Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 1 Peter 5:5b (ESV)
Biblical worship is rooted in humility. Humility is the awareness of our value in contrast with the value of God and others. This does not mean that we are called to be self-deprecating to a degree of believing we are worthless and unlovable. However, as worshippers, we should have a genuine realization of our lowly condition, while maintaining that we are simultaneously made in the image of God, and growing into the image and likeness of Jesus. Humility is also being fully aware of who the scriptures say we are as the children of God (1 John 3:1), while at the same time maintaining the recognition of his infinite worth.
Pride begins with us thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought. It is the enemy of worship because pride is an inaccurate assessment of our own worth. The Bible clearly teaches that God resists the proud, and will not allow their worship to reach his ear (James 4:6). Pride whispers to the heart that we deserve certain privileges, possessions and power. The result of this is a sense of entitlement that can quickly saturate our hearts leading us into sin.
D.L. Moody said, “A man can counterfeit love, he can counterfeit faith, he can counterfeit hope and all the other graces, but it is very difficult to counterfeit humility”. Humility is a foundational element of worship. In the presence of God, we humble ourselves before him not by acclaiming ourselves, but through ascribing the worth, attributes and character of God. Humble worship is taking our eyes off of ourselves, and turning our gaze to God.
Service is the anecdote to the sickness of pride. Jesus, who stands as the perfection of heaven wrapped in flesh took no pride in being God, but humbled himself by taking the form of a servant. So, the one who is a follower of Christ must follow in his example of kenosis (the emptying out of) by emptying our lives of self and walking in worship before God. Toynbee argued that the self-love is the universal religion of mankind. A life focused on love of self is a life walking in direct disobedience to the greatest commandment given in scripture - to love the Lord wit hall your heart, soul and might (Deuteronomy 6:5).
What do we have that did not come through grace? Nothing. When we love our own will, agenda, attributes/talents, or accomplishments more than God, we become filled with pride, and have forsaken loving God, for loving ourselves. Pride is sin, and must be confessed as such, then repented of. In my own journey of leading worship, I have had to make this a continual practice, since pride is something I wrestle with greatly, and far too often sin as a result.
I am not prescribing a way of living free of pride. That would be hypocrisy in it’s purest form. I am encouraging us as worship leaders to be aware of the pitfalls of pride, and choose humility – especially in a public role of leadership. If we have been called to lead our church in worship, we must model worship elements such as confession and repentance. Only through faithful repentance from the sin of pride, and intentionally putting on humility and service can we effectively lead the people of God in worship. After all, as leaders we are first called as servants.
My prayer for us is that our hearts will be teachable and that we will learn what it is to walk in humility before God and man. I pray that our lives would reflect hearts that are set on the prize of knowing Christ above all. May we continue to confess and repent of sin, and grow into the image and likeness of Christ; who though was God, chose humility for our sake.