The Virtue of Humility

Author Name: 

Our natural inclination is self-promotion, self-justification, and being drawn toward those things we perceive will enhance self-admiration. The apostle Paul addresses this age-old human problem in Romans 12:3. 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. He addresses this concern “to every man,” which confirms the fact that we all have this tendency. He also points out that pride is a problem of the mind and that every man has the ability and the responsibility to think of himself in an humble manner.
By definition, humility is “freedom from pride or arrogance.” Pride is a vice that holds its victims hostage, controls their thoughts, and bears evidence in their manner of life. On the other hand, Peter admonishes us, Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humility abides with those who choose this virtue and allow it to influence and enshroud every aspect of their lives. The freedom to choose to put God first and then also toput others ahead of ourselves brings happiness and rest to our souls that will never be found when we promote ourselves. The hymn writer said, “Humility, thou secret vale, unknown to proud in heart; where showers of blessing never fail, and glories ne’er depart.”
Since humility is not our native habit, its virtue and expression in our life must then be introduced from an outside source. I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God (Rom 12:1-2). Our arrogant self-will must be surrendered at the foot of the cross to the Lordship of Jesus, and then the indwelling presence of the Divine enables us to willingly choose the path of the lowly. In Luke 9:23, Jesus said, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. Self-denial alone is not humility. But denying ourselves everything that runs counter to the way of the cross is the answer to a proud heart. Pride and self-will is sin. In our baptismal questions, we ask converts to promise that they will “renounce their own carnal will and sinful desires.” The Christian’s will is not broken beyond functionality, but rather our will must be surrendered and yielded to the will of Christ. Being yielded to Christ and guided by the Holy Spirit changes self-willed men into gracious, kind, and merciful saints. Yieldedness also enables us to surrender our ideas and plans and listen to another’s viewpoint. Humility is foundational to the Christian life and experience. 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 (Mic 6:8)? And so, the path of humility is the only way to please God.
Humility is genuine. It needs little explanation or identification. It is extremely difficult and nigh impossible to feign its characteristics. We cannot be selective as to when we express it and when we don’t. Rather, it is who we are; it is how we live and inter-relate with others. In fact, we don’t usually decide to be humble; it is a result of the surrendered heart. It becomes our way of life. When one uses the term “humble or lowly” to describe his life or possessions, it triggers questions about his intent. Very seldom will an humble person find it necessary or even appropriate to point out this virtue in his own life. Illustrations abound of those who express a “proud look,” which God despises. Equally distasteful to God are those who express an intentional “humble look” with a desire to be viewed as very religious.
Recognizing God as Sovereign, our Creator, and our Father helps us view ourselves properly. Life doesn’t revolve around us. We are a very small part of God’s program in the world, and we are also only a small part of God’s program in our local church and community. God’s work is accomplished best when we are satisfied to contribute to our family, church, and community in ways many will never notice; and to be content without recognition of our accomplishments. Someday life will go on without us. The church is not what she is because of us. We are not the hub of the wheel, but rather a common spoke enabling the wheel to be active and useful. As believers in the church of Christ, we are drawn together in Christian brotherhood. We are of kindred spirit. Our hearts beat together.
Individualistic and self-centered attitudes will find excuses to promote their thinking instead of blending with the thoughts of the brotherhood. The Christian brotherhood provides an environment where consecrated and willing servants in the Kingdom can find a balance between volunteering themselves for a needed task and allowing God to make His will known through the brotherhood. If the call comes on a Saturday morning that there’s a need for a Sunday School teacher the next day, does humility restrict a brother from offering? Not at all. When he serves humbly, he realizes his need for Holy Spirit’s direction and infilling. He’s also not offended if and when someone else has the majority of votes at the business meeting election instead of him. He is willing to bless and encourage them in their responsibility.
Since humility is foundational to the Christian life and experience, its expression must be evident in all aspects of life. The humble person is ready and willing to defer to the wishes and desires of others. He’s willing to allow others to have a more prominent place of influence. He’s intentional about hearing the viewpoint of others, which prepares him to enter into a candid discussion where sound conclusions can be reached. Our possessions, houses, and even our families will give expression to contentment, humility, and treasures laid up in heaven. Are we satisfied with those things which are simple, practical, and serviceable?
The world sees self-promotion as the only hope of finding a place in society. Men and women campaign for a position in civil office, seeking to impress with resumes and fair speeches. Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth (Pro 27:2). We are not seeking fame or prestige in society or the church. The good that we accomplish is sometimes recognized and even complimented by others. These comments may serve as encouragement, but praise dare never be our motivator. The humble will modestly accept praise but is also quick to recognize the contributions of others. But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD (Jer 9:24).