1 Peter 5:5-7
Likewise, you younger, submit yourselves to the elder. Yes, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility…
There are some sins which have resisted every influence but that of Christianity, and over which even the gospel itself seems to obtain a precarious triumph. One of these is pride. To be proud is not only to be what Christianity condemns, but something essentially inconsistent with the first principles of its teaching, and with the special type of character which it seeks to create. Heathenism showed it no such antipathy. Unless it made itself specially ridiculous by trading on obviously false pretences, it was considered a becoming and reasonable tiring. It is not difficult to understand how this should have been so. Pride, to be seen in its objectionable light, must be seen in connection with those truths about God and human nature which Christianity first made known to the world. It is only when it stands in their company it appears as Scripture represents it. How Christianity dethrones this idol of self we know very well. It reminds us that the great thing is not what a man has, but what he is. It reveals in the Person of Christ the true standard of moral excellence. Pride has to come down from its pedestal and take its place in the dust. We see we are not only wrong, but responsible for being wrong. We have been following false ideals. It seems almost impossible to conceive how a proud man can ever have been truly convicted of sin, or brought to receive the salvation of Christ as a free, unmerited gift. It seems more difficult still to believe that such an one is living by the faith of the Son of God, receiving as a sinner daily forgiveness, and as having nothing being indebted to Him for all things. It is hardly to be wondered at that the world should be sceptical of our Christian profession when it sees so much that directly contradicts it. Are we disposed to retract the confession which we made so sincerely when we cried for mercy, that of all sinners we are the chief? Or, are we forgetting what the world really is, as we saw it once in the light of the Cross, when its glory faded till it vanished away, and we cried, "I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord"? Is it assuming its old importance? "Be clothed," says St. Peter, "with humility." And as we read the words we feel how little of this clothing we have been accustomed to wear, how faintly we have realised the nature of the habit in which we should always be found apparelled. The word which the apostle uses here, and which is translated, "Be clothed," is interesting and somewhat rare. It means literally "to tie or gird on," and is so rendered in the Revised Version, but apparently it also refers to the peculiar garment that was worn by slaves, and which was the usual mark or badge of their condition.
I. First, St. Peter says, SEE THAT YOUR HUMILITY IS FASTENED TO YOU AS IT WERE SO SECURELY NOTHING SHALL BE ABLE TO DEPRIVE YOU OF IT. He recognises the risk of it being plucked off or laid aside. And among those to whom he wrote the risk was doubtless considerable. In so mixed a community as the Christian Church at that time it would be difficult to subordinate all selfish desires to the common good. And persecution, which was then active, might easily awaken a feeling of resentment or disdain. To be reviled and yet revile not again, to suffer wrong and take it patiently, is never an easy thing. In our ease the danger may spring from a different quarter, but it is no less real. Perhaps we feel our humility to be nothing but a cloak, something put on or assumed which is not natural to us, and in which we pose in a somewhat hypocritical guise. And, of course, a humility which is conscious of itself is no humility at all. It is the most odious of all possible counterfeits. But the girdle or overall of the slave to which St. Peter alludes was his natural dress. It simply indicated his servile condition. There was no inconsistency between the two. And, as we have seen, humility is the natural garb of the Christian, expressing his dependence on Jesus Christ, whose slave he is. Yet the temptation frequently comes to lay it aside, or to give way to a temper which makes it impossible to wear it. It is true, we argue to ourselves, we have much to keep us humble, but not more than these others, or perhaps so much, if they only knew it. Why, then, should we yield to them, or submit tamely to their assumptions? If we give them an inch, they will take an ell, and there is no end to the liberties some may allow themselves, or the length to which they may presume. All this is very natural, but is it Christian? Is it not renouncing the vesture of humility, and finding plausible excuses for the pride that is so ready to assert itself? There are interests that ought to be dearer to us than any personal considerations. Let us be clothed with humility. Let us keep it on firmly. Let our whole life in all its details be ruled by the remembrance that we are not our own, but Christ's slaves, and bound to act in accordance with our condition.
II. But, secondly, BEING CLOTHED WITH HUMILITY MEANS THAT, BEING GIRT WITH THIS VESTURE OF SERVITUDE, WE ARE ALWAYS TO BE READY FOR SERVICE. There are some clothes in which a man cannot work. He puts them on for state occasions. So there are some Christians who always seem, so to speak, to be in dress clothes. They would be quite shocked if you asked them to do something that involved even a little hard work. They are much too dainty and refined for that. Or, they strike you as being available only on great occasions. Are we so clothed with humility as to remember that it is not ours to pick and choose, but to be ready at the Master's call? Do we remember that no act of service is too humble or obscure for us; that we are not to think there are some things for which we are too good, and which we are therefore justified in leaving undone? Whenever we do this, we discard our girdle or cloak of humility. We forget what manner of men we are and the character we wear.
III. Again, St. Peter reminds us that humility is not only indispensable to our serving Christ, BUT ALSO TO OUR SERVING ONE ANOTHER. The correct text of the passage literally rendered runs thus: "Gird yourselves with humility for the sake of one another." And truly no better specific could be devised for developing the happiness and strength of a community. For a great part of the misery and confusion of the world pride is responsible. It makes joint effort impracticable, and is the creator of constant discord and misunderstanding. Pride is an insoluble particle. It resists fusion and protests against amalgamation. Humility presents no such obstacle. It facilitates union. It is mutual concession, "in honour preferring one another." "Be clothed," therefore, "with humility," writes the apostle, and as the precept is so confessedly difficult to obey, it may be well to suggest one or two directions.
1. Let us get out of the way of making ourselves the centre of everything. If we are Christians, self has been dethroned, and it must be forbidden all acts of usurpation. We have found a larger and nobler centre for life, and other interests that are greater and more commanding than our own. Let us put these first — the kingdom of God and His righteousness. Let us remember that these are the interests that endure.
2. A second suggestion I may offer is, that we should think most of all of Christ, and of pleasing Him. When He receives the proper place in our lives everything else will surely come right. It is only when He is forgotten, or His presence is faintly and fitfully realised, other things assume a disproportionate importance. We lose our standard of value, our justness of perception, and our whole perspective becomes confused.
(C. Moinet, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.
WEB: Likewise, you younger ones, be subject to the elder. Yes, all of you clothe yourselves with humility, to subject yourselves to one another; for "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble."