What exactly is humility? Are you picturing a mousy little person in drab clothing, mumbling, head down, afraid to share their opinions—hesitant to use their gifts for the kingdom due to fear and lack of self-esteem? That certainly is not how humility is presented in the Bible, but the Bible does have a lot to say about this essential godly trait. Humility is most often—and rightly—presented as the antithesis of pride:
“A man’s pride will bring him low, but the humble in spirit will retain honor.” Proverbs 29:23
“Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall.” Proverbs 16:18
“When pride comes, then comes shame; But with the humble is wisdom.” Proverbs 11:2
“But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.” James 4:6
One day when Jesus was eating with a group of pharisees, he noticed that they were choosing the very best seats for themselves. He began to tell them a parable about a wedding feast and how when invited to a wedding, they should choose the lowliest seats for themselves, not the very best. Within this story Jesus says the following:
“For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 14:11
In today’s “me first” culture, believers would do well to remember this crucial warning.
The most beautiful word picture of humility however, has to be the passage of scripture in the book of John that depicts Jesus washing the disciples’ feet as he met with them on the night of his betrayal and arrest. The God of heaven and earth bent down and with a basin and towel, washed the disciples’ dirty, dusty feet. In those tense, universe-altering moments before His death on the cross, Jesus taught his disciples how to love, serve and submit to their fellow man.
“So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, ‘Do you know what I have done to you? You call me teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.'” John 13:12-17
Of course, the ultimate example of humility for the Christian is what Jesus did for us, giving His life so that we could live—God becoming human to offer us the gift of salvation and eternal life with Him.
“And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” Philippians 2:8
As I thought about this scripture and others related to humility this week, I began to form a picture of what humility should look like in the life of a believer. I hope this list will be helpful to you as you try to walk in a way that is pleasing to God in this fallen world of ours—where hubris, self-importance, and self-gratification are the rule.
A truly humble person will:
Listen respectfully to the ideas and opinions of others.
Never insist on their own way.
Refrain from judging others based on their perceived weaknesses, economic status, physical traits or personalities.
Understand that having status, wealth, education, power or influence does not give one more value as a person.
Never consider a task or service to be beneath them when something needs to be done in service to others, even if that task is simple, difficult, or “behind the scenes”. God’s people should always be willing to help.
Give to ministries or individuals in need without seeking recognition or acknowledgement. Anonymous giving is a truly humble thing.
Point people to Christ rather than drawing attention to themselves when afforded opportunities for visible (or not so visible) leadership positions.
View every good thing in their life (possessions, opportunities, people) as coming from God above—first and foremost belonging to Him.
Use any leadership positions, influence, wealth or material possessions to further the kingdom of God, spread the gospel or serve his or her fellow man in Jesus’ name.
Realize that they cannot function in this life without the daily sustaining, guiding hand of God—they cannot do life on their own power.
See his or her self as they truly are: a sinner saved by grace—with failings and shortcomings— no more or less valuable to God than any other person on the planet.