Are you humble? Do you want to be? Before you answer that you should probably define the word. What does it mean to be humble?
Humility is a state of mind that is reflected in the way we see and respond to every other human being. It comes from the Latin humilis, meaning lowliness of mind, modesty, unpretentiousness. It can also mean a low opinion of oneself. Who do you feel just a bit superior to by wealth, race, religion, gender or ethnicity? To whom do you feel inferior by the same criteria? Either way it is wrong thinking. The truth is that we are all broken in ways, strange in ways and needy in ways. The truth is also that we are wonderfully and beautifully created and are part of a very colorful tapestry of humanity. Humility embraces the value in others and in ourselves.
In this snapshot we see the well-manicured hands of a woman washing the dirty, worn feet of a man. Reverse their roles and it is still right. Insert in the characters here a Republican and a Democrat, a light, medium or dark skinned person, a wealthy and a poor person, a Muslim and a Christian, or any who hold differing opinions or status. I know that washing someone’s feet is not something we do much, but it symbolizes an attitude that is willing to serve others…especially those who are different that us.
How do we live humbly? It is not through comparison or competition. And it’s not about surrendering to oppression or abuse. It is the basic truth that you and others are made by the same God. We are all flawed and we are all valuable. Imagine a world where people chose to serve others first and allowed themselves to be served, honoring our joint humanity.
“As long as you are proud you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on thing and people: and, of course, as long as you are looking down you cannot see something that is above you.”
― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
We may want to grow in humility but need to remember that it doesn’t just happen. It is a choice we make for the sake of our best life. And it is really only a possibility by the grace of God.
I’d love for you to read a few important things about humility…
First, humility is foundational. When someone compliments me on a lesson, sermon or such, I could respond, “Its all God. I’m nothing. I’m scum.” But If I really understand that God is good and made me for a purpose then I can truthfully respond, “Thank you! I’m so grateful for your kind words and that my teaching helped in some way.” I know that I am not scum and I am not divine. I’m just hanging out in my place of grace.
Secondly, it is a choice. You choose humility, it doesn’t just happen to you and God doesn’t do it to you. It’s a choice we make and own.
Phil 2:5-11 Your attitude should be the same that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God he did not demand and cling to his rights as God. He made himselfnothing; he took the humble positionof a slave and appeared in human form. And in human form he obediently humbled himselfeven further by dying a criminal’s death on a cross. Because of this, God raised him up to the heights of heaven and gave him a name that is above every other name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. [emphasis mine]
There has never been a greater picture of humility than what we see in these verses. God himself chose to become a man and live a poor and ultimately fatal existence. You’ll note that Jesus, the Son of God, choseto lower himself and suffer as a human. Never did this mean he was insignificant or worthless. Quite the contrary, he was God on a mission. And God’s mission has offered us life and hope. We get to choose.
2 Corinthians 8:9 You know how full of love and kindness our Lord Jesus Christ was. Though he was very rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty he could make you rich.
Matthew 23:11,12 The greatest among you must be a servant. But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.
Matthew 11:28,29 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are wearyand carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you because I am humble and gentle, and you will find restfor your souls. For my yoke fits perfectly, and the burden I give you is light.
Matthew 18:4 Therefore, anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven.
1 Peter 5:6,7 So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and in his good time he will honor you. Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about what happens to you.
James 4:10 When you bow down before the Lord and admit your dependence on him, he will lift you up and give you honor.
Micah 6:8 No, O people, the Lord has already told you what is good, and this is what he requires: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.