1 Peter 5:5-7 – In the same way, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. All of you clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your cares on him, because he cares about you.
Peter here is encouraging humility among those to whom he is writing. First for the elders and leaders of the congregations, and then for the young who might be resistant to authority. He then justifies this position with a quote from Proverbs 3:34, saying “God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.” In his context, Peter relates that a position of humility is preferred so that God can then lift them up at the appropriate time. This is reminiscent of the teaching of Yeshua:
Luke 14:8-11 – “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, don’t recline at the best place, because a more distinguished person than you may have been invited by your host. “The one who invited both of you may come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this man,’ and then in humiliation, you will proceed to take the lowest place. “But when you are invited, go and recline in the lowest place, so that when the one who invited you comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ You will then be honored in the presence of all the other guests. “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
By drawing on this imagery from Messiah, Peter is encouraging humility among all the believers so that God would then have opportunity to exalt them. In this way, Peter continues, there was no need to be anxious, since God would surely accomplish this in his perfect timing. Take care of others, he says, and God will take care of you.
Humbling oneself requires a deep trust in God. In humbling oneself, one must believe that there is a greater good for God’s purposes that can result from this humility, because our natural response is not to humble ourselves in the service and preference of others but to serve ourselves and our needs above others.
From Peter’s perspective when we focus on ourselves we tend to be more anxious, not knowing how we can achieve or gain what we need. Yet, when we humble ourselves and choose to put others before ourselves, our anxiety can be shed in this service of God, knowing that he is the One who cares for our needs. While we are busying ourselves with the needs of others, God is working quietly on our behalf, providing us favor in our time of need.
The proverb contrasts this state of grace and favor among the humble with an unfavorable alternative by saying that God actively resists the proud and arrogant. This idea goes back to a principle I believe is throughout the Bible: there are natural moral and spiritual consequences built into this Creation by God. In this instance, when one is arrogant, self-centered, and mocking others God has set bounds in place that work against that type of individual, whether socially, physically, or spiritually.
The apostle James also leverages this same quote from Proverbs for a similar use, in encouraging his hearers to get their eyes off praying for things they personally desire and onto the needs of others.
James 4:3-4, 6 – You ask and don’t receive because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. You adulterous people! Don’t you know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? So whoever wants to be the friend of the world becomes the enemy of God. … But he gives greater grace. Therefore he says: God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.
Why should we place ourselves in an adversarial position against God by seeking our own elevated status and position? According to Peter and James, this is what happens when we seek our own desires above the needs of others. This condition creates anxiety for always having to gauge who we can trust and how we can maintain our standing.
Instead, when we demonstrate our trust in God and his design for the world by producing fruit of genuine humility and service for others, we can then shed our anxiety for our position and status in this world. Serving God by serving others relieves us from our concern for ourselves and allows us the freedom to truly provide for the needs of those around us with sincerity and love.
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