Many confuse meekness with weakness. Others put on a "false front" of humility. Few understand TRUE humility! Read this article and find out how you can grow in proper humility.
LOOK around you. Everywhere you look in this modern world, you see the signs of vanity! Vanity is at the root of human problems. Because of vanity, many become puffed up and inflated with their own ego. And because of vanity, others mope around with a terrible inferiority complex! Women are vain about their beauty. Athletes are vain about sports. Fishermen brag about the "one that got away." Hunters regale their friends with monstrous untruths about their latest hunting expedition. Scientists are vain about their staggering intellects. Businessmen boast about their latest "killing" on the stock market, or their latest "big deal." All out of sheer VANITY! Wherever you take a look — you see the ghastly, gruesome signs of out-and-out VANITY! Sports — movies — art — literature — politics — science — and EVEN RELIGION — the whole world reeks with True humility is a RARE virtue, VANITY! today!
The WORST Vanity
Men and women become vain about every conceivable accomplishment — and even things they have NOT accomplished. The attitude of many poor people is "We's just poor folks and proud of it!" They feel every successful man must be a crook and a cheat! But the worst kind of vanity before God is spiritual vanity! Religious pride is among the WORST of sins! God is disgusted with the attitude of those who inwardly snort with contempt, "Stand by thyself, come not near to me; for I am holier than thou" (Isa. 65:5). The "holier-than-thou" attitude causes many to ridicule and mock all religion. Perhaps this despicable attitude has crept into your life, and since conversion you have "looked down your nose" at those in the corrupt world! There were Pharisees in Christ's day. We have our spiritual Pharisees, today! Notice this parable of Jesus! "He also told the following parable to certain persons who were sure of their own goodness and looked down upon everybody else. 'Two men went up to pray in the temple; one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax gatherer. The Pharisee stood up and said his prayer as follows; "I thank thee, 0 God, I am not like the rest of men, thieves, rogues, and immoral, or even like yon tax gatherer. Twice a week I fast; on all my income I pay tithes." But the tax gatherer stood far away and would not lift even his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying "O God, have mercy on me for my sins!" I tell you, he went home accepted by God rather than the other man; for everyone who uplifts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be uplifted' " (Luke 18:9-14, Moffatt Translation). This parable reveals the tremendous difference between spiritual pride and VANITY and true, genuine humility! The Pharisee was spiritually proud — lifted up in his own estimation. He felt he had an "inside track" to God's throne. He felt he was a "favorite" with God. He was "superior" to other men. But the other man? He felt so unworthy and undeserving that he couldn't even lift his eyes upward. He felt like crawling and squirming through the nearest "rathole," he was so unworthy to approach the throne of God. His attitude was accepted. His prayer was heard by God; but the Pharisee was just wasting time, talking to himself. God wasn't listening to his conceited, lofty, and eloquent "prayer"!
Pride Leads to Ruin
As long as King Uzziah steadily worshiped God, God gave him fantastic success. His armies conquered lost territory. His enemies could not stand against him. His fame and power were broadcast throughout the Middle East, as far away as Egypt he was renown (II Chron. 26:1-8). But Uzziah's success and fame began to go to his head. And the result - disaster! In the Moffatt translation we read, "But when he attained power, he became haughty, and that RUINED him" (verse 16). Uzziah became so proud he thought he could take over the duties of God's priests and offer incense in the Temple. What happened? "He was holding a censer to burn incense, and there, beside the altar of incense, as he raged at the priests, leprosy broke out on his forehead, before the priests in the temple of the Eternal!" (Verse 19.) He was a leper till the day he died. King Nebuchadneztar was another who let power and self-glory go to his head. As he walked on the roof of his palace, he exclaimed, "There lies Babylon the great, which I have built for a royal residence by my vast power and to my noble majesty!" (Dan. 4:30.) Because of his sins, and this display of vanity, God struck Nebuchadnezzar and for seven years he lived like a cow, munching grass (verse 33). Finally the king came to his senses. He realized what had happened, arid confessed, "Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and exalt and honour the King of heaven, for all he does is right, his dealings are all just, and haughty men he is able to ABASE" (verse 37). Why are these examples of pride found in the Bible? These are case histories, recorded for US! "For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for OUR learning..." (Rom. 15:4). God says, "So let anyone who thinks he stands secure, take care in case he falls" (I Cor. 10:12, Moffatt). Pride and vanity have wrecked the lives of others. They can also wreck YOUR life, if you are not on your guard, wary, and careful! Pride — vanity — these traits are just the opposite of what God wants to see in His people! What kind of an attitude pleases God? David tells us, "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a CONTRITE heart, O God, thou wilt not despise" (Ps. 51:17). Jesus said the MEEK will inherit the earth (Mat. 5:5). But just what is meekness? What is genuine humility?
What Humility Isn't
First, humility is not play-acting. It is not a self-conscious parade of reticence, timidity, or cringing boot-licking. It is not servile fawning before others. It is not a false front of pseudo-spirituality! Some treat their employers with courtesy and respect, but become slave-drivers when the boss is away. They act humble and meek when their boss calls them on the carpet; but swell into brutish tyrants and crack the whip when they are given any authority. This is not humility — this is blatant hypocrisy! Humility isn't weakness. It isn't being a doormat and letting everyone run over you. It is not a spineless, wishy-washy condition synonymous with quiet timidity and back-pedaling indecisiveness. Humility is NOT weak and it does not cringe with fear. Yet, it IS submissive to authority, respectful of others, and does recognize its own shortcomings. True humility gives a person boldness to speak up when necessary; and yet not always "putting himself forward," or in the "best light" possible. He will admit his mistakes and errors, without excuses. He will confess his failures and sins, without condoning them or trying to reason out why they were not really so bad. He will accept correction with a spirit of love and gratitude. He will not be comparing himself with others, but will be striving to DO the will of God in his own life. True humility breeds courage and conviction. It gives spiritual POWER and forcefulness, because vanity doesn't stand in the way between it and God. God works through a spiritually humble person — one who does not put on "airs" of importance, one who is not greatly "impressed" with his own ability. But one who just humbles himself, and acknowledges his weakness, and turns to God completely, is the one who will be a useful instrument in the hands of God.
The Source of Humility
Human nature is naturally antagonistic toward humility. It naturally seeks to bolster its image of itself, lift itself up, and have the respect and adulation of other people. Some in the world might "put on" an outward facade of humility, but it is usually so transparent you can see right through it. Real humility comes from one great source. "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance [self-control]: against such there is no law" (Gal. 5:22-23). God's Spirit is the "spirit of meekness" (Gal. 6:1; I Cor. 4:21). True humility comes from God — it is a gift of His Holy Spirit. It is an attitude of mind which comes from Almighty God. True humility from God is associated with spiritual STRENGTH — "For the spirit that God gave us is no craven spirit, but one to inspire strength, love, and self-discipline (II Tim. 1:7 New English Bible). It is associated with God's wisdom — "But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy" (Jas. 3:17). Jesus Christ had this kind of humility!
The Mind of Christ
"Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory," wrote Paul; "But in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves" (Phil. 2:3). How many have this kind of attitude, today? Even in God's Church there is too much strife, contention, straining for recognition and honor. But Paul says we are to lay aside those selfish kinds of attitudes, and highly esteem our brothers rather than ourselves! The "competitive" spirit leads to a disastrous fall. What kind of attitude should we have, then? "Treat one another with the same spirit as you experience in Christ Jesus. Though he was divine by nature, he did not set store upon equality with God, BUT EMPTIED HIMSELF by taking the nature of a servant; burn in human guise and appearing in human form, he humbly stooped in his obedience even to die, and to die upon the cross" (Phil. 2:5-8, Moffatt). What a remarkable example! Jesus Christ — very God — did not cling selfishly to His Godship — but for you and me He was willing to humble Himself and even DIE on the stake as a mortal man! Jesus GAVE of Himself completely. He came to SERVE others. He did not grasp at honor or crave adulation of man. His mind was not filled with thoughts of ambition, knifing someone else in the back, "getting ahead," and looking after His own interests. He was filled with concern about OTHERS, and emptied Himself on their behalf! There, is an example of true humility!! And God the Father is well aware of the supreme sacrifice made by our Saviour, Jesus Christ. "Therefore God raised him high and conferred on him a Name above all names, so that before the Name of Jesus every knee should bend in heaven, on earth, and underneath the earth, and every tongue confess that 'Jesus Christ is Lord,' to the glory of God the Father" (verses 9-11). True humility — putting oneself LAST instead of first — pays off! It brings rich dividends, in the long run. It is well pleasing in the sight of God — and He is the One we must all ultimately please!
The Life of David
One of the outstanding examples of humility in the Old Testament is the life of king David. Ever1 as a youth, David exhibited real humility and faith in God. For weeks on end, Goliath had taunted the Israelite soldiers, and everyone was afraid to meet the Philistine giant in hand-to-hand combat. But when the youth David heard of the challenge, he put his confidence in God — and although he must have looked like a shrimp beside a whale, he ran forward to fight the towering, hulking giant! Did David trust in his own prowess or strength? No, he told Goliath, "I come to thee in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied" (I Sam. 17:45). He said, "... for the battle is the LORD'S, and he will give you into our hands" (verse 47). And God gave David the victory. He slew the giant in mere minutes. The Israelites rejoiced, the people raved, and popular songs spread throughout the land shouting the praises of David. But David did not allow these things to "go to his head." He did not swagger with cockiness and braggadocio, When king Saul offered David his daughter in marriage, David replied, "Who am I? and what is my life, or my father's family in Israel, that I should be son in law to the king?" (I Sam. 18:18.) He did not consider himself worthy to marry the king's daughter. Obviously, David was not "politicking" to find favor with the king, or those above him. He did not studiously "play the angles" to see how he could get ahead. He did not "wheel and deal" to win influence among men. Because of David's obedience, humility, and his submissive attitude, God highly blessed him. Saul grew increasingly envious — jealous of the youthful "upstart." David was probably in his late teens or early twenties at this time. Several times Saul sought to kill him, and pin his hide — literally — to the wall! David fled and escaped to the wilderness. But Saul did not give up; he sent his armed patrols combing the wilderness, mountains and caves. Saul himself led the patrols when they thought they had David cornered. But twice God delivered Saul into David's hands. What was David's attitude? Did he consider this a time to get his "vengeance" on Saul? No — in spite of Saul's unworthiness, David highly respected the office he held. He said, "I will not put forth mine hand against my lord; for he is the LORD'S anointed" (I Sam. 24:10). In humility, David exclaimed to Saul, moments after he could have slain the king, "Whom is the king of Israel after? Whom are you chasing? a cur! a flea! May the Eternal be judge and decide between me and you!" (Verses 14-15 Moffatt.) David committed his cause into the hands of God in genuine humility, with great respect for the office held by king Saul. What is YOUR reaction when others "snipe" at you, persecute you — taunt you, or seek to "slay" you with words behind your back? Do you feel affronted, "hurt," and seek to repay — take matters into your own hands, and retaliate? Do you react with actions inspired by humility? Or do you fly into a rage at the slightest offense, or injury to your pride? Examine yourself! Search your own life!
David's Attitude Before God
Before the throne of God, David manifested even more remarkable humility and meekness. After God had bestowed wonderful blessings on him, and gave him the kingship over Israel, He told David, "I took you from the pasture-land, from tending sheep, that you should be prince over my people, over Israel" (II Sam. 7:8, Moffatt). God promised to build up and establish the throne of David. David was sincerely overwhelmed by such attention — such wonderful blessings. David was so overwhelmed by emotion, he could hardly stammer his gratitude before God. "Then king David went in and sat down before the Eternal, saying, 'Who urn I, O Lord Eternal, and what is my house, that thou hast brought me thus far, Lord Eternal? And thou hast reckoned this a small favour! Thou hast gone on to speak of thy servant's house for ages to come, and shown me a long line of generations. What more need David say to thee? Thou knowest thy servant; thou hast promised to glorify thy servant, and from thine own heart hast thou acted in letting thy servant see all this great future. Great thou art, 0 Lord Eternal, for there is none like thee, there is no god save thee, that we have ever heard of" (II Sam. 7:18-22). David was awestruck! He hardly knew what to say. He gulped, and — practically speechless — gave God all the thanks he was capable of giving! This is the kind of selfless humility which we are speaking of! This is the kind of attitude which pleases God in heaven. David maintained it throughout his life. Of course, he slipped and stumbled occasionally, as we all do since we are human — but he was steadfast and devoted to God. He continually put his confidence in God, and did not claim great things for himself. In his own sight, David was very small. He did not speak of his own "good." He knew that everything he had came from God, and God Himself deserved all the honor, glory, and credit. David claimed none for himself — he just surrendered to God and served Him. Notice the childlike, trusting attitude David always had before God. "No haughty heart is mine, O thou Eternal, no lofty looks are mine; I never meddle with high schemes, with mutters far beyond me. No, I have soothed and stilled my soul, as a mother calms her weaned child; my soul is like a weaned child" (Ps. 131:1-2, Moffatt). David had childlike humility and sincerity. And this is a great key to genuine humility!
As Little Children
The disciples came to Jesus and asked Him who the greatest was in God's Kingdom. They still had a competitive spirit among them, and were jostling each other for the highest position in God's Kingdom. Jesus, however, gave them a great lesson and told them, "I tell you truly, unless you turn and become like CHILDREN, you will never get into the Realm of heaven at all. Whoever HUMBLES himself like this child, he is the greatest in the Realm of heaven" (Mat. 18:3-4, Moffatt). Children are the example we are to follow. Of course, many children today are uncouth, rebellious, squalling little "monsters" because they have not been properly trained. However, God wants us to be like well-trained, dependent, trusting, obedient little children. He wants us without foolish visions of grandeur, pomp and vanity, conceit and pride. As little children look to their parents with absolute trust and faith, so we are to depend on God and look to Him!
Rooted in Love
True humility is rooted and grounded in true love-outgoing concern for other people. It is not selfish aid SELF-centered. Instead, it flows outward in consideration and respect for other people and the work they are doing. It is grateful for the work and faithfulness of other people! True love is HUMBLE, genuine, sincere. Read I Corinthians 13 in the Moffatt Translation. Do you see how love and humility go hand in hand? Both must be patient; kind; gentle; not jealous of others; not parading around ostentatiously or putting on "airs" of importance; always polite, never selfish, not irritated at others, or resentful of them; glad to hear good news; slow to bring out "dirt" about someone else; sad when hearing of evil, or wrong-doing; wanting to believe the best of others, filled with hope, and patient to the end! Love and humility are like reverse sides of the same coin. True humility, then, instead of lifting itself up or glorifying itself, seeks to forget itself — BURIES itself, abases itself, puts itself down! True humility minds its own business and does not meddle with others; it does not think more highly of itself than it ought to. It recognizes the truth about human nature arid its own weakness. It is content to do its utmost, where it is, to serve and glorify God, and do all it can to help and strengthen other people. True humility is POWERFUL! It is a strong tool for accomplishing much good. It is based on deep and sincere dedication to God and complete yielding to Him. It is not arrogant, boastful, or cocky. It is a moving, powerful force for good.
What You Can Do
What can YOU do to have more genuine, Christlike humility? First of all, be sure to EXAMINE your life and look for instances where you plainly displayed vanity. Set your mind NOT to repeat the same mistakes! For instance, reread I Corinthians 13 — the love chapter. These points, which also apply to humility, give you practical instructions in becoming more humble! True humility is patient. Are you patient with other people? What if someone makes you wait hours on end, when you planned some event together? Does your temper flare up? Do you begin to make sour, caustic remarks about being on time? Are you angry because YOU had to spend yow "valuable time" waiting for someone who was late? Perhaps the other person was in the wrong — but still, true humility is PATIENT. It does not "fly off the handle" at other people. If you wish to be truly humble, then work on being more PATIENT! Also, true humility makes no parade, gives itself no false "airs." It is not "stuffy," or snobbish toward other people. Examine your OWN life, now. Have you ever "high-hatted" someone who you felt was beneath you? Have you had a measure of disdain and contempt for the unconverted people in the world? Or have you even despised a poorer brother in Christ who has certain problems? Here is another point you can WORK ON to develop true humility! Search your own life, and be careful to be considerate of ALL people. Be gentle and kind toward others, ALWAYS! Get rid of that inflated "image" of yourself — before someone else "pops" it like a balloon for you, and then you feel pangs of miserable disgrace. Some of God's people have been guilty of parading their "superior" Bible knowledge before others. They have been guilty of "putting on" an appearance, to impress their friends with their great "spirituality." They have put themselves forward in trying to pass out song books at Church services. They have lusted after offices in Spokesman's Clubs. Instead of humbling themselves, they have actually — perhaps unwittingly — sought to exalt themselves. Jesus said exalting the self is the quickest way to be "cut down to size"! It may lead to severe reproof and correction, either by a minister, or by circumstances themselves. Here is another thing to watch for. When someone else is blessed with a new responsibility or opportunity to serve, does your mind suddenly become jealous — resentful — of that individual? Does your past friendship turn into a cold, frosty, even acid relationship, because you secretly wish YOU had received the job? This attitude is CARNAL — selfish — the exact opposite of true humility! Get rid of jealousy, resentment, and rudeness, and you will be going a long way in getting rid of vanity! You will become more Christlike and humble before God. Instead of pangs of jealousy and "hurt feelings," when someone else is blessed, your reaction should be one of extreme gratefulness and thankfulness! That is the way of true humility. One other everyday, practical point needs to be mentioned. This is the problem of gossip and sniping at others. A truly humble person does not go around "picking" at other people. When someone comes to you and says, "Did you hear about so-and-so," and then proceeds to belittle and downgrade the other person, you can be assured that person is NOT bringing forth the fruits of genuine humility. Humility does NOT gossip about or run down other people, in a vain attempt to "jack up" the self. Don't join in with your pet, evil comments. Human nature seems to think one way to exalt the self is to downgrade others. Talking evil about other people, and bringing up ancient "dirt" and skeletons in the closet, somehow is supposed to make the person who does it better! But such an attitude is contrary to God's Holy Spirit. It is the antithesis of real concern for others and genuine humility.
HUMILITY in Action
Those who are proud and lifted up in their own imaginations, are headed straight for a disastrous fall! God is far away from the proud and haughty. He doesn't hear their prayers! The apostle James wrote, "The haughty God opposes, but to the humble he gives grace. Well then, submit yourselves to God; resist the devil, and he will flee from you: draw near to God, and he will draw near to you... humble yourselves before the Lord, and then he will raise you up" (James 4:6-10 Moffatt). Peter commands, "Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. 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. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you" (I Pet. 5:5-7). Heed this admonition! Don't be the typical strutting peacock, proud of its plumage! Don't be a pompous pigeon, swelling out its chest! Don't let vanity and self-exaltation be your motivation and goal! BURY YOURSELF! Develop genuine humility! Have the selfless, serving mind of Jesus Christ! This is the way to be of service to God — to be a profitable servant in His awe-inspiring Work! This is the way of pleasing your heavenly Father. Examine yourselves — and take a good, long look at YOURSELF! Do your actions reflect the mind of Christ — or the vanity of human nature! Don't just read right over this, and ignore it. Don't just quietly agree, and let it go at that. Do something about it! God wants YOU to develop the very mind of Jesus Christ. God wants you to have genuine humility, so He can use you more effectively in His Work! Learn the way of true humility — and walk in it!