Cross Words: Keep me humble, Lord

By Isaiah Pauley

It’s a cry from my heart. A longing of my soul. I desperately desire to be found humble at the feet of Jesus.

I’ve been the one surrounded by people after preaching a sermon. I’ve been the one who gets a standing ovation. I’ve been the hesitant recipient of praise from people. And through it all, my heart cries, “Keep me humble, Lord.”

After all, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Prov. 16:18 ESV).

This week, I’m writing about a tale of two men. Okay, it’s a parable. But you get the point. Jesus preaches this parable to prideful people. Allow me to share it with you.

“‘Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: “God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.” But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!”’” (Luke 18:10-13 ESV).

I probably don’t need to emphasize which of these two men I long to be. That should be obvious by now—at least, I hope. But here’s an opportunity for me to provide some context.

In the days of Jesus, Pharisees were the religious people. The church leaders. And the tax collectors were among the worst of people. They would steal money from people by cheating them. In other words, these two men were total opposites according to the culture.

Now, let’s finish the story. Jesus says, “‘I tell you, this man [tax collector] went down to his house justified, rather than the other [Pharisee]. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted’” (v. 14 ESV).

Que a surprised response among the listeners. Capture a picture of the religious dude with an open mouth. They must all be shocked to hear such words. But not Jesus. He understands the importance of humility.

The Apostle Paul writes, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:5-8 ESV).

If God humbled Himself, so should we. But how? As I ponder the tale of two men, I find that it all comes back to how we approach God.

When you approach God, do you focus more on your efforts or His grace? When you approach God, do you come with a sense of entitlement or a sense of surrender? When you approach God, do you list your accomplishments or ask for mercy? When you approach God, do you compare your standing with others or seek right standing with your Father?

I’m learning in my own life that consistently coming to God with an open heart keeps me humble. By His grace, I find myself in His Word each morning. I find myself crying out to Him each day. Nothing beats pride like approaching God with vulnerability.

I’m not sure what your battle with pride looks like. Maybe you struggle to let go of what other people say about you. Maybe you fight against this constant nagging to be known. Maybe you find it difficult to accept your weaknesses and flaws. But I challenge you to consistently approach God with an open heart. Just like the tax collector.

And when you find yourself at the feet of Jesus, let your heart cry alongside mine: “Keep me humble, Lord.”

By Isaiah Pauley

Isaiah Pauley is passionate about sharing Jesus in a simple way. Follow the journey of this young pastor at, on Facebook at Isaiah Pauley Page, or on Instagram @isaiahpauley.

Isaiah Pauley is passionate about sharing Jesus in a simple way. Follow the journey of this young pastor at, on Facebook at Isaiah Pauley Page, or on Instagram @isaiahpauley.