I find that I need this reminder from time to time. And it is a simple reminder. When I am lifted up; exalted, then I am in danger of a fall. If I have lifted myself up; exalted myself, then I am in danger of seeing my house of cards come tumbling down around me. And that is the overall sense I get from the first part of this proverb. We build ourselves up only to have everything we have built torn down. And 21st Century American society encourages this build up. I am encouraged to craft an image via social media and how I present myself in conversation and what I wear and what I drive and on and on. But all of it is illusion and the illusion will, eventually, shatter. The word used for destruction in this proverb carries that exact meaning (shattering) as a possible interpretation.
By contrast, being humble tends to precede honor. Those times when I have been humble — Note: these were times when I was simply not thinking about myself, but was rather thinking about someone or something else — have been the times when God brought honor. When my eyes were on the people God called me to serve and the tasks He had set before me with an intent to serve those people and to complete those tasks as if for Him alone, then God brought glory and abundance. Another note, I was not looking for either the glory or the abundance, but was, in those times, looking only to please God. The other things came along for the ride.
Some application for me this morning. First, if I craft an image and try to build myself up then all I am doing is setting myself up for a fall. And the more image I build, the larger and more impressive will be the crumbling of that flimsy image. Second, humility is the predecessor to glory. But there is a caveat to this, I cannot seek humility for the sake of attaining glory or I will find neither. I must not seek humility at all. Humility is awkward and only comes along side me when I am occupied with other things. I have never once been humble by intent. I have only ever been humble incidentally, as I occupied myself with serving others or doing the task God set before me to the best of my ability. When I was occupied with God’s work, then — quite unbeknownst to me — humility came alongside me. Which makes me think I should write a third application. I cannot go in search of humility. I must seek God and His things and humility will grace me with her companionship, for she befriends those who are friends of God. If I seek humility, she will retreat. The myth of Eros and Psyche comes to mind (no pun intended). Psyche had to do everything in the dark and Eros vanished when Psyche tried to see him. Humility is somewhat like that. To sum up: there is no image-crafting for the child of God unless I want to waste time and effort on something that will be destroyed; working for God in humility brings great benefit; and humility is not something that can be sought, but is more a friend who will join me in my work as I keep my eyes focused on God.