The virtue of humility is vital to become a Christian and to maintain the Christian life. This virtue was demonstrated by Jesus when He came to earth and during His earthly ministry. He is our best example of this Scriptural concept.
According to Philippians 2:3-11, Christ held an exalted position before coming to the earth. He was all God the Father is and was. He also inhabited eternity. He had all power and knowledge. He was equal to God the Father.
To consider that Jesus would come to this portion of His creation to live as a created human being and then go through the gate of death is beyond human comprehension. From our perspective, it took a quantity of humility we have no way of comprehending. What is the distance of condescension from the throne of God in Heaven to the lowly manger in a stable of Bethlehem? What is the percentage of reduction to go from a Creator God to a helpless infant? We have no way of understanding the humility of Christ’s condescension.
The humility of mind that was in Christ is to be found in His disciples. Not that we have such a high and lofty throne from which to descend, but we often think higher of ourselves than we should. Whatever our height of pride, we are called to the humility of Christ.
Humility and meekness are very similar in nature. Humility means “lowliness of mind, lack of pride, meekness.” This virtue does not allow a person to think of himself more highly than he ought to think. Meekness means gentleness and often expresses a spirit of willingness and obedience and a lack of resistance to God’s dealings with us. Many verses that identify meekness could be applied to humility as well.
God promises to guide and teach the meek. “The meek will he guide in judgment: and the meek will he teach his way” (Psa 25:9). Unless we are meek, we will resist God’s direction. Unless we are humble, we will think our ways are better than God’s ways.
“The fear of the LORD is the instruction of wisdom; and before honour is humility” (Prov 15:33). God will not honor the proud. Only after we replace our pride with humility are we qualified for God’s honor.
“Though the LORD be high, yet hath he respect unto the lowly: but the proud he knoweth afar off” (Psa 138:6). it seems strange that an honorable, perfect God would have respect to men of His fallen creation. The key is the virtue of humility. When God sees a humble man, He respects him.
“For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones” (Isa 57:15). The earthly habitation of God is with those who possess a humble spirit. Since this spirit is of God, God is comfortable to reside with men of a humble spirit.
God indwelling a humble man requires that the man walk in humility with Him. “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” (Micah 6:8). Even with God within us, we have nothing of which to be proud.
God takes special interest to how a man views his own life and accomplishments. As the Creator of mankind and since He knows our weaknesses and all our failings, He despises men who boast in themselves. God knows He is limited in what He can do with a man who is proud. He also knows the pliability of a man who is humble.
Carnal man tends to view greatness as being served by others. in the pride of his position, he expects others to serve him. Proud men also expect others to fit into their program. A humble man will seek to serve others. Matthew 20:26-27 and John 13 both indicate the service of humble men.
Honorable men in society will seek to serve others. Many men have given their lives for an earthly cause. There may be a degree of humility in such service. Too often there is recognition in ways that could feed their pride. it would seem that some work and positions among men can only be filled because of the honor that goes with the work.
In the context of Christianity, humble men will seek to serve their fellow men. This service may be void of any recognition by men. Our service is unto the Lord. Behind the scene workers are just as faithful in service as those who are seen of men.
One of the tests of a man’s humility is when he cannot live up to his egotistic dreams. Often he is humiliated. These disappointments become very devastating to his emotional high self esteem. The emotional low a proud person experiences should not be interpreted as humility. Wounded pride is humiliation, not humility.
How we respond to experiences of life may indicate whether our motivation is of pride or humility. “But when thou art bidden, go and sit down in the lowest room; that when he that bade thee cometh, he may say unto thee, Friend, go up higher: then shalt thou have worship in the presence of them that sit at meat with thee. For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted” (Lu 14:10-11). Pride within us tells us we are worthy of the better and even the best positions. For the proud man to be abased, he and his pride will suffer. The more we consider ourselves in humility, the few times of exaltation can humbly be accepted without feeding our pride.
How we view our accomplishments also reveals the existence of pride or the presence of humility. The prosperous farmer in Luke 12 expressed his pride by the 14 personal pronouns found in three verses (Lu 12:17-19). He failed to see himself as an unworthy steward of the blessings of his labors. Nebuchadnezzar also thought too much about himself and his accomplishments (Daniel 4:30). He claimed his success and greatness on his personal might. Whether we are a king, a farmer or any other person, how we view our accomplishments reveals our pride or humility. Luke 17:10 gives a better way to relate to our successes. “So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.” Our thoughts about ourselves will be verbalized sooner or later. We need to remind ourselves of our worthlessness apart from God’s mercy and goodness. When we live in light of our indebtedness to God, the most we can do with all He has given us gives us no reason to glory in self.
The Pharisee in Luke 18 also had a serious problem with pride. His prayer did not justify himself nor sanctify his pride. The words of this proud religious man exposed his carnal heart and God condemned him for it. If he was as good as he said, did he need to remind God about it? Did he serve a God who would overlook his goodness?
The publican was a humble man. He did not need to tell it to God nor man. He had plenty of needs that God and man saw. He had only one right response to his condition, ask forgiveness for the sins that weighed heavy on his heart.
The greatness of a man’s service has a direct relationship to his humility. Service in humility will help a man endure the unpleasant experiences of his labors. Working with people requires much humility. Coping with our personal limitations requires humility. Working with animals and even objects can also expose a person’s degree of humility. The Apostle Paul faced many difficulties in life. His humility was a key to his ability to cope with these disappointments. “Serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears, and temptations, which befell me by the lying in wait of the Jews” (Acts 20:19).
In our labors of life, we will face difficulties. Working with people and their needs can be taxing. One of our keys to success is humility. We may not think too much of ourselves. We may not underestimate the worth of those with whom we are working. Our focus needs to be in faithful humble service, not the glory we get or do not receive in the work.
Romans 12:3, 10 and 16 give various practical expressions of humility. “For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.” “Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;” “Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits.”
We need to be careful how we think about ourselves. Do we remember how much God needed to work with us? Where would we be if God had not done a work in our lives?
We need to have a respect for others, even those who may seem to be inferior to us. Apart from humility in the heart, this is difficult. Maybe if others had the help we received, they might be more able to do what we can do.
If we would deal with our pride and grow in humility, would God’s blessing rest upon us in a greater way? Would it give us a better basis to solve problems that exist among us? Would it enhance our testimony to the proud world in which we live? A greater humility of heart may require us to reconsider our attitudes toward the things of which we are only stewards.
May God’s Spirit help us search our hearts and help cleanse us of our pride so the virtue of Christian humility may be more clearly seen in our homes and churches. May the One who dwells”in the high and holy place” be pleased to dwell with us that are “of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.”