19 Better to be lowly in spirit and among the oppressed than to share plunder with the proud.
As part of the “Proverbs of Solomon” contained within the larger Book of Proverbs, this verse cautions us not to be “proud,” but rather “lowly in spirit.” But what do the words “proud” and “lowly” mean, in this context?
According to other similar verses in the Bible (Proverbs 3:34, Isaiah 57:15, Matthew 5:3, Proverbs 1:13-14, and Judges 5:30), being “proud” in God’s eyes means being too self-sufficient to acknowledge your need for God, or too bent on worldly wealth, prestige, and power to remember God. By contrast, being “lowly in spirit” means being humble and remaining dependent on God for spiritual strength, blessings, motivation, and forgiveness (both for yourself and for others through you).
In our modern culture, calling someone “dependent” is an insult–it usually means that the person wants others to do things for him or her because of laziness. We highly value self-sufficiency and individuality, and frown on people who act helpless so that they don’t have to make an effort. But that is not the kind of dependence this verse is asking us to have. Living a life dependent on God is actually rather active; it means praying to Him about what you’re going to do, lifting up your efforts to God while you work to accomplish things, and trusting God with the results, including setbacks or do-overs. It’s about acknowledging that everything we do is by the grace of God.
I’ve lived a proud life, a self-sufficient life, before, and I’m working on living a humble, dependent life now. I know which life feels less muddied, less drifting, and which life felt empty and meaningless after a while. Life honestly does work better if we trust God and are actively dependent on Him to lead us. After all, if all we truly depend on is ourselves, what room is there for God?