Over the past few hundred years, the world economy has become more wealthy and luxurious than at any other point in history. We have the ability to access information almost instantly on almost any topic almost anywhere. There is a constant race by technology companies to come out with the next big electronic gadget. Tremendous amounts of effort and investment are applied by pharmaceutical companies to develop the next drug to treat a disease under which many suffer. There is significant pressure to enact social changes, and for better and for worse, the past few decades have been full of changes on a variety of social issues. We are truly living life in “the fast lane”.
Many of these changes are good and have contributed to a more productive society. This competitive spirit can bring out some of the best results. I remember when I would compete in sports or in fine arts that my competitive spirit of wanting to win would incite me to work harder. But what I want to focus on today is how promotion works in the heavenly economy.
Recently, I have been reading through the book of Daniel and have been noticing a pattern of demise for those who live a prideful life. This is not surprising, as Proverbs 16:18 says that “pride goes before destruction” (ESV). King Nebuchadnezzar provides a great example of someone whose pride brought him down to humility.
King Nebuchadnezzar was quite the interesting character. As the king of Babylon, he was the world leader of the time. He had a disturbing dream that he could not interpret, and as standard practice, he would call on the wise men of his kingdom to give their interpretations. However, not going with standard practice, he told them that they needed to not only tell him the interpretation, but the dream itself as well; if they could not, they would all die. Fortunately, Daniel came to the rescue and with God’s wisdom both recited the dream and gave the interpretation.
The king was thrilled that someone did this and even told Daniel in Daniel 2:47, “Truly, your God is God of gods and Lord of kings, and a revealer of mysteries, for you have been able to reveal this mystery” (ESV). Unfortunately, he somehow managed to dwell on the prideful aspect of what Daniel had said. In Daniel 2:38, Daniel tells the king that he – the king – is the head of gold on the large statue in the dream. This got to his head – quite literally – and he then decided to make a statue of himself for everybody to worship. Then when Daniel’s three friends – Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego – did not bow down to his statue, the king got mad and threw them into the fiery furnace; however, God again showed the king that He was great. All three of Daniel’s friends were alive without even a smidge of smoke, and a fourth member was in the fiery furnace with him, whose form was “like the Son of God” (vs. 25, KJV). The king once again proclaimed God’s mighty power.
After two supernatural events like these, King Nebuchadnezzar still had not fully humbled himself before God. However, God used one more dream to serve as a warning for the king to humble himself. The king asked Daniel to interpret the second dream that God had given, and the dream essentially meant that the king would become as a wild animal. Daniel’s counsel was that he should be “practicing righteousness . . . and showing mercy to the oppressed”, so that perhaps this bad dream would not come true.
Sadly, the converse happened. Twelve months later, King Nebuchadnezzar was looking off his balcony in his palace and said in Daniel 4:30, “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?” When the king had this prideful outburst, his fate in the dream as told to him by Daniel came true. He was humbled by becoming like an animal, even eating grass. But following this humbling experience in the king’s life, he learned his lesson and returned to ruling his kingdom, but with the right attitude. In Daniel 4:37, King Nebuchadnezzar says, “Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, for all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble” (ESV).
Scripture shows a pattern. When one shows humility towards God, God exalts that individual. When one shows pride towards God, God humbles that individual. Matthew 23:12 says that “whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (ESV). God made us for the “praise of His glory” according to Ephesians 1. All the abilities and resources that we have come from God. In Jeremiah 1, the Bible tells us that God knew us before we were even born. Every cell that we have was part of God’s design. All we have comes solely from God. In reality, we are simply managers of God’s resources. So, when we use the abilities and resources God gave us and then attempt to take the glory for it, we are taking God’s rightful glory. He is the only one worthy of praise. Our creation was never about us; it was always about Him.
Humility is not about throwing a massive “woe is me” pity party. Humility is when we see ourselves the way God sees us – not higher, not lower. The most humbling thought to remember is that our sinful actions put Jesus, the perfect Lamb of God, on the Cross. When we accept Jesus Christ as our personal savior, we are cleansed from all our sins. Upon accepting His gift of eternal life, we are truly sinners saved by grace. It is humbling when we allow this truth to settle into our minds. But there is very good news for the humble Christian. God exalts the humble.