Peter told the churches in Asia, and by extension all of us, that we ought to be clothed with humility and that God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble (1 Peter 5:5). My dictionary describes “humility” as the “absence of pride or arrogance; meekness and lowliness; an act of submission or humble courtesy; not proud.” So the common denominator is modesty and being submissive. Can we honestly attribute those qualities to ourselves?
Paul, in speaking to the church at Colosse, urged the brethren “…as the elect of God holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering…” (Colossians 3:12).
A humble person is a teachable person. David alludes to that in Psalm 25. A state of humility precludes a state of haughtiness and self-esteem. It seeks not to glorify itself. Neither should we. God looks to the teachable–those who would exhibit an attitude of humility by being receptive to His Word.
Today worldly pride comes in the form of an infamous trinity of what I call the “Me, Myself & I” syndrome–completely devoid of a sense of humility. You’ve no doubt met people like that. They pat themselves on the back and have no qualms about telling you directly or obliquely how clever or important they are. And they tend to put you off, don’t they? You can generally see right through them. I used to joke with friends by telling them that I am so humble that it makes me ill even to think about it! A minister, in one of his sermons on the subject of humility, quipped, “It’s hard to be humble when you’re perfect!”
Humility is perhaps the greatest attribute—the noblest quality—that characteristic that God looks for in a true Christian, aside from obedience—and even there, obedience is embedded within and part of the quality of humility. The two go hand-in-hand. The humble mind, the mind that is obedient to God’s Ways and His Laws, is the mind—the person—on whom God can rely—and a person to whom a great reward will be given. In that light, the quality of humility takes on an immense degree of importance.
“Seek the Lord, all you humble of the land, you who do what He commands. Seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you will be sheltered in the day of the Lord’s anger” (Zephaniah 2:3). Note that this inspired verse associates humility with physical protection from God’s anger–including protection at the time of the prophesied events to come upon the world in the not-too-distant future.
In the “Observer” newspaper (UK) back in April of 1950, a woman by the name of Edith Sitwell pleaded: “I have often wished I had time to cultivate modesty… but I am too busy thinking about myself.” Modesty didn’t sit well with her! Someone noted of Benjamin Disraeli, British statesman, novelist and Prime Minister twice in the latter 1800s, that “Every day when he looked into the mirror and gave himself the last touch of vanity, he offered his grateful thanks to Providence that his family was not unworthy of him!”
Paul tells us: “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others as better than himself” (Philippians 2:3). Do we do that? If so, we will have no reason to feel exalted or self-important. Abraham was that sort of person. So were Moses and David and Daniel and many of the other biblical personalities, including, of course, Jesus Christ Himself, as THE example of exhibiting true humility. Job–at first a self-righteous man–was eventually brought down to size and severely humbled by the realization of what he did not know.
The key to the level of stature we could ever hope to achieve in God’s Kingdom is a humble submissive mind—a state of humility—being spiritually unleavened without any pride and self-righteousness. We must avoid that “Me, Myself & I” attitude. Perhaps all of us have, at one time or another, eaten humble pie when we were confronted with embarrassment of being wrong about something. There are those, however, who seem to know it all and who let you know they know it all. You’ve met them. But if they were to match their teensy-weensy bucket of personal knowledge with the total fund of worldly knowledge… well, as they say in New York City in that distinctive Brooklyn accent: “You don’ know nothin’, buddy!! Nut’n!”
We need to be familiar with the latter part of Isaiah 66:2, where God is saying: “…on this one will I look, on him who is poor and of a contrite spirit and who trembles at My word.”
Although it is not an easy-to-come-by attribute in today’s world of pride and arrogance, it is a fundamental, paramount quality that true Christians must embrace if they hope to “make it into the Kingdom.” There is certainly a case for all of us to practice humility and to do so consciously and consistently, through Christ’s help. For James 4:10 tells us: “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and [then] He will lift you up.”