POINT | Pride is my greatest enemy and humility is my greatest friend.
Remember the 4 Rules for Small Group Discussion
- Confidentiality. What’s said in the group stays in the group.
- No cross-talk. Be considerate of others as they share. Refrain from side conversations and texting during group time.
- No fixing. We are not in the group to fix each other. Jesus does that part.
- Sharing. Be sensitive to the amount of time you share. Don’t talk too much or too little. Every person brings something valuable to the group.
As your group time begins, use this section to introduce the topic of discussion.
YOUR GREATEST FRIEND
Each of us is in the heat of a battle. The fighting rages on inside of us between two opposing things: pride and humility. Pride wants to take God’s place on His throne and refuses to let God be God. Humility, on the other hand, is admitting that we need God, that we depend on Him and His grace.
What’s at stake in this battle? Your life. Humility gives life. Pride takes it. Humility draws you near to God. Pride drives you away from Him. Here’s the deal. We need to talk about humility because this really is a matter of life and death.
The Bible has a lot to say about pride and humility because pride is your greatest enemy and humility is your greatest friend.1 The key to putting away pride is to expose it and hate it just like God does. The key to learning humility is to look to Jesus daily for our ultimate example of humility.
Q: What are some telltale signs that someone is prideful?
Q: Describe someone you know who is humble. How are they different?
Select 2-3 questions to discuss as a group.
THE REMEDY FOR THE PROBLEM
James is a book of the Bible that is filled with wisdom. In fact, many refer to it as the “Proverbs of the New Testament” because it gives short, practical guidance on how to live the Christian life. This week your group will focus on two powerful verses about pride and humility in James.
In James 4:6–10, James is dealing with a spiritual problem that’s causing division in a community. How does he tell his readers to deal with problem? By being humble. He quotes Proverbs 3:34 when he writes, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (v.6). James is saying, “Here’s the deal. God is actively opposed to those who are selfishly wrapped up in themselves and think they’re OK without Him. But God loves the humble and gives them His favor. Pride and humility are like oil and water; they don’t mix.”
Later in verse 10 James comes back to humility when he instructs his readers: “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you.” James’s readers had a choice: to be humble before God now or to be humbled by Him later. God always humbles the proud, so it’s better—and less painful—to humble yourself before God. To be humble before God is not groveling or hating yourself, but to recognize your absolute need for God and His right over your life. To be humble is to look to God in faith and trust Him to provide for your needs.
READ: James 4:6, 10 as a group. Why can’t pride and humility co-exist?
Q: Recall a time in life when God humbled you. What did you learn?
Q: Why does your natural self not want to recognize your need for God?
Q: What does it practically look like to give God the right to rule over your life?
Select 2-3 questions from this section to answer.
Our greatest enemy is an insidious one. Pride loves to work in secret and go unnoticed. That’s why, more than anyother sin, pride is the hardest to detect in ourselves. Why? Because pride makes you think you’re something you’re not. It pulls the blindfold over your eyes to hide what’s true of your thoughts, words and actions. It rationalizes things like fault-finding, dealing harshly with others, feeling entitled, being overly concerned with how others perceive you, craving attention and recognition and neglecting the needs of others.2
Generally, we think of a prideful person as someone who’s full of themselves. They think they’re better and more significant than others. But again, here is where pride is so deceptive. It can also be counterfeit humility in the form of self-hatred. Some people think they are being humble by focusing on how terrible they are. However, this is pride because their focus is on themselves, not others. They are just as self-absorbed as the person who’s puffed up and arrogant.
Q: Where do you see prideful tendencies in yourself? Be specific.
Q: Can you relate to the other form of pride, self-hatred? If so, explain.
The way to put away pride is to embrace humility as your greatest friend. The Bible tells us to put humility on, to be clothed in it. Humility is one virtue that should mark all Christians. So how do you learn humility? How do make friends with humility?
Humility teaches us that, in order to go high and be truly great, we must go low. The following are six ways3 you can go low and make humility your greatest friend:
- Give God credit. Humility says, “God gets all the credit. I choose to boast in Him, not in myself or my efforts.”
- Recognize His gifts. Humility says, “Everything good that I have is a gift from God. Therefore, I won’t act like I earned it or that I’m entitled to anything.”
- Depend on God’s providence. Humility says, “I’m really not in charge of my life. Every moment of my life is under His sovereign control.”
- Treasure the gospel. Humility says, “Jesus died for me, a sinner. I deserved nothing less than death and eternal separation from God. I need God and I am daily dependent on His grace.”
- Give yourself away. Humility says, “Instead of demanding that others serve me, I will seek out ways to serve and meet the needs of others.”
- Experience true greatness. Humility says, “I don’t see greatness as the world does. I see it as Jesus does. He defined true greatness as humility and serving the needs of others.”
Q: Why does God deserve all the credit in your life?
Q: What’s one way that you can “give yourself away” this week to someone else?
Select 1 question from this section to ask your group.
A NEW WAY OF LIVING
Jesus turned the world’s values upside down and showed us a different way to live. Instead of demanding, we are to serve. Instead of taking, we are to give. Instead of feeling superior to others, we are to see them as people equally inneed of God’s love and grace. This kind of life is truly counter-cultural!
While some may think that being humble makes you weak, passive and a doormat for people to walk over, God’s Word says otherwise. There is great power in humility because it’s the only way to true change in life.
Your biggest barrier to change is pride. It is opposed to anything that would make you grow spiritually. Your greatest enemy wants your death, not your life. The key to overcoming pride is to acknowledge your pride and take it to Jesus. Repent and admit your need. Look to Him and see true humility and greatness stretched out on a cross for you. Embrace humility as your greatest friend and you will see the change happen.
Q: How would you live differently if you saw others as equally in need of God’s love and grace?
Q: What can you do to invite others to help you put away pride and embrace humility?
Thank God for His mercy in showing us our greatest enemy (pride) and friend (humility) in life. Ask the Holy Spiritto expose any pride in you and pray for God’s grace to embrace humility in your life.
Midway through this week, send a follow-up email to your group with some or all of the following:
- Read Philippians 2:1–11 and reflect on how this passage shows Jesus’s humility and consider practical ways that you can model it.
- Ask the group to share any stories or lessons learned where they see God at work in their lives.
How God Opposes the Proud
“God resists the proud by opposing the life and practices of those who failto follow him. He foils their plans and frustrates their dreams. God does not want our lives to be dominated by materialism, a search for prestige, selfish ambition, or deliberate forgetfulness of God. His aim is that we “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness” (Matt. 6:33).”4
The Greatest Evil
“According to Christian teachers, the essential vice, the utmost evil, is Pride. Unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere fleabites in comparison: it was through Pride that the devil became the devil: Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind.”5
In his book The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness Timothy Keller writes about true gospel-humility:
[T]he essence of gospel-humility is not thinking more of myself or thinking less of myself, it is thinking of myself less. [...] True gospel-humility means I stop connecting every experience, every conversation, with myself. In fact, I stop thinking about myself. The freedom of self-forgetfulness.The blessed rest that only self-forgetfulness brings.
The Bible doesn’t give humility as an optional virtue for believers. It is an essential part of the Christian life that is commanded by God. See Prov. 16:19; Isa. 58:5; Zeph. 2:3; Luke 14:9–11; Rom. 13:3; 1 Cor. 1:28; Eph. 4:2; Col. 3:12; James 3:13; 1 Pet. 3:8; 5:5–6.
1. C.J. Mahaney, “The Perils of Pride,” Crosswalk.com, April 20, 2007, https://www.crosswalk.com/faith/spiritual-life/the-perils-of-pride-1386103.html.
2. Jonathan Edwards, “Undetected Spiritual Pride: One Cause of Failure in Times of Great Revival,” Banner of Truth Trust, April 1, 2001, https://bannerof- truth.org/us/resources/articles/2001/jonathan-edwards-on-spiritual-pride/.
3. Adapted from John Piper, “Greatness, Humility, Servanthood” (sermon, Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, MN, August 30, 2009), https://www.desir- inggod.org/messages/greatness-humility-servanthood.
4. Thomas D. Lea, Hebrews, James, vol. 10, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999), 321.
5. C S. Lewis, Mere Christianity: A Revised and Amplified Edition, with a New Introduction, of the Three Books, Broadcast Talks, Christian Behaviour, andBeyond Personality, harpercollins ed. (San Francisco: Harper SanFrancisco, 2001), 121-22.