"But He gives greater grace therefore it says, God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble."(James 4:6)
There is only One who is truly qualified to be proud and to exalt Himself. That One, of course, is El Shaddai, the only eternal, all powerful and all mighty God who created everything;"For My hand made all these things, thus all these things came into being, declares the Lord". (Isaiah 66:2)
For everyone else, pride is sin and "God is opposed to the proud". In the book of Job we read; "Therefore men fear Him; He does not regard any who are wise of heart (i.e. proud)". (Job 37:24). It is the very nature of man, however, to be proud and to exalt himself. The world encourages pride and self-esteem. School teachers, business leaders, counselors, even some church Pastors preach the importance of building self-esteem. It is the winners, those who are first who are most admired and exalted. You never hear the sport fans chanting; "Were number 17!" And I probably wouldn't sell many motivational books with the title "How to be a Loser!"
No one needs more pride or self-esteem. The Lord said to His disciples; "For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and He who humbles himself will be exalted." (Luke 14:11) Humility does not come naturally, but is required of those who love the Lord and worship Him in spirit and in truth; "Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you." (James 4:10)
So how do we learn humility? We are taught it by experience and by example. God has many ways of teaching His children humility. His lessons in humility often require us to experience failure and suffering. Sometimes God humbles us by taking away those things that cause us to be proud and self-sufficient-- our health, money, valued relationships, positions and popularity. Listen to what Job says; "If I have put my confidence in gold, And called fine gold my trust, If I have gloated because my wealth was great, And because my hand had secured so much; If I have looked at the sun when it shone Or the moon going in splendor, And my heart became secretly enticed, And my hand threw a kiss from my mouth, That too would have been an iniquity calling for judgment, For I would have denied God above." (Job 31:24-28). Our self-esteem and pride in our accomplishments cause us to deny God and His glory.
We also learn humility by example and there is no greater example of humility than the cross; "Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." (Philippians 2:5-8)
This ultimate example of humility and self-sacrifice was followed by ultimate exaltation; "For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the father." (Philippians 2:9-11) Maranatha!