Because Jesus is the supreme beauty and goodness of eternity, it is altogether appropriate that everything we do exalts Him and lifts Him up. Strange it is then to read the verse: “Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up” (James 4:10). The humble part is to be expected, but to what end are we lifted up when the supreme goal is to lift Jesus up?
I have long interpreted the phrase “in the sight of the Lord” from the understanding of rising to God’s perspective to look down on how small I am. This view always has been accompanied with discomfort as it seemed to require some measure of focus on “me” when the whole principle seemed to require a solitary focus on Jesus. But what if “in the sight of the Lord” has nothing to do with looking at myself from God’s perspective (from His sight), but rather just continuing to look at Him?
When we look up at a redwood, we automatically become aware of scope. When we gaze in wonder at a mountain range, we automatically understand grandeur. How much more is this principle true when we fix our eyes on Jesus. When we look up at Him, we are automatically humbled. Looking at ourselves even if from God’s perspective is still looking at ourselves, but when we lift our eyes to Jesus, when our sight is on the Lord, we assume our rightful place. C. S. Lewis put it this way: “Humility is not thinking less of yourself; it’s thinking of yourself less.”
There are two forms of pride: One is to puff up and make ourselves something more than we are, and the other is to shrink back and make ourselves something less than we were created to be. Both result from looking at ourselves, whether downward from God’s perspective or upward from the perspective of others who admire us (or to whom we compare ourselves favorably). When we are focused on “the sight of the Lord,” we neither shrink back or puff up, rather we stand our sacred ground.
What is that sacred ground? To gaze at Jesus and be transfixed by His glory, to point at Him with glee, to lift up our voice so that the nations can hear us exclaim: “Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together” (Psalm 34:3). No one looks at us—they all look at Who we point to. No one lifts us up—they all fix their eyes on He whom we exalt. We don’t in that sense humble nor magnify ourselves, for when the Lord is in our sight, all things take their proper place. It is in the sight of the Lord (in looking at Jesus and exalting Him) that we are humbled, not in the sight of some twisted distortion of ourselves.
What about the lift to ourselves that God promises when we fix our sight on Him? That is to see Him better so we can better shout His praise. The principle endures: God only magnifies our voice so that more people can direct their attention to Him, that unreached peoples who have focused on themselves for millennia may lift up their eyes with us at all the grandeur of God. Humbling ourselves in the sight of the Lord is not assuming His place in self-review. It is self-forgetfulness as we stare in wonder at Jesus. And our staring draws the attention of all men to Him.