“Be miserable and mourn and weep.”
- James 4:9a
Spiritual humility will be marked by a true sorrow over sin.
Modern culture does everything possible to avoid pain, to put off thinking about unpleasant subjects, to maximize comfort, and to feel good about circumstances.
That philosophy is the reflection of a proud and self-centered attitude, not the humble and God-centered attitude we have been examining during the past week. Today we continue our look at humility in the Epistle of James. The apostle urges people to “be miserable” concerning their sin. The demands of the gospel begin at this point. James is not denying the joy that will come when the gospel is sincerely received. He is simply saying that sinners have to feel bad before they can feel good. The word misery in this sense refers to the inner feelings of shame over sin, the deep sorrow it causes, and the spirit of penitence the humbled sinner will have as a result.
The humble person will also mourn over his sin. This reminds us of what the Lord Jesus says in the Beatitudes: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matt. 5:4). Mourning is a brokenness of spirit that will cause the humble person’s heart to ache when he realizes his total spiritual bankruptcy because of sin.
The word James uses for “mourn” is closely related to the concept of sorrow. But this sorrow is not just any ordinary sorrow or sadness that all people feel during the course of life. James uses a strong word that usually referred to the grieving over a loved one’s death. James thus urges the humble sinner to have a funeral mourner’s lament or grief regarding his sinfulness. Weeping is often the physical response that the sincerely humble mourner will have to his circumstances. Tears are God’s gift to us that allow release for our aching hearts, as Peter discovered after he betrayed the Lord (Mark 14:72). Misery, mourning, and weeping all point to a genuine sorrow over sin, what Paul calls “godly sorrow” (2 Cor. 7:10-11). If you are among the humble, this attitude will be yours as you enter God’s kingdom (James 4:9) and as you live the Christian life (Matt. 5:3-4).
Suggestions for Prayer:
Pray that God would give you the proper sense of sorrow over all sin in your life—even over that which seems insignificant.
For Further Study:
Read Hebrews 12:15-17. What was lacking in Esau’s response (v. 17)? (Read Gen. 25:27-34 and 27:30-38 for background.)
From Strength for Today by John MacArthur Copyright © 1997. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.com.